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The Ethics of Promoting and Assigning Adult Developmental Exercises: A Critical Analysis of the Immunity to Change Process

Author(s): Sofia Kjellström

Journal: Integral Review
ISSN 1553-3069

Volume: 5;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 116;
Date: 2009;
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Keywords: adult development | ethics | organizational change | teaching.

The Immunity to Change (ITC) process devised by Robert Kegan and LisaLaskow Lahey is promoted as an influential technique for creating individual andorganizational change. A critical analysis of the ITC process applied in university settingsand organizational contexts show that an unintended result is the unwillingness andinability of some participants to participate adequately. Significant theoretical and ethicalimplications arise in the interplay between three interrelated variables (a) the role andcompetence of the facilitator, (b) expectations and capabilities of the participants, and (c)the mental demands and assumptions of the process. The inquiry illustrate that the ITCprocess is probably built upon an implicit assumption that change into greater mentalcomplexity is always good and right, and its inherent structure creates demands that canput participants “in over their heads.” The main conclusion is that developmentallyaware,ethical approaches to using transformational practices such as the ITC shouldmeet at least three demands: they should be conducted as voluntary activities on the partof well-informed participants, they should integrate an adult developmental perspectiveinto the process itself, and they should openly allow the possibility that it is theorganizations that may also need to change.
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