In their seminal book, Digital Aboriginal , Mikela and Philip Tarlow compare the swiftly changing business world to basic principles of indigenous cultures, claiming that we have come full circle in our exploration of what works. Thrivability Institute acknowledges their insights, embracing our deepest roots as we re-invent who we choose to be, in relationship to ourselves, each other, and as a collective species on this planet. Thrivability Institute joins the Tarlows in noticing important trends:


• Who owns what? The complexity of our dynamically evolving world brings everything into question. Intellectual property rights are in flux, products and services are converging, and boundaries are becoming elastic as our economic opportunities dynamically merge, redefine, and then merge again and again. Definitions of what constitutes the commons, what can be considered a product or service, and who constitutes the “target market” have all blurred as we move towards a more sustainable design phase. They write:

“We will no longer have discrete products and services, we will have consumer events that tie together vast networks of providers, values and interests into a unified delivery system. ”


By creating a space in which research, education, and a dynamic think tank can constantly generate new perceptions and design possibilities, Thrivability Institute is an important next step in creating that vast network.


Storytelling. Even though we now have access to more information and can connect with more people than ever before, fewer people are listening. Most feel unheard and unseen, especially the young. The need for storytelling has been matched only by the need to listen intently to each other. What do we really want?


Thrivability Institute is a stand for the magnificence of each participant. We see genius in the pursuit of our passions, and listen intently for the emergence of each person’s unique voice.  As each individual thrives, we all thrive.


Tribalmind. Humanity has evolved from a mechanistic world view to a unified global view in which the macro and the micro reflect each other. Co-creation has emerged as the path by which we can best honor the contribution of all life, collaborate on all levels, and learn from each other.


Thrivability Institute nurtures Tribalmind, and extends the definition to include non-humans as well. Imagine using products and services that literally nurture life through their use. This is Thrivability. The Tarlows claim:


“The future of business will rest on nimble pods of highly committed individuals in deep relationship... If you think that the loss of stable products and corporate boundaries throws your current plans to the wind, wait until you have to start sharing your brain! ”


Our Intention

Our intention is to create a resonance field that stimulates and supports our highest creative self-expression, for the sheer joy of it. We readily acknowledge that when one is fully engrossed in deeply exploring one’ s passions – no matter what they are – the opportunity to contribute innate inner genius is at its greatest.


It is our intention to create a “container” that empowers each participant – research scholar, student, and staff – to experience the absolute optimum state of joy and well-being imaginable while supporting the pursuit of their passions. In this high-level of creativity, our design choices expand far beyond the usual, allowing for innovation that can be shared by all.


If you imagine each participant as a radio transmitter, continuously sending signals, the quality of each person’s transmission depends on the clarity of their intention and the signal they send. By combining our signals – with intention and attention – into a coherent whole, and by eliminating background noise (fears, doubts, lack, and judgments), we can attune to each other’s frequency and intention, literally creating a container in which creativity thrives. This clear signal is essential for successful intentional manifestation.



Those of us who have spent years in corporate settings know, without hesitation, that corporations embody a culture all their own. That could be said of any established group, but since the mandate of a non-profit is to accomplish their Mission, that intent permeates every aspect of the culture and colors the perception of the possible, making it all too easy to sacrifice joy for accomplishment.


Likewise, often tactics that previously proved successful loose their efficacy as the ebb and flow of life, and focuses of attention and intention impact the effectiveness of decision-making. All too often tradition and hierarchy are counter-productive, and success demands a more creatively fluid approach, one that rewards a willingness to risk new ways of perceiving the possible.


It is our intention to create and test new ways of perceiving and experiencing effective group dynamics – ways that allow a celebration of our individual magnificence to emerge. One of the most promising was developed as a project of the Honoring All Life Foundation by Tej Steiner, and outlined in his book Heart Circles.


Heart Circles

Heart Circles draw upon indigenous wisdom to create a space in which small groups of people can open their hearts, allow their natural vulnerability to emerge within a safe container, and witness the reflection of their own inner process in their perceptions of life around them. At their core is the question, “What do you truly want?” They are about as far from the corporate boardroom as you could travel, yet our experience indicates that they could be a key missing element in many group dynamics. We intend to test that theory at every level of Thriv’In group interactions, especially within the corporate structure. Both Kirsten Liegmann and Shaktari Belew have received 1½ years of training in Heart Circles, and Tej Steiner will conduct a staff training to ensure that all participants thoroughly understand Heart Circle dynamics.



The accompanying diagram indicates how Heart Circles fit within Ken Wilber’s popular Integral framework, the Likert-Emberling model of individual/organizational development, and Spiral Dynamics.  Thriv’In will not limit our exploration to these methodologies alone, but they provide a launching pad for our experimental process.

At the core of everything is the heart. By heart we mean an honest self-assessment of your feelings, not just your thoughts around those feelings. When a person is aware of deep inner feelings, those feelings can be utilized as an indicator of whether one’s thoughts and actions are in alignment with your own inner wisdom. Joy, a sense of expansion and creativity, innocence, and eager curiosity are all indicators of alignment. It is our goal to provide the space in which inner alignment potentially takes place with every decision made.


Ken Wilber’s Integral Framework

In our diagram, when an individual’s daily choices align with their inner awareness and wisdom, there is an alignment of the upper left square (Individual Interior) and the upper right square (Individual Exterior), in essence they are, “walking the talk.” The collective (lower right – Collective Exterior) can be impacted by the clarity of one who lives in integrity. Gradually enough individuals of the collective integrate various viewpoints into their own life experience (lower left – Collective Interior),impacting the culture as a whole. As collective awareness grows, each individual starts the cycle over again, leading to an emergent fractal growth spiral that constantly evolves society.

Additionally, in order for whole-systems group perceptual shifts to occur, according to author Richard Barrett, all four quadrants must be in alignment creating a simultaneous parallel shift: personal alignment, structural alignment, values alignment and perceived mission alignment must all shift in the same direction, allowing for a higher level of consciousness. Thrivability Institute would call that “new level of consciousness” a distinct resonance field that opens up new perceptions and therefore new possibilities.


Spiral Dynamics

Spiral dynamics offers a highly complex set of interacting perceptual filters, letter and color coded, that determine one’s perception no matter what quadrant you are focusing upon, individual or collective.

Each color-coded vMeme merges into the next as individuals and groups grow in their ability to perceive greater complexity in both their perception of life conditions and their response to those conditions, in essence, perceiving a broader field of possibilities. Thrivability Institute honors all ways of perceiving as valuable, embracing the wisdom inherent in each. As a reserach and educational institution, we were so enthralled with the brilliant elegance of Spiral Dynamics, that hosted the only 2007 training available in the USA.  It was so successful, that we are hosting this rare opportunity again Feb 20-28, 2008 in Ashland, Oregon.  If you would like additional information on this potent training, please contact us immediately.  There is a significant discount in cost if you register before Dec 31st, 2007.


Likert-Emberling Holonarchy of Development

Developed by Rensis Likert and further refined by Dennis Emberling, the Likert-Emberling Organizational Development Model explains perceptual filters commonly found in organizations, each carrying its own set of rules and assumptions.  Individuals and organizations can evolve through these stages through conscious effort, when their intention is to become more self-aware and effective.  The combination of these highly effective models has been used by the UN in their analysis if effective treatment of HIV/AIDS.  The stages are indicated on the Thrivability chart as white numbers on concentric circles, each incorporating the previous and indicating a broader perceptual viewpoint, and thus a greater field of possibilities:


  • Coercive – Authoritarian and exploitative. Primitive and despotic, the attitude of the leader is similar to that of a dictator who sees all employees as machines to be used and replaced as needed.
  • Rules and Roles – Benevolent authoritarian. The leader sees him/herself as a manager, tending to micromanage, play it safe, and strive for looks over substance. Conformity and reliability are valued, while creativity is frowned upon.
  • Pragmatic – Results at any cost. Leaders tend to be charismatic, heroic, living examples of highly effective team work.
  • Principled – Reversal of leadership. The leader acts as a facilitator, understanding that the means is as important as the ends. Structure is values-based and the leader’s job is to empower and facilitate development.
  • Perspectivist – Multiple perceptual filters are eagerly embraced without attachment to choice or perception. Intellect and perception shifts to respond to the needs of each unique situation, co-creation is encouraged and leadership decentralizes.


Richard Barrett

Ultimately, we hope to incorporate elements of Richard Barrett's intuition-based decison-making model into our choice points, by suspending judgment, allowing our minds to empty of controlling thoughts, beliefs, and agendas, by diving into the collective creative conscious of the group, and by allowing deep reflection with its accompanying emergent sense of Knowing; in short, to allow our decisions to be sourced from deep inner wisdom. He writes:

"The decision arises out of “presence” in the current moment... Intuition allows us to create a future based on the emergence of being. 
When we create the conditions that allow our minds to tap into the collective mind-space, our intuition informs us of what wants or needs to emerge."


We, at the Thrivability Institute, believe that “collective mind-space” is at the heart of all that we experience – it is a resonance that can be intentionally focused upon and held – and it is the source of our greatest creativity.


As the diagram illustrates our desire to incorporate a vast array of group perspectives into our decision-making process, we intend never to loose sight of our primary goal – to always remain true to our hearts by, as Joseph Campbell states so succinctly, “Following our bliss.” It is the most effective tactic we know to ensure that the well-being of both the individual and the collective (including non-human) is always our prime directive.

C. Otto Scharmer

Otto Scharmer and Presencing

In Honoring All Life (2005), I argue that the underlying challenge to all forms of change are the perceptual filters through which we see, and our willingness to first acknowledge their presence, and then be willing to consciously expand their scope of the perceived possible.  Similarly, organizational learning pioneer , C. Otto Scharmer has developed the “U Theory” to help explain sources of social action based upon where we choose to place our attention.  Using his own language, he echoes and expands much of my premise in his own delightful way.  For example, he identifies four levels of listening:

  • Level One – Listening from the assumption that you already know what is being said, therefore you listen only to confirm habitual judgments (what I would call “perceptual filters.”)

  • Level Two – “Object-focused listening,” in which you pay attention to what is different, novel, or disquieting from what you already know.  (This experience takes place moment-to-moment, allowing for the evolution of our perceptual filters.)

  • Level Three – “Empathic Listening,” similar to Nonviolent Communication, level three listening pays attention to the feelings of the speaker.  It opens the listener and allows an experience of “standing in the other’s shoes” to take place.  Attention shifts from the listener to the speaker, allowing for deep connection on multiple levels.  (Empathic listening automatically expands one’s perceptual filters, allowing for a more inclusive and expansive sense of reality.)

  • Level Four – is difficult to express in linear language.  It is a state of being in which everything slows down and inner wisdom is accessed.  Scharmer states, “I feel more quiet, present and more my real self.  I am connected to something larger than myself.” He describes accessing Level 4 through the heart and open will “a capacity to connect to the highest future possibility that wants to emerge.”  Those last words are important, because at this level, what “wants to emerge” and personal will are inseparable.  (I experience Level 4 as “Oneness” or a state in which I experience no “I” separation from All-That-Is.  When I am painting, I often begin by allowing my conscious “self” to step aside and allow the oneness-self “Self” to emerge through my being.  In this state, one can no longer separate the artist from the subject, or from life itself – all are One.) In my vernacular, I often ask, “Who are we willing to BE?”  When doing so, I am deliberately asking what/who wants to emerge.  Scharmer calls this “Generative Listening” and feels it differs distinctly from other levels of listening in both texture and outcome.  The outcome is a transformation of self, in which you experience a “subtle but profound change…you have connected to a deeper source – to the source of who you really are…a connection that links you with a profound field of coming into being, with your emerging authentic Self.”

Scharmer proposes five movements that allow for presencing to emerge within an organization:

    • Co-initiating common intent: listen to what life calls you to do, connect with people and contexts related to that call, and convene constellations of core players that co-inspire common intention.
    • Co-sensing the forces of change: form a core team and take deep-dive learning journeys that bring you to the places of most potential; observe, and listen with your mind, heart, and will wide open.
    • Co-presencing inspiration and common will: go to the place of individual and collective stillness, open up to the source of creativity and presence, and link to the future that wants to emerge through you.
    • Co-creating microcosms: build landing strips of the future by prototyping living microcosms in order to explore the future by doing.
    • Co-evolving through innovations: co-develop a larger innovation ecosystem that connects people and their actions across boundaries through seeing and acting from the whole.

We intend to explore all five movements as Thriv’In evolves and learns.

C. Otto Scharmer, Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges – The Social Technology of Presencing, Fieldnotes Sept/Oct 2006, The Shambhala Institute for Authentic Leadership.

C. Otto Scharmer, ibid. and a Power Point presentation July 14th, 2007 in Stuttgart.

Thriv’In and the Model

When we overlay the three sections of the Thrivability Institute upon the Organizational Model, it can look like this.




 Imagine it as a sphere, however, as we acknowledge that which we don't yet know.  It is our joy and privilege to constantly play on the leading edge of that not-knowing as we evolve our sense of the possible and re-define ourselves each moment.


All material included in this website is copyright(c)2007 Honoring All Life Foundation, unless otherwise noted.  All rights reserved.