The power of words constantly amazes
me. I know from my experience in the sustainable design field that
the words love and spirituality can empty
a corporate boardroom faster than the phrase Lunch is served.
These twin concepts of love and spirituality have never been welcome
at the corporate table, but they just might have received their
first bona fide invitation from Carl Frankels exceptional
new book, Out of the Labyrinth.
Frankels plea for the inclusion of such concepts as love and
spirituality in the corporate decision-making process comes in a
multi-layered work that never falls off any of the tracks it follows.
The concepts he explores are encapsulated in the context of an extremely
personal story. The author bravely bares his soul in the telling
of the familiar tale of a father/son alienation and misunderstanding
that was part of almost every Baby Boomers generation gap
Out of the Labyrinth is written with humor and insight, and is filled
with political and cultural commentary. Frankel writes from deep
within his own self-defined inner being and draws on numerous sources
to describe our current environmental and cultural depravity while
philosophically tackling a wide array of topics. Most importantly
he delves into the nature of identity and the nature of sustainability
and how they relate to each other. The book has an accessible style
that makes you feel like you are engaged in a wonderful conversation
with a great raconteur.
Stories give meaning and purpose to our lives, and in the process
of writing this book and telling his story, Frankel has a belated
reconciliation with his long ago murdered father. He goes prospecting
in his inner self and comes back with gold in the form of not only
a good story, but also a structure of the self that he calls the
Triad. Frankels vision of the Triad consists of
three components. One is the strategist, who pursues goals in the
objective domain; second is the citizen, who participates in society
in the social domain; and finally there is the seeker, who quests
for meaning in the depth dimension. Inherent in the psyches of each
of us are all three of these components or sub-personalities.
The second part of Frankels vision is what he calls the Integral
Way. He proposes a new way to respond to information by including
the voices of all the domains and not playing favorites with any
single one. By being inclusive and balancing the inputs from each
domain, the creative tension between domains will provide solutions
to problems that far exceed any solution derived from single domain
With this process in mind Frankel clearly wants to engage in a referendum
on modernism, which he calls the tyranny of the objective domain
that has held sway over all of our institutions, particularly business
and technology, for the last 400 years. He believes it is time for
another voice to be heard and it may be the only way we can get
beyond the presently stalled debate on sustainable development.
The discussion has been stalled by the business community because
most companies, even those that would consider themselves environmentally
enlightened, are very uncomfortable with such depth dimension concepts
as meaning, love and spirituality.
Frankel suggests that the concept of sustainable development stopped
evolving right after it acknowledged the social domain by adopting
Corporate Social Responsibility principles. It has been stopped
precisely because, in order to flower into its next stage, sustainable
development has to address and integrate an awareness of depth dimension
characteristics, and the tyranny of the objective refuses to consider
any aspect of the inner realm as relevant to business. This is an
essential reason why Out of the Labyrinth is such an important book
that should be read by both business managers and political leaders.
If Out of the Labyrinth does nothing more than jumpstart the debate
on sustainable development and eventually make it respectable for
love and spirituality to be seriously considered in corporate organization
and strategy, it will have achieved a major coup. However, I suspect
it will become recognized as a significant contribution to the overall
sustainability debate and a work that the authors father would
have been truly proud to acknowledge.
Richard Walthers is founder of PRAIRIEfish, a Chicago, IL-based
consulting firm dedicated to design and sustainability issues. He
can contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.