What Level of Thinking Are You Applying to Your Challenges?

By Malcolm Doig  |  Dec 15, 2017

“You can’t solve a problem from the level of thinking that created the problem in the first place“

- Albert Einstein

Quite often, this quote represents the basis for clients bringing in Corporate Evolution to help with their team, when their team is stuck around how they’re thinking about an issue or problem.

One of the questions that clients often ask me is, “Who do you think is the smartest person in the room?” However, another question that can be a lot more helpful is to ask “what level of thinking is going on in the room?”.

A model that we use to help clients is the Barrett’s Seven Levels of Consciousness Model. This is based on an expanded version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  To explore how this can help your team, check out my video below or click the link here.

Applying higher levels of consciousness to a business challenge

In our experience most business conversations are going on at what we would call levels one, two or three.

  • Level One: Level One is all about survival. The fear at this level is often around “me getting my share” or “me getting enough”. It’s one level of fear that can be driving the conversation.
  • Level Two: The next level is around belonging. This is the fear that we might not be included or we might not feel that we belong, or are not wanted.
  • Level Three: This third level is all about self-esteem and getting our self-esteem needs met. The fear here might be that we don’t feel valued, or feel good enough.

Subconsciously, a lot of these fears can be playing out in dialogues around business problems. So if we can help people realise what the fear is, then often we can transcend that level of thinking and we can move into higher levels of thinking regarding the problem.

In the Barrett Model then that would be moving into Level Four; transformation, Level Five; internal cohesion and then Level Six and Seven, which is about making a difference and future generation-based values.

If we can help people realise what the fear is, then often we transcend that level of thinking and we can move into higher levels of thinking regarding the problem

- Malcolm Doig

When teams get stuck

An example of this Model as a means to transform the conversation was when I was working with a financial services team. There were many smart people in that room.

Corporate Evolution had been brought in because the team felt stuck around a business challenge of selling some of the businesses that they owned. We took the challenge through the different levels, honouring each level of thinking.  Through that, we were able to surface some of the hidden concerns that team members had.

Once each individual had their concerns heard, the whole dialogue changed.  People felt a lot more comfortable with each other and were able to think in a much more expansive way. We discussed the challenge at Level Four (which is all about growth and transformation), Level Five (which is all about what this would mean for their organisation) and then Level Six (which is all about partnering and how they could partner better with their investors going forward).  After this, everything changed.

The outcome of the dialogue was that they set in place a course of action in which they ended up selling two of their businesses within the next three months.

Working your challenge at a higher level

  1. If you are looking for a way to move your team forward through a challenge you can start by visiting Barrett Values Centre and look at the Seven Levels of Consciousness. Then start asking, “are we asking questions at the right level?”.
  2. Alternatively, if you would like to have a personal experience of what it is like to ‘walk a challenge’ through the Seven Levels of Consciousness Model, you can attend The Inspired Leader Journey™.