The Development Onion pictured above is an illustration of growth within the framework of Constructed Development Theory via Cognitive Intention awareness. It helps to propel CDT beyond the theory of stage development and stage transition by illustrating how the focusing of one’s Awareness on a specific Cognitive Intention (each ring of the onion) creates a more balanced outlook and a greater Dynamic Intelligence.

What is happening in image is this: when you come to a specific Cognitive Intention such as Procedures (in turquoise) and you lack a certain capacity to perform this heuristic from a position of awareness (as I did on my PhD), then you must focus on actively and consciously performing this Cognitive Intention in order to embed it in your psyche (see the turquoise bubble?). Then, once it is embedded, and you come to a point in your thesis writing where you need to use it again, you don’t have to relearn it: you simply have to revisit it. Notice the second, larger turquoise circle.

Thus the Development Onion demonstrates visually how stage movement is not a staircase, but instead is constructed of increasing circles of awareness of one’s Cognitive Intention use. The onion avoids the inherent assumption of betterment, as seen in Laske’s (2008) or Kegan’s (1994) scales where one might assume Stage 4 is ‘better’ than Stage 2 by virtue of it being numerically higher, when in reality, from a Constructed Development Theory perspective, it is simply a different combination of Cognitive Intentions and a different Awareness of their use, thus a different way of constructing oneself in the moment.

Slice 2

Using the Onion, it is possible to take the ideas of stage transition (vertical) and typical skill acquisition (horizontal) to another level by offering an insight into an individual’s horizontal development and vertical development depending on which way the onion is hypothetically sliced.

The image above shows a horizontal slice through the Development Onion. This denotes those activities that are typical of one’s movement through time, such as training programmes, skill acquisition and process-oriented manual activities. It is apparent that these are not development, but skills-based and knowledge-based.

However, the image below is a slice through a vertical development timeframe as per CDT. You can see the difference immediately.

Slice 1

This separation propels CDT beyond the current definitions of learning and development in industry by differentiating between potential outcomes. This requires further longitudinal studies to verify the principles laid out here.