The Constructive Developmental Framework

Otto Laske Interdevelopmental Institute (IDM)
Creating Collaborative Intelligence

The Constructive Developmental Framework

CDF Induces Critical Realism Regarding What is Presently Possible in the Real World

In the cauldron of change we are living in, we need a set of mind opening tools whose use supports complex ways of listening and thinking. CDF empowers us to understand not just change but transformation, both of ourselves and our organizations. Transformation eludes formal logical thinking, but not dialectical thinking.

CDF synthesizes three dimensions of adulthood:

1. the social-emotional one of internal positioning toward others (Kegan 1982)

2. the cognitive one of making sense of the real world conceptually (Basseches 1984; Bhaskar 1993; Jaques 1998)

3. the psychological one of attempting to balance egoic needs against self-imposed egoic pressure standing against inborn needs (H. Murray 1938).

CDF is much more than a set of tools. It comprises a set of values, strategic principles, and practices forming a cohesive whole. With DTF, the cognitive component of CDF, we add depth-first to mere breadth-first search, in whatever domain of thinking endeavor. Breadth-first search enlarges the scope of our thinking “horizontally”, while depth-first search brings us closer to how the real world works “vertically”, thus to critical realism about what is achievable at a particular moment given the real world’s complicity.


A Wikipedia description of CDF and DTF is found here.

For a description of CDF in Japanese, Spanish, Italian, and German, see:

構成主義的発達論のフレームワーク (Yohei Kato)

CDF Wikipedia Article, Español (Daniel Alvarez Lama)

CDF Wikipedia Italian (Marco Di Monte)

CDF Wikipedia Article original (Bruno Frischherz)


CDF is a Theory of How Work is Delivered in a Real World Undergoing Constant Transformation

We start from the premise that contributors construct unique “real worlds” of their own whose common denominator is the complexity and agility with which they carry out their practices based on their meaning-making and thinking.

Individuals’ contributions are grounded in an empirically measurable internal workplace indicating how they conceive of their work emotionally and intellectually at different points in their lifelong adult development.

We can determine contributors’ internal workplace through assessment by structured interview based on the metaphor of the Three Houses of work delivery shown above: Self House, Task House, and Organizational House. Knowing people’s internal workplace prepares a common ground for understanding and guiding the action logic of individuals, teams and circles, whether by way of coaching, mentoring, or shared design sessions.

In Expert Hands, CDF Functions as a Culture Transformation Tool

CDF comprises a set of values, principles, and practices all of which support developmentally oriented work cultures. It addresses the gap between how reality works and how people think. Use of CDF shifts the nature of stakeholder conversations in the direction of creating effective shared- leadership journeys not bound to rigid managerial hierarchies.

CDF heralds the dialogical turn of social practices in which individuals recapture the experience of their own untrammeled thinking for the sake of working together in self-organizing teams. It does so by forcing attention to team members’ movements-in-thought in real time, a learnable practice.

As a result, CDF functions as a culture transformation tool that delivers breakthroughs by improving the quality of dialog between stakeholders.

CDF Helps Put in Place Organizations Anchored in Self-Organizing Teams

CDF is also the tool of choice for building leadership talent in deliberately developmental organizations (DDOs). By helping to understand developmental differences between members of cross-functional teams, CDF strengthens the “wisdom” of such teams. CDF also fosters new ways of dialog in and between teams that creates wisdom in the first place.

For the application of CDF to teams, see Jan De Visch & Otto Laske’s book entitled Dynamic Collaboration: Strengthening Self-Organization and Collaborative Intelligence in Teams (ConnectTransform and IDM Press, June 2018). An Introduction to the work is found at Introduction to Dynamic Collaboration (De Visch & Laske 2018).


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