One of my recurring existential problem solving spaces is bouncing around in my head, so I'm just going to wander around in it. This is not guaranteed to be useful or coherent to anyone else. The locus of this space is designing a social organization that would be a self-spreading developmental engine and organize societal cooperation, to increase the ability of humanity to stay alive and individuals to handle the challenges and complexities of their own lives.
Listened to a Kegan interview on a podcast today, a few days after visiting the stages in a community-building conversation with a friend. I think I've absorbed enough Kegan already that it wasn't anything new, but they camped a bit right on the hot-button problem of development vs attainment. The frame by which one evaluates the "goodness" or point of development can either shame 99% of the population (because they aren't as developed/complex/mature as the most wise) or else ignore the benefits of development by declaring everyone's mental state equally good and "perfect just the way you are". The latter is tied into the very real and very deep space of non-dual thinking - but is usually viewed just as throwing away evaluation altogether as a way to give everyone participation trophies so their feelings aren't hurt. However, the former model of "climbing the ladder" creates elitism, jealousy, and competition.
The pull model of development feels important in holding or resolving this tension. That the demands and challenges of our lives pull us to larger/greater perspectives and complexity because we need it to handle life, rather than us trying to climb the ladder of attainment because we think we should be climbing in order to look good or keep up. Think back to traditional "wisdom of the elders" and the respect given to them. I don't imagine adults 25-40 trying to "act wise" like the 70-y.o. village sage, or judging themselves for not being so wise. Likewise, we (mostly) don't... well no, okay we do look down on children for their immaturity, societally, and tell them to grow up while helicoptering away the opportunities they have to face hard challenges and learn from experience.
The analogue between physical growth and psychological growth, Kegan points out that they're obviously not 1-to-1, because they are independent yes, but I also think part of it is that one seems like it can be accelerated by choice. You can't do much to grow taller faster, but seekers across all time have been doggedly seeking wisdom. Is "growth" defined as a natural process (unconscious) and would that be useful for adult development? It would maybe take away some of the stigma, if your environment (back to the "pull model") is the primary determinant of development... but then we do influence our mental environment somewhat, in ways that don't apply for physical growth. Some similarity between eating healthy and exercising, and meditating and counseling... creating the right conditions.
Most people view physical exercise as a "should", and probably would view intentional self-development effort as a similar kind of investment, I think? There are people who love exercise and do it for the joy of it and their enjoyment of their health. I'd count as someone who finds meaning and purpose in thinking and trying to expand my own capacity of perspective. Community could form around either, though a self-development community probably wouldn't have any inherent natural advantage over an athletic community, would it.
Ah, but the collective sum of athletic communities doesn't scale - a football team can take pride in its collective excellence, but the cycling or running communities are all about individual PRs, not what the whole field can accomplish together. Whereas... well, would people working together in adult development be able to coordinate better-enough to serve as the direct reward fueling a attractor spiral? The linkage between development/capacity and effective outcomes does not seem very direct or obvious. But we also don't measure adult development at all. Could we, without inducing the ladder/competition/value-judgement effect - could we hold it stably as a natural journey with every step being good, and at the same time regard journey progress as the key to our collective success?
Social rewards for social animals seems like a much stronger motivator. The real treasure was the friends you made along the way, etc. Belonging, identity, in-group, acceptance, safety, all wired into our primate brains. We know that works, and that it's the binding glue of religions, companies, militaries, clubs, countries... but defining the what of the shared-ness is the hard part. Religion goes deepest, produces the most fanaticism/devotion. Communes or intentional communities especially so. But whichever religion or tradition or worldview, they all seem to fall prey to the same dysfunctions of leaders-and-power (red), hierarchy-and-bureaucracy (blue/amber), process-and-measurement (orange), feelings-and-drama (green) – colors are from spiral dynamics.
A community that could reliably rise above all of those would be 2nd-tier conscious at an organizational level. That does not mean all the individuals have to be, but it does mean that the leaders and the processes do. It seems like widespread knowledge of AD and measurement and evaluation of developmental status, at least, are necessary for the collective self-awareness and corrective stability to be there reliably.
What would be the point, though? The animating mission? Would a "make stuff good" point flow in connection to a thousand local passions and a few large-scale efforts? Yeah, probably probably...
Growth, progress, capacity to meet current needs - we should be able to locate the status in the journey rather than the ending state... if we're all participating in the work continually, and we can all contribute valuably? Those contributions, would be in 1) direct effort on world, 2) building the org, and 3) developing self to improve both 1 and 2.
Who would that attract... just one side of the spectrum (for any of numerous correlated spectrums)? Or would the work demand, and thus value, contributions from all stages of development? It might! If it does, the elitism fades... does facilitation of development itself fade? Or does it become about the flexibility to do multiple kinds of work? High-status "leaders" who do "grunt" work are often lauded on the surface, but ridiculed if they do too much of it - though that's from the common frame of achievement+value.
Declaring an equality of value, of all kinds of work, misses the point. What's valuable is what's needed to meet the challenge. Defining and agreeing on the challenge, and what success looks like, is hard in its own right. But I think capacity could be good and desirable without necessarily short-circuiting anything else, if that capacity can be pulled by/to... well, "good" outcomes. If we take a "coherent extrapolated volition" approach to good goals, then... it seems like a coherent worldview to back-propagate that into being good community members (citizens of society?) by developing one's capacity and serving as needed?
"As needed" is vulnerable to all sorts of judgement and dynamics, though - status substitutes for need, the need for belonging short-circuits the need for outcomes... can systemic self-awareness practices be enough to bind the system?
I am for sure going to try to find out. ... If you've read this and recognize this as the same thing driving you, give me a wave somewhere and let's connect.