Think about Self-Awareness Development as though you are a swimming pool: you have the shallow end. It’s safe and relatively easy to stand up in. Your head is above water without any effort. You don’t even need to think about not drowning. The only problem is, there are so many people there that it can make you a little anxious!

The second area of the swimming pool is a little deeper. It requires a bit of effort to keep your head above the water, but you have the help of the people around you. They’re there to support you as you tiptoe on the bottom, nose tilted into the air. As you become more proficient, you no longer need their help, and you can tread water quite comfortably. Once you’ve been treading water for a while, it becomes habituated and you feel you could test the deeper waters.

Finally, there’s the deep end. This is only for those competent swimmers who can choose whether they want to delve to the depths of the pool, or float on the surface, taking in the feelings of buoyancy the deep water gives them. Their capability is known to them. They do not worry about the deep water as they know how they know to swim, so swimming isn’t an issue. They connect with other swimmers in the deep end as they float, recognising their shared sense of freedom from the constraints of the shallower waters.

Sometimes the swimmers in the deep end are visited by swimmers from the shallow end, who quickly get into trouble. The water is too deep for them, and they begin to sink. Once they are helped back to the surface by a deep water swimmer, they recognise they are out of their depth and decide to go back to shallower, safer waters until they are ready for the deep end.

With that metaphor in mind, OSD occurs in three groups where each successive group helps the group to the left to grow their thinking. There is no leader, no guru and no teacher. There is only collaboration between peers.

My PhD demonstrates that we intrinsically know our level of self-awareness, however, our capacity to react to our intention in the moment is limited. This means that you might know you are extremely External, but you lack the capacity to stop being External.

This is why we need a group of like-minded people to collaborate on our individual growth requirements. We are looking to fill our “complexity gap” and for those in groups 1 and 2, it is about pattern disruption. As people generally strive for the status quo, and seek groups that conform to their existing thinking bias, the OSD method will disrupt such habituated thinking patterns in favour of “disrupting” participants out of their habits. Piaget would call this ‘disequilibrium’.

Closing the Complexity Gap

With the use of pattern-disrupting questions that test our thinking from where we are and where we can’t yet go, not only will we recognise our own level, but our group will recognise our level on our behalf, and point out where our thinking needs to grow. We will collectively be responsible for its growth, through dialogue. Open source, collaborative development.

The scores in the image below are based on the Awareness Quotient. The AQ is derived from the PhD research of Dr Darren Stevens, and is quantitatively and qualitatively validated as a measure of self-awareness.

The three groups run concurrently and participants can move between the groups as per the illustration. They are self-selecting and in our experience, a person from group 1 will not place themselves in group 3 as they will recognise, with the help of the other swimmers in the group, that their self-awareness needs to develop vertically first.

For each participant, this is potentially a never-ending programme, with the understanding that participants can stay on as long as they need or want to after they have attained the level of awareness with which they are most comfortable. This will be different for everyone.

This is the interplay between the groups. Each connection is a path within and between groups as well as a collaborative connection for growth.

There is never an end to developmental thinking: there are only milestones along the journey.

Dynamic Development

If you have made it this far, you deserve to know the final extension to the metaphor. The swimming pool is a closed system. We can use any system here to illustrate the point, but let us use Neuro-Linguistic Programming. NLP is a closed system. It therefore limits your ability to grow beyond its systemically-imposed ceiling. In my experience, this is around AQ6.3.

In order to develop beyond the systemic limitations of the swimming pool, we must seek out more dynamic waters! We need to find a river that is moving, that ultimately leads to the ocean. This will let us know that although we can navigate the waters from left to right, avoiding obstacles, we are not actually in control and must ultimately go with the flow. We do not have the power to swim against the flow, and any such effort to control the chaos that is moving water, is ultimately futile. The obstacles in the river are what make the river chaotic, and it takes more than the knowledge that an obstacle is there to be avoided to navigate the river: it requires the understanding that the obstacles NEED TO BE there in order to create the chaos within which we struggle and grow as a consequence of their presence.


This greater understanding means that we cannot change the larger system as it is continually moving and thus too chaotic, swirling, drowning us in the swells. It also demonstrates that moving water is, although dynamic, still part of a much larger system. And that larger system is localised when go further Abstract and look at it on a global scale.

The understanding finally reaches its crescendo when we realise that each system is part of the global system, and any such attempts to control even the smallest facets of the one we find ourselves constrained by is ultimately futile. Temporary at best!

True growth is the understanding that the way we construct our thinking in the moment is derived initially from our swimming in the pool, and then from the way our thinking changes as we dip a toe in the river. It becomes more dynamic as we navigate the rapids, and eventually, by the time we reach the estuary, we recognise that although we’ve reached this brief interlude, what control did we really have on the complete journey? Fleeting at best! And then we enter the ocean…

Finally, bringing it back to Open Source Development, the reason those in Group 3 do not pay a monetised fee is because they are essentially paying by virtue of their participation. They have what is called a social contract. By moving between groups, helping others to think differently, they offer more than money in terms of return on investment. If they have come through the ranks and progressed from group 1 to 2 and then 3, they have earned their place in group 3.

The ultimate aim? This will always be Choice in our Capacity to Respond in the moment!