It has been my pleasure to edit this tour-de-force 6-part series — now an e-book — by my colleague, Ralph Thurm, in which he lays out his vision for how integral thinking and true materiality can catalyze a regenerative and inclusive economy, leveraging the work of the ThriveAbility Foundation, the Reporting 3.0 Platform, and the Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR).
In editing the final part in the series, I recognized the genius of Ralph’s triangulated conception centered on true materiality and integral thinking, as it resolves the primary outside-in and inside-out dilemmas in current corporate architecture.
True Materiality reconciles what GISR founder Allen White calls “the artificial distinctions between internal and external materiality.” Internal materiality prioritizes that which impacts the organization and its ability to generate value — primarily for providers (and extractors) of financial capital. External materiality prioritizes that which impacts the organization and its stakeholders, including their mutual ability to maintain wellbeing through ongoing access to vital capitals shared in the commons.
Ralph’s notion of true materiality bridges this divide, integrating both the issues that determine the future value of companies expressed in financial capital (with consideration of the multiple capitals), and the issues that determine the true value of companies — by assessing positive and negative impacts on the common capitals that are vital to stakeholder wellbeing, in terms of ongoing viability of these capitals within the thresholds of their carrying capacities. True materiality dismantles Allen’s “artificial distinctions” and thereby serves as the linchpin for assessing what the ThriveAbility Foundation calls True Future Value.
Integral thinking takes up where integrated thinking leaves off — in particular, addressing the inside-out dynamic. The primary object of integrated thinking, as conceived and articulated by the IIRC, is the external structures in need of integration – primarily, the multiple capitals. While Ralph’s notion of integral thinking certainly includes this need to integrate the capitals, it also transcends this limited focus on external realities by integrating internal dynamics as well.
Most importantly, integral thinking calls for mindset shifts, and equips us with the tools to map the center of gravity of our mindsets in terms of psychological and cultural stages of development. This additional depth transforms the more mechanistic approach of integrated thinking into a more holistic approach that accounts for both internal and external perspectives, both individual and collective perceptions.
In approaching this 6-part series, I found it quite remarkable that Ralph managed to address such a broad swath — both the shortcomings and the solutions — before us. This series challenges us to acknowledge the existential crises we face, as a corporate community and as a society, and to rise to the occasion by tapping into our human genius and resilience through inspiration and aspiration toward true thriving.