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What is Integrative Development?

Sep 12, 2022

Human development has been analyzed and researched for well over a century. How do we learn? What actually works? How can we measure growth?

Many of the answers to these questions have not fundamentally changed. As a result, these old ways of thinking about learning and development still dominate coaching, consulting, and education. Even worse, they (and we) are falling further behind as the world rapidly changes.

Integrative Development offers a more natural and effective approach to helping clients grow. It invites you into a new way of seeing, being, and working with the world. It offers you resources to deepen your sense of what is happening in and around you in real-time so that you can improvise as needed.

Integrative Development is based on the pioneering research of Dr. David Drake. It began with his investigation of why some of his large change and coaching projects were so much more successful than the others. One key factor he discovered was that in these organizations he was free to move between roles to support people to learn what they needed as they needed it.

Integrative Development (ID) began as an integration of organization development, training, and coaching, but in time it became a holistic approach that drew on five areas of development. It enables practitioners to achieve remarkable progress on what matters most with minimal use of agendas, goals, or even curricula.

This blog post is your introduction to integrative development. Below, you will see for yourself how you could use ID to unlock more of your clients’ potential for growth.

A Note from David:

I have instinctively worked this way for over 15 years on projects big and small. I started teaching it in Australia after I grew frustrated with the results from more traditional leadership programs I ran for clients. Contrary to consistent research findings, most of the budget was devoted to the programs themselves even though they made the least impact (compared to effective pre-work and especially focused post-work).

I left all that behind for good after being invited by the CFO of a major bank to adapt one of my programs on effective communication. His focus was not on the curriculum but on the essential business problem he needed to solve. So, I used ID to decrease the content by 80%, focus their attention on one outcome, and shift from teaching to coaching. The outcomes far surpassed what we had achieved in the traditional programs — and in less time.

In these times when so much is uncertain and unknown, it is time to move on from our attachments to how things have always been. Integrative Development was made for these times. . .

Let’s look at three of the differences it could make for you.

ID Expands Your Sense of Space

Integrative Development enables you to improvise with what is present, real, and important in the client’s space instead of having to waste hours planning what should happen, what should be talked about and what should matter.

Integrative Development enables you to work with real issues and elements as part of how clients get their work done instead of giving them someone else’s roles or scenarios to play.

Integrative Development enables you to notice and engage with the relational and unconscious dynamics in play instead of filling your clients’ heads with more information.

This is possible in part because ID draws more from grounded indigenous philosophies and sense of space than from traditional philosophies based in the Western paradigm.

For example:

Shifting how you see your work in this way gives you a more expansive space within which you and your client work. It also leads to work and outcomes that are more sustainable and meaningful.

ID Expands Your Sense of Time

Integrative Development is not based on a linear model of time (chronos) and all that goes with it, eg, an over-reliance on formulas, lists, and uniformity. It does not assume that learning can be planned in advance, that we know what they need right now, or that growth happens in a straight line.

Instead, ID borrows more from the Greek concept of kairos in focusing on the potential of the present moment. It’s about finding openings in the present moment to facilitate growth where there is readiness, willingness, and ability rather than working toward the imagined future with predefined goals.

Integrative Development practitioners are always asking themselves two questions:

  1. What is this moment asking of me?
  2. What does this client need most right now?

With this approach, Integrative Development allows you to work fluidly in time as it is experienced (rather than how it is measured) and to align your work with the natural rhythms of human development.

ID Expands Your Sense of Energy

One of the benefits of using Integrative Development is that it allows you to walk alongside your clients in support of their change process rather than having to always be out front. This will save you an enormous amount of energy that is otherwise spent trying to perfect handouts, be entertaining to keep people engaged, and more.

Imagine if you could sit down with a prospective buyer of your services and just identify the one outcome they want to achieve.

  • What if you could show up with your clients and invite them to determine how they want to use your resources (and theirs) to achieve it?
  • What if rather than people walking away with “a few good tips” they could implement what they have already developed in their time with you?
  • What if you could use most of the budget on support so people were successful with their steps instead of convincing stakeholders?

Different stages in people's learning and development journeys require different energy — in them and from you. When you become more in tune with your energy, you will have more energy, and be more agile in using it as needed.

Working at Developmental Thresholds

When you expand your sense of time, space, and energy in this way, your focus shifts from your methods and formulas to your client’s actual change process. This is important because discerning your client’s readiness, willingness, and ability to act will help you know what scaffolding they need.

Readiness is particularly important because, without it, your efforts are often moot. When clients are ready for a new experience, they’re open to new experiences and experimenting with new options in terms of their mindsets, stories, behaviors, and more.

In order to experiment with new ways of being, clients need a safe space to play and try out new behaviors and beliefs. That’s where David’s work with developmental threshold zones comes into play. These are opportunities for growth where clients are almost ready. By working with them and offering the scaffolding they need, eg, a verbal practice, a somatic movement, an example, or structure.

These zones are powerful as spaces where clients can move between their current identity, the crux of their issue, and some early steps to achieve the shift they were seeking. Rather than set a goal and steps for later, you can help clients make the shift now, internalize the scaffolding they will need, and prepare them for their next steps in returning to their world.

Join The ID Way

Integrative development is

  1. A philosophy about living and relating
  2. A theory about learning and developing
  3. A frame for designing and working

Integrative Development practitioners are more flexible, versatile, and inventive as they engage with clients and their needs in the present moment.

If you’d like to learn more about Integrative Development and how it can transform your practice, join The ID Way Program.