Wednesday, October 6, 2010 Interview: The Seven Relationships of an Integral Business

Below I am sharing the written answers from my interview with Not all of the questions made it into the interview or the final edit, so I have decided to share them here. When you have a moment, check out the interview on Because of the length of these answers, I have decided to post each separately.

3. One of your key ideas is called The 7 Relationships Of Business. Can you tell us what the 7 relationships are and how Integral theory influenced your thinking?

With the complexity of our world today and the volatility of our current market, it’s now more important than ever for consultants and businesses to have a big picture perspective. The 7 relationships of an integral business provides this perspective.

In the blog post It’s Time for the Bottom Line to Get Bigger I discussed the five major bottom line values of an integral business. This is a transcend-and-include hierarchical model from profits-only, to people-planet-profits, to profits-people-planet-principles-progress. This hierarchical line of development for business once realized creates sustainability, long-term success, and greater impact. This, though, is one measure of an integral business. To have a fuller picture, we must consider the Seven Relationships of an integral business.

The penta bottom line is a path of evolutionary growth that looks something like this:

With this view of evolutionary growth, an integral perspective allows for a whole picture recognizing that reality, life, business and all human disciplines exist in several distinct perspectives. If these perspectives are reduced key elements of consideration are lost.

The crux of integral theory is the four quadrants, which represent the perspective of the individual interior (subjectivity, thoughts, feelings, worldview, development), individual exterior (actions, objectivity, objects), the collective interior (intersubjectivity, culture, shared value), and the collective exterior (systems, society). Coupled with the evolutionary line of business value, from a singular bottom line to a penta bottom line, we begin to get a more clear picture of what makes a sustainable, profitable and impacting business with great meaning and value.

The last key consideration in an integral perspective is time: past and future. I like to view all of these pieces as relationships. When I analyze a business or an individual, I look at their relationship with each of these elements noting their degree of awareness and action creating a healthy or unhealthy relationship.

In a business system, these seven relationships each hold and create value and profit. Instead of a hammer seeking a nail, we need a big toolbox to build a profitable and sustainable business.

The Seven Relationships of an Integral Business


Individual interior:

  • Development
  • Worldview
  • Awareness
Individual exterior:
  • Actions
  • Roles
  • Assessment
  • Customers
Collective interior:
  • Culture
Collective exterior:
  • Systems
  • Organization Structure
  • Market

  • Data Analysis
  • Retrospectives

  • Strategy
  • Projections
  • Value consideration: The Penta Bottom Line
  • Meme Growth

Individual Interior:

This considers individual motivation, perspective, development, and worldview, all which create an individual’s actions making effective and efficient employees, skillful managers, and game-change leaders. Most coaching and development processes focus on individual interior development to improve exterior action and interaction.

Individual Exterior:

The individual exterior perspective views the actions and objective measures of individuals as they engage in their specific role in business. This also considers all of the individual roles (and the people in these roles) that make up a business, and their impact of the business as a whole. The individual exterior also considers a business’ customers.

Collective Interior:

This considers the collective culture created and sustained by each individual of the organization, and is typically steeped from the top down. Though, new and emergent organization models like Holacracy (Collective Exterior) are changing this.

Collective Exterior:

The collective exterior is the key perspective of organization structure, the work environment, and interacting systems (finance, human resources, teams, IT, etc.). This also considers the greater regional, national and world market (depending on the reach of the organization).


Resting on analysis the perspective of the past includes data analysis (sales, performance, budget, etc.), and specific industry history, and business history as a whole.


Strategy and projections light the way into the unknown, taking valuable information from the past.

Value Consideration:

A huge leap from traditional business’ singular value consideration of profit-only, the penta bottom line creates a bigger and necessary consideration of value.


A complex world requires complex perspectives. Take time to consider each of these relationships in your life and business. Which are healthy? Which are unhealthy? Have any been reduced or unconsidered? Opening up to a larger bigger and adding more tools to your tool box will build a more profitable and more sustainable business.

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