Transformational Theses: Your Doorway to Changing the World

Robb Smith Article, Cognitive, Leadership, Perspectives, Premium, The Transformation Age, What is a more hopeful future for civilization?

We sit at a critical juncture of world-historical events where, because of our real-time global “informational nervous system”—from real-time news and social feedback to access to world history at our fingertips—we can sense the push and pull of history and evolution as it happens. Not only is this a new capacity for human civilization, it places a new and heightened demand on all of us in the integral community to become more skilled as
integral transformation designers. No longer is history something that we just read about decades hence, we can actively picture our role in the evolutionary stream of events and take responsibility for our small part in it right now. And to do so, we need to better understand the concept of a Transformational Thesis, which I introduce below and outline this month for Integral Life members, who are a part of the most dedicated transformational change community in the world.


A Transformational Thesis (“TT”) is the name for a specific hypothesis that if you can effect this change, you can achieve that outcome, and in particular this process of change is a transformational one in which a person, organization, system, context etc. has moved to an overall fundamentally higher- and more-healthy form of long-term functioning.

Why Is It Important?

Everything in the universe is subject to constant change, and much of human life is characterized by focusing on a future that is different from the present: personal goals, organizational growth processes, political policies, business strategies, national initiatives, global crises… at every level of the evolutionary stack, and across every domain of knowing-being (all quadrants, states, structures, polarities, etc.), every occasion, every context, is also a process of ever-ongoing change. Sometimes the change is incremental and maintains the overall form and structure of the system/context, a change integralists call translational. But often we want to change the very form and structure of the system/context’s functioning such that qualitatively new, better and healthier forms of outcomes can emerge from the context: these changes are transformational, as they change the very shape of the system/context involved (i.e., they “trans”—go beyond, or change— the “form”—the shape). 

But to understand how we’re attempting to effect a transformation, we need to bring some discipline to the precise hypothesis of what we’re going to change and why.  If this process is not undergone, it is easy to inadvertently pursue translational change as if it were transformational, to have a sloppy understanding of our own objective, and to fall prey to the overwhelming power of pre-existing, dominant contexts, ideologies, energy patterns and the like. By going through the discipline of wrestling with a TT, these risks are mitigated (though never eliminated): we are forced to wrestle with the ambiguity of wicked contexts, to better articulate our grounding assumptions, to describe the actual mechanism by which we think a liberating structure can be newly-generated, and to expose the ways in which our thesis might really be just a recapitulation and regeneration of pre-existing, translational structures (to little transformative effect).

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Robb Smith

About Robb Smith

Robb Smith is a leading thinker on the Transformation Age and the global Integral movement. He is the co-founder and CEO of Integral Life and founder of the Institute of Applied Metatheory.