IAM, Q2 Update

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – R. Buckminster Fuller

Dear friends,

I’m excited to give you an update on The Institute of Applied Metatheory, where we ended an incredible Q1 of foundation building and catapulted straight into Q2 with an intense focus inside the organization on the understanding and integration of AI into our operating model. Truly it’s been an extraordinary time, and I’m really proud of how the team, now approaching 40 people, has embodied our mission to operate as a Teal organization—with agility, real-time sensemaking, emotional transparency, network intelligence, and distributed innovation—amidst the ontological shock and genuine uncertainty of the emergence of The Transformation Age.    

We spent the past several months in a constant, iterative and transparent process of validation of our core mission hypotheses. They have all validated, so far, with significant progress and accomplishments across every dimension of our operating model:

  • We continued to validate and receive an inflow of support for our core mission to build IAM as an Integrative Cooperative Impact Network, an “Integral Mondragon” composed of hundreds of scholars, experts, contributors, innovators, donors, and investors, all of whom collectively co-own the network, its technology platform, its assets, and its outreach and coordination capacity
  • We passed the mark of 250 experts who have applied to join the network, and have recently welcomed new co-ownership partners into the network, each of whom will be leading major Applied Metatheory Initiatives (AMIs)
  • We built IAM’s architecture of dozens of novel Big Picture lenses and their associated philosophical and methodological metadata
  • We released the Alpha version of our Integrative Epistemology platform Context, which we’re designing in an attempt to create a network- and movement-wide, Teal-level platform for the application of Big Picture metatheories for any initiative, organization or government, in any context, at any scale
  • The innovation team has built eight different integrative metatheory AI applications in the past 5 months, each of which explore (and often demonstrate) the extraordinary promise of Teal-level AI for transformative education, perspective-taking, and applied metatheory
  • We welcomed our first major Big Picture mapping pilot for designing a new transformational theory of change model in the social sector, which is being funded through a major gift to the new IAM Foundation
  • Our team of metatheory team scholars continues to grow, with ten new world-class scholars representing critical realism, complex thought, integral metatheory and more
  • We’ve begun concepting on major new initiatives with network partners to educate integrative metatheories in foreign languages and to investigate use of a network-native cryptocurrency
  • We ran a fast-fail beta test cycle on three of our AMIs (IPTI, ESoM, and SSI), demonstrating the power of cross-functional learning while also refining what will be required of our Transformational Innovation Process, where we translate transformational fulcra into precise, in-context strategic innovations

As we look to the second half of the year, we will continue to stay head-down on the challenging agile-learning cycles on Context, and continue to learn how to apply Big Pictures to any context.  We’ll also begin planning our Teal Consulting Network and recruiting for its leaders (be in touch with us here) and welcome new co-ownership partners into the network (also here). Most importantly, we’ll continue to explore how to release the innate intelligence and energy of the integral movements via a network-based, strategic intercooperation model, in which any major organization or leader in the space can become an active contributing partner within it.

The Transformation Age is here. It is an incredible time to be alive, but if we are going to meet the opportunity and calling of the moment, we need to be organized to do so. 

I truly look forward to your ongoing participation and support.

On behalf of the entire team,
All our love,

Robb Smith
Founder, Executive Team Leader

The Institute of Applied Metatheory: At the Edge, Dancing with Life

“As an astronaut, especially during launch, half of the risk of a six-month flight is in the first nine minutes”— Astronaut Chris Hadfield

Dear friends,

I’m writing to give you an update on the “first nine minutes” of the launch of the Institute of Applied Metatheory since our founding last month. The launch metaphor is apt, complete with metaphorically sitting atop billions of gallons of rocket fuel, massive acceleration, bone-rattling shaking, and the thrill of a lifetime as we launch dead vertical. It’s been a wild ride.

You responded to our invitation to get involved, with hundreds of people applying to join us to pursue our mission to Liberate transformational potential by applying Big Pictures to Big Problems. We’ve been humbled and deeply-gratified by the response, allowing me to say with great confidence that one of the four meta-hypotheses that I outlined at our founding is being validated: we do indeed have the talent and desire to coordinate action for focused social impact.

I also believe the team has done a good job of balancing the present, still, being qualities of a mature Teal (and Turquoise) team with the passionate, fervent, purpose demands of an urgent global mission. And yet the scope of the mission is ever-present, both humbling and daunting, as we attempt to do multiple hard things all at once:

  • Build a true Teal organization, a global, agile learning organization that runs a 24/7 global work cycle with distributed teams currently operating on four continents, run by a diverse group of mature, top-of-craft functional experts
  • Design and build an incubation architecture for focused social impact initiatives to address any context, in any problem domain, at any level of scale, and one that helps them iterate toward high-precision, in-context transformational innovations that might effect real change
  • Provide alpha-iteration for the commercial initiative to design and develop the world’s first Integrative Epistemology platform for metatheoretical context analysis
  • Conceptualize, germinate, recruit and develop a half-dozen multi-year initiatives (with another six in the pipeline), each with their own teams, impact strategies, transformational theses, innovation requirements, and funding models

There are thirty members of the team today, and I expect we’ll continue to grow to meet the demands of the mission. What holds it all together is integral consciousness, a shared worldview, values and sensemaking that allow us to coordinate action quickly, abundantly and with a wide latitude for constant, iterative action-learning (across a wide array of requirements, from integral design thinking to agile task coordination, from Teal organizational-matrix design to our own transformational innovation process, from metatheory to metapraxis design, and so on…).

And we’ve done it all, so far, without a dollar of donor funding. I’ve set out to prove that, done properly, donor gifts can achieve a 100x impact through integral impact design. So I will soon announce the IAM Legacy Circle, a private group designed for those who want to be on the inside of the Institute, who are mission and values-aligned, and who want their expertise and their gifts to leave an integral legacy, an evolutionary impact in a way genuinely unlike anything available in the world today. If you are interested in learning more about the IAM Legacy Circle, you can signal your early interest here.

So that’s the first five weeks. We face an immense challenge to pull this off, but with your continued help, and belief, I think we can; I believe we’re off to a promising start. I’ve been involved with founding a few other ecosystem-level projects in my career. Each one took more than a decade (I’m not that old, LOL… there was some overlap), each had a vision that exceeded its grasp, and each succeeded in incredible ways and came up short in other ones.

And yet this one is the most challenging—and promising—of all. The Institute of Applied Metatheory is, in a deeply spiritual sense, a dance with death, a demand that we surrender to a place where we can move fearlessly because we must, where we ask unreasonable things of our capabilities and our capacity for learning and integration, where we willingly go where we know we’re out of our depth… but only in being right there do we fulfill whatever small contribution we can make to this precious, precious world. This is indeed a rocket ship ride at the leading-edge of what evolution is up to at this very moment (in one tiny part of this infinite kosmos), and despite the challenges and long weeks, there is a sense of fulfillment that leaves no room for regret… kosmic projects, like beautiful families and lifelong love affairs, simply are their own justification.

That’s the dance, and we’ll shuffle until the music stops.

On behalf of the entire team,
All our love,

Announcing The Institute of Applied Metatheory

Dear friends,

Last Saturday I explained that, with the start of 2023, the team at Integral Life hopes to kick off a third, Integration Stage of the integral movement. Today, I’m very pleased to announce the launch of The Institute of Applied Metatheory, a social action think tank founded on a focused, singular mission: to use Big Picture, “integrative metatheories” to map difficult problems, issues and contexts in order to help us identify promising targets for social action, evolutionary acupuncture points (i.e., “Transformational Fulcrums”) where good metatheory suggests action-learning experiments might unleash new forms of progress.

The Institute will aim to use the most comprehensive maps of reality that are available to translate wicked contexts into transformational experiments, and in doing so, to rationalize consensus for social action.

This mission grows out of our belief that the real complexity of society—and, broadly speaking, that of a global, interpenetrating “metacrisis” in education, meaning making, economics, environment and leadership—has outrun the complexity of the worldviews trying to navigate it. We believe this problem has been made far worse by the fragmentation of sensemaking at the intersection of social media, disciplinary silos, political tribalism, and non-integrative mindsets.

We see these two pillars, of overwhelming real complexity and outmatched sensemaking, as underpinning all other challenges we face in the 21st century. They simply demand much more of us around metapractical social innovation. They demand we transcend our narrower ideological biases, our personal silos and our institutional incentives to work in a more open, cooperative and socially-reflexive way. In a very real sense, IAM is an example of its own medicine in action: a social experiment founded to explore and experiment with a speculative hypothesis of a novel way to convene metatheorists, funders, subject-matter experts, leaders and others to collectively learn toward better transformational praxis.

And we invite you to join us. As a social action think tank, we can’t succeed without galvanizing a diverse community of dedicated and talented people to take action. Here’s how to get involved:

  1. Visit the IAM website to learn more about the Institute
  2. On the website, view and consider funding the Initiatives we’re rolling out (each will be explained in much greater detail in the coming months)
  3. Request an invite to join the Institute as a volunteer contributor, leader, expert or funder
  4. If you represent an institution and would like to explore partnering with us on a new or existing Initiative, email us at makeanhistoricimpact at integrallife.com

Thank you for your support.

Loving regards,


2023: Stage 3 of the Integral Movement Begins

Dear friends,

I’d like to wish you the most heartfelt blessings for your New Year. I hope it is off to a great start, and represents a time of beautiful stillness and fertile transformation, the latter of which this letter is about. Allow me to start our new year together by recounting A Brief History of a Movement.

When I started my professional journey with the integral movement by co-founding Integral Life with Ken Wilber in 2006, I told Ken I was committing to a 30 year journey. It was clear to me, even in those first weeks of watching the movement as an interested observer, that the three stages of holonic dynamics—Identity, Differentiation, and Integration—fully applied to the integral movement itself.

At that time, The Integral Institute dominated (since 1999) the intellectual, spiritual and energetic milieux of the movement, classic characteristics of the first, Identity Stage of a holon’s growth—in this case, a social holon, and one that was tightly fused with the brilliance and living legend of the movement founder Ken Wilber himself. And yet, to his eternal credit, from day one Ken told me he never wanted the movement to be about him, rather he always wanted it to be about the ideas, committed to the richness of integrative love and ethic of inclusive compassion that grows rather naturally from the integral mind.

We entered the second, Differentiation Stage of the integral movement on the back of two events as we approached the end of the aughts. First, the Great Financial Crisis of 2008-2010 was both a blessing and a curse. It upended industries, thrashed organizations the world over, and reorganized social efforts of all kinds, ours included. While we’d already been thinking for several years that the movement needed to mature into its Differentiation Stage, the GFC provided the perfect set of real-world catalysts to mark the end of the Identity Stage and push a natural diversification of new entities and efforts.

The second event was the explosion of social/media technologies and models that dramatically diversified the noosphere, including the rise of Facebook, iPhone, YouTube, Twitter and others. It was a time of change, and I’m proud of our attendance to the whole during this period, as we actively supported the launch of more than a half-dozen “competitive” organizations across the landscape. We didn’t have a crystal ball, but we did believe that the movement would benefit from a diversifying encounter with the real-world in the form of differing points of views, strategies, organizations, and sustainability models.

Since then, the last ten years has seen the fragmentation of social media meetup with the birth of what I’ve called Emergent Teal, a set of voices, movements, organizations and media efforts that are all feeling into the contours of Teal consciousness. It’s been noisy, fragmented, and rich, and would not have been possible without leveraging the First Stage of the movement as its launchpad. And while it has been beautiful and liberating (even for us, as thankfully we are no longer a centerpiece of attention), it’s suffered from what all Stage 2 dynamics do: what it has gained in its liberating individuation, it has given up in its ability to cohere focused social action. Stage 2 has exchanged directed movement for uncoordinated motion.

If the first, Identity Stage of the integral movement lasted roughly a long decade (1999-2010), and the second, Differentiation Stage has also lasted roughly a decade (2010-2020, with a few years of deep pause for everyone due to a global pandemic), then 2023 marks what we discuss internally as the beginning of a third, Integration Stage, a time when we invite individuated, mature, committed members of the movement to join us to recohere around renewed social action. For the past two years, we’ve quietly prepared for the launch of a new, and what may end up being quite different, strategy for moving the movement forward.

In forthcoming announcements, I’m going to describe the seeds we’re planting at the dawn of this third, Integration Stage of the movement. The efforts will include a new think tank, new social action initiatives, new ways for you to become directly involved, and an ambitious new vision for how technology might help us overcome the terrible sensemaking fragmentation plaguing not just the dominant Green world-emergent but also even Emergent Teal.

Happy new year. And perhaps, a happy new stage.