Integral Diversity Maturity: Toward a Postconventional Understanding of Diversity Dynamics

Toni GregoryArticle, Cognitive, How should we relate to the social justice movement?, Interpersonal, Journal of Integral Theory & Practice, Leadership, Leadership, Politics, Politics, Premium, Self-Identity Leave a Comment


This article outlines the authors’ ongoing study of diversity, focusing particularly on the AQAL model as a linchpin in an evolving theory of “diversity maturity.” Recognizing the limitations of non-integral approaches to understanding and negotiating diversity dynamics, the authors explain how an integral perspectives come to inform their postconventional understanding. The authors share their preliminary theory of the diversity maturity process in which the integral vision/theory that unites diversity, complexity, and creativity is the dynamic relationship among and between quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types. The article concludes with an agenda for further theoretical and empirical inquiry.


Speaking at an integral Zen seminar, Diane Hamilton commented on the need for an integral approach to diversity that addresses the complexities of developmental levels. She asserted, “Diversity training, when it stays at green [altitude], is radically incomplete…it opens people, it creates new perspectives, and it creates awareness, but it’s not enough to hold what actually needs to happen” (Wilber & Hamilton, 2007). Hamilton’s words resonated with us, as we already were engaged in exploring the relationship of Integral Theory to the reconceptualization of diversity theory and practice, recognizing diversity as a complex, multi-dimensional field of creative and transformative potential. My (Gregory) pursuit of alternative conceptions of diversity has been longstanding, including research at the American Institute for Managing Diversity (AIMD), consulting with organizations on diversity issues, serving on doctoral faculties of non-traditional programs, and writing and speaking on a host of diversity matters. My (Raffanti) professional interest in diversity developed as an urban schoolteacher, where I reflected on both the promises and limitations of multicultural and antiracist education. Driven by an interest in educational research, we co-edited a special edition of World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution (2006), which launched, in earnest, a continuing collaboration in the study of diversity dynamics.

Scholarship on diversity is wide ranging and can be found in many disciplines, including management, educa- tion, leadership, and organizational theory. While it is beyond the scope of this article to survey the literature, Mary Gentile’s (1995) analysis offers an excellent overview of conventional approaches to managing diver- sity. Conventional perspectives of diversity dynamics, according to Gentile, have generally been framed in terms of “duality and oppositionality” (p. 1). She discovered that theory generation about diversity dynamics was limited primarily to “habitual ways of thinking about difference…[and] the tendency to oversimplify… to binary oppositions as opposed to more complex and multiple perceptions…” (pp. 1-2).

The remainder of this article addresses Gentile’s challenge, as well as Hamilton’s call to examine diversity through an integral lens. The next section describes the “theoretical synergy” that exists among the diversity scholarship of R. Roosevelt Thomas and how incorporating an integral perspective has transformed our in- quiry into diversity dynamics. The subsequent section shares a preliminary sketch of diversity maturity as a developmental process that is achieved through transformative learning (Cranton, 1994, 1996; Mezirow, 1991, 1995, 1996). The article concludes with an agenda for further theoretical and empirical inquiry into the push-pull interplay among and between quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types as related to diversity.


About Toni Gregory

Toni A. Gregory, Ed.D. specializes in the study of organizational learning and the impact of culture and complexity on organizational transformation. She has been a faculty member, senior administrator, and program director in higher education. She has also been a corporate manager and the director of research for the American Institute for Managing Diversity, where she established and managed a global research division and supervised a variety of research initiatives. She has a broad background in research methods and design, and an extensive background in leadership, management, and organization theory. She is currently Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs in the Ph.D. Progam in Interdisciplinary Studies at Union Institute and University.


About Michael Raffanti

Michael Raffanti has a varied professional background in education and social justice. A California native, he completed his Juris Doctor at Boston College Law School. He also holds a Master’s in Teaching from The Evergreen State College, where he specialized in multicultural education. He earned his Doctor of Education from Fielding Graduate University, where he focused on studying organizational change. Michael has published articles on leadership, organizational change, and research methods in Grounded Theory Review, World Futures, and the Journal of Ethnographic and Qualitative Research. He is on the faculty of Union Institute and University’s Ed.D. program and also teaches courses at California Institute of Integral Studies and Fielding Graduate University.