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Integrative Skills

Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue

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Part D of Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue: Collection of papers and notes, problems and possibilities on the new frontier of high-risk gatherings concerning social development (1991).


Although during meetings there is much discussion of "integration" and there are many attempts at producing a "synthesis", the skills called upon seem to be poorly understood, hard to communicate, and very difficult to put into practice. It is therefore useful to note very different domains where integrative skills are practised successfully, even if it is not immediately clear what can be learnt from them for use in a meeting environment.

1. Design and composition

This is the process through which creative intuition influences the selection of elements and the manner and proportion in which they are to be balanced - what is to be put together and how. In each of the following the configuration of elements tends to relate to an emergent focal point: (a) Composing music

(b) Painting a picture

(c) Flower arrangement (Ikebana)

(d) Landscaping

(e) Building and community design

(f) Interior decoration

(g) Designing a meal (or menu)

(h) Putting together a group a team, or an evening party

(i) Writing a novel

(j) Casting for a film or play

2. Managing dynamic situations

This is the process whereby the relationships between a complex set of given elements is kept in focus. Examples are:

(a) Juggling

(b) Leadership of a group (including use of charisma)

(c) Production of a show

(d) Conducting a military campaign

(e) Controlling a chemical plant

(f) Scheduling railways, deliveries, etc

(g) Making a party "go" (hosting)

(h) Conducting an orchestra

(i) Gardening

3. Analyzing complex situations

This is clearly oriented to understanding whatever can be analyzed irrespective of whether this leads to broader synthesis. Examples are:

(a) Operations research

(b) Systems research

(c) Cybernetics

(d) Management research

(e) Political analysis

4. Communicating synthesis

This is the process whereby a sense of wholeness or unity among diverse parts is imparted to others, even if only as a symbol or token of what may later be achieved in practice:

(a) Environmental appreciation ("One Earth")

(b) Art education

(c) Art of speaking

(d) Political commentator

5. Embodying synthesis

Whereas each of the above is in some way a manipulation of synthesis, however necessary, there seem to be instances where a person acts as the focal point for synthesis and is so perceived by those whose interests are reinterpreted and focused in this way. Examples are perhaps:

(a) Spiritual leaders (including saints, gurus, and charismatic evangelists)

(b) Political heroes (including statesmen, military and revolutionary leaders)

(c) Cultural heroes (including pop-stars, film-stars)

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