Human beings are doers. There are four questions all of us ask ourselves in our internal conversations that are the focus of work with CDF, the Constructive Developmental Framework:
- How am I doing?
- What should I do and for whom?
- What can I do and what are my options?
- What is the ultimate purpose of my life project?
In terms of the social ontology established by Bhaskar and Archer, these questions point to the four related, but inseparable and irreducible, ontological strata of a human being, referred to in CDF as (1) psychological, (2) social-emotional, (3) cognitive, and (4) spiritual. In CDF, these intertwined four strata of human reality (not simply actuality or empirical experience) are simultaneously interrelated dimensions of people’s internal conversations. Understanding developmentally how people answer the four questions, and thus communicate with others, is the focus of work with CDF, the Constructive Developmental Framework.
If you have heard of CDF and are interested in learning to use it in your own pursuits, you will have to be a self-starter and acquire an outline of the CDF Framework first on your own, and then join our small international cohorts of 5-6 participants meeting at regular intervals via Zoom to work with Otto Laske as their supervisor.
The CDF Framework readings are available in English, and some in German and Spanish, and are divided into three categories: A, B, and C. Category A is for free, Category B and Category C is for purchase; all are available in PDF format at: https://interdevelopmentals.org/?page_id=1974. CDF self study materials are found under Category B1 (English) and B2 (German and Spanish). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for encouragement and further information.
CDF was created at IDM, the Interdevelopmental Institute, in 1999, based on a dissertation supervised by R. Kegan. The dissertation pioneered linking meaning making, referred to as ‘social-emotional’, to its ‘cognitive’ counterpart, sense-making, by way of dialectic. To achieve comprehensiveness, a psychological dimension was soon added, based on Henry Murray’s work, called ‘Need/Press’. CDF is a synthesis of adult-developmental research findings and insights accrued between 1975 and 2000. Its methods constitute a distillation of methods of qualitative developmental research from that time period. They are equally pertinent to exploring human affairs in terms of social ontology and adult development, both of which are anchored in people’s internal conversations. In terms of CDF methodology, such conversations exert causal power on social reality, and shape it as a forever open, unpredictable system. For the most part still undiscovered, CDF methods are equally methods of professional social ontology research and practice.
Twenty years of teaching experience have shown that learning CDF methods by oneself is hard, a fact due also to the increasing influence of social-media based mental processing (flat thinking). For this reason, CDF methods are taught at IDM in small international cohorts in which participants reap the benefits of cooperation, exercising hands-on, in real time, what they learn. Cohorts are formed by 5-6 (rarely more) people coming together, mostly by word of mouth. They function as teams whose members take responsibility for each others’ work, and sometimes meet independently of the IDM instructor (predominantly Otto Laske) in preparation of the next following session with him or her. Cohort learning has been shown to thrive through members’ real-time workshop experience and, since it has developmental effects, to lead to becoming increasingly aware of one’s own internal conversations and understanding them more lucidly. In the end, such experience strengthens participants’ work as coaches, consultants, managers, and other helping professionals by deepening insight into “where a person (or team) is coming from”, based on discerning the developmental structure of others’ internal, and based thereupon, external, conversations.
Purpose of CDF
CDF methods were created for exercising and understanding movements-in-thought anchored in deep listening to oneself and others. They are so configured as to transcend the limitations of contemporary “developmental thinking” which is one-sidedly social-emotional. These methods center on acquiring a structural — instead of a merely content-focused — understanding of people’s internal conversations, which is a mighty aid in understanding one’s own, mostly unnoticed, conversations. Internal conversation is both a sociological and epistemic term. The term carries with it the assumption that how people talk to themselves internally, as social actors, defines the way in which they encounter both social and cultural reality as it impinges on their life and work projects.
It is at this point that the power of CDF comes into play. Its methods permit their users to revise their internal conversations, and thereby to acquire novel descriptions of themselves, a process broadly referred to as mental growth. From CDF’s developmental epistemology, we view such conversations as foundational for how people design their life projects, as well as the work projects meant to actualize them. In sociology based on Bhaskar’s Critical Realism, such conversations — brought to light through CDF by structured interviews — form the bridge between social and cultural reality, on one hand, and human agency, on the other. By documenting, structurally reconstructing, and developmentally commenting upon others’ internal conversations, and through better understanding one’s own, those who master CDF methods acquire a deep grasp of the way in which people design projects — a powerful basis for process consultation in the sense of a developmental deepening of Edgar Schein’s work.
Work in IDM Cohorts is graduate work. It leads to mastering three different, strongly interrelated, tool sets: a social-emotional, cognitive, and psychological one, where the latter is optional. CDF is nowhere taught as comprehensively as where it came into being, at IDM, where studies lead, in several steps, to a ‘Master Developmental Consultant/Coach’ Certificate.
Logistically, to master CDF, students organize as a learning cohort and proceed from A to D, as follows:
- A. Labs are introductory workshops in which you follow up your self-studies of CDF, working as the member of a cohort under the guidance of Otto Laske, either in preparation of an IDM case study or for the sake of boosting your developmental practice in coaching/mentoring and leadership facilitation.
- B. Studios are workshops geared toward making a case study of an individual client chosen by you in a single CDF dimension — social-emotional, cognitive, or psychological. Submitting a one-dimensional case study prepares you for making multi-dimensional case studies. Once you submit your case study, you receive succinct and detailed critical feedback, verbal and written, both for your own sake and for the sake of giving feedback to your chosen client. As you do more case studies, you advance towards obtaining the IDM ‘Master Developmental Coach/Consultant’ Certificate.
- C. Practica are advanced workshops whose participants are guided in their use of CDF, the Constructive Developmental Framework, for three different purposes and in three different ways: (1) for preparing an empirical, interview-based case study of a client using CDF tools; (2) for generating and/or refining organizational or institutional project designs in need of feedback based on developmental and complex (dialectical) thinking (portfolio practicum); and (3) for promoting developmental and dialectical thinking in executive or live coaching. including team coaching/facilitation based on DTF, the Dialectical Thought Form Framework (developmental coaching practicum). The commonality of learning in these practica consists of doing real-time exercises that lead to achieving critical thinking in both a social-emotional and cognitive/dialectical form, as well as thinking about the social world in terms of social-ontology grounded in the works of R. Bhaskar and M. Archer.
To obtain the IDM Master Developmental Coach/Consultant Certificate, you need to submit three case studies within at most 1 1/2 years. To obtain an IDM Dialectics Certificate, you need to develop, submit, follow through, and put up for cohort discussion, a project design of your own with a focus on matching project complexity with thought complexity (transformational thinking). Those enrolled in the developmental coaching practicum also obtain the IDM Master Developmental Coach/Consultant Certificate where ‘consultant’ is synonymous with ‘supervisor’.D. Salons comprise sessions that make use of all tools exercised in Labs, Studios, and/or both kinds of Practica offered.Students who have mastered case studies and advanced their portfolios can move into advisory positions within the IDM community, joining an international body of over one hundred professionals who have studied at IDM over the past twenty years. This international body of professionals is increasingly organized in the form of public salons functioning as transformative dialogue spaces.
Summary of Offerings
In 2021, Otto LASKE is offering the following learning opportunities in small international cohorts of 5-6 participants:
- Labs are based on your initial self-study of CDF methods. They introduce you to becoming aware of, and paying attention to, your own internal conversations, and help you begin to understand them as deriving from your present developmental profile.
- Studios promote learning from your clients by structurally understanding their internal conversations. They teach you how to give them verbal and written feedback on their developmental profile, thus helping you boost your coaching, mentoring, and facilitation career while simultaneously giving you insight into your own sense- and meaning-making.
- Portfolio Practica help you solidify your project designs and strengthen your career path, by moving your sense-making (cognition) toward a holistic and systemic conception of the social world you are embedded in (see https://interdevelopmentals.org/?p=7690).
- Salons fuse labs, studios, and practica, strengthening developmental and ontological thinking practice, with a focus on project design (held with Nathan Snyder).
A second category of offerings comprises one-to-one work:
- Personal developmental assessment based on structured interviews, with feedback given for your personal benefit, for instance as a launching pad for building a developmental coaching, consulting, and leadership practice.
- Personal and/or executive coaching by Otto Laske (based on prior CDF assessment).
Instruction is in English but given sufficient demand can also be held in German and French and, with live or digital translation, in Spanish. For all inquiries, write to email@example.com or call +1-978-879-4882, Eastern Standard Time (EST).
How the CDF approach is taught at its origin, the Interdevelopmental Institute (IDM)
Philosophical and Sociological Background
Each of us is engaged in a life project split up into many work projects, one meant to improve on the other. That is what adult development consists of. Projects require design, follow-through, and evaluation to be of one piece. When launching a work project, we benefit from a social-ontology point of view as developed by R. Bhaskar and M. Archer since 1975. These authors remind us that in carrying out our projects, we answer to many antecedent social and cultural structures not of our making (and mostly hidden from us), which include the obstacles we have generated ourselves unconsciously throughout our history. We launch projects based on internal conversations by which, sociologically and social-emotionally, we position ourselves toward others and the world at large in ways we are blind to. To cure us of this blindness, we need to revise how we habitually think, to discover the hidden social-emotional and cognitive structure of our mental processes.
Focus of Teaching
Single individuals as much as teams easily get stuck in their projects because of lack of a clear understanding of their own internal conversations, and thus also their communication with others which are based on them. They may understand their conversations’ contents but fail to discern the cognitive and social-emotional structure of these contents. CDF is a set of research-validated methods for understanding one’s own and other people’s internal conversations in structural terms, that is, in terms of what generates their content. Since we rarely understand our own internal conversations (if we even notice them), what we need to succeed in our life and work projects is a methodology that helps us grasp them through in-depth dialogue with like-minded others with whom we can share our concerns and the projects they lead to.
IDM teaching is geared to supporting project design and project management as well as offering project design evaluation from a social-ontology perspective. Your project could be a developmental case study of a single person or entire team, or a project of your own envisioning. In developing your project, you will learn to employ four dialectical thinking modes that fuse developmental and ontological dimensions.
Four Dimensions of Project Design
At IDM, we see work projects as integral parts of a single life project, with a strong focus on career development. For 20 years, CDF has helped coaches, consultants, managers, and other professionals carry out their projects. CDF methods and tools provide a methodology for clarifying the four dimensions of project design that are also the four dimensions of people’s internal conversations, and thus of their conversations with others:
- Social-emotional dimension: are you effectively positioned toward others to launch your project, and aware of this positioning?
- Cognitive dimension: is the quality of your thought process equal to the complexity of your project?
- Psychological dimension: can you balance psychological needs and internal as well as environmental pressures while designing and manifesting your project?
- Spiritual dimension: is your project life-enhancing, enough to strengthen your faith in yourself and the world?
Social-emotional issues regard the question of “what should I do and for whom?”, while cognitive issues have to do with the question of “what can I do and what are my options?” Both of them point to strengths and limitations regarding your maturity. Psychological questions are simpler; they center on the issue of “how am I presently doing?”, answers to which are determined by a person’s social-emotional and cognitive maturity level. Spiritual issues focus on the question of “what is the ultimate environment of my life project?” No accepted assessment methodology exists for treating such a question, but insight into one’s own and others’ level of adult development is of the greatest benefit for addressing it succinctly: one can only be as spiritual as one is developed in the first three dimensions named above.