About Transformations™

Transformations™ is a versatile tool for enabling insightful reflections and conversations about human development at the individual and collective levels. A single Transformations™ box (as described below) is adequate for a maximum of 5-6 people to share in the same session. Transformations™ is designed to engage all ages and backgrounds.

One box as shown: $400
Six or more boxes: $200 each

In groups, each box is shared by a maximum of about 8 participants.


Transformations User’s Guide v1.2

Transformations™ is a flexible, user-friendly tool for self-understanding, coaching, leadership development, and culture development. It can be used formally or informally by individuals and groups and of all ages and backgrounds. Among its benefits are the creation of self-insight and dialogue about the stages and processes of human development, in a way that is engaging as well as reflective, playful as well as serious, and impactful as well as fun.

See the Quick Start Guide following the Introduction to get started now.

The “From Here to There” model of development is a good way to use the deck.

Here is a Forward to this Guide by Bill Torbert.

View an introductory webinar here.


The Practice of Action Inquiry

The real point of the Transformations tool is to promote development in a way that supports increasingly wise and effective action. In the post below, Elaine Herdman-Barker and Bill Torbert introduce the powerful idea of action inquiry. (Also see their related post describing the seven action logics in more detail.)

For 3 wonderful, short, client friendly videos on action logics and action inquiry, see here.


Transformations™ in the Middle East

Transformations v2.0

We were recently in the Middle East doing a program based on the theory and practice of vertical leadership development. The new version 2.0 of Transformations™ was a big hit. The new tarot-size format seems perfect for working on table tops. Creating life-journey maps continues to be powerful in every culture we work in. The notion of alchemy  was first incubated in the Arabic world and the concept was quite resonant with this group.

More photos below …


Vertical development bibliography


The Pragmatic Impact on Leaders & Organizations Of Interventions Based in the Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry Approach

Check out this great review of the field of vertical leadership development, specifically the impact of Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry (CDAI) by William R. (Bill) Torbert. A brief taste is shown below. Access the complete article in Integral Leadership Review here.

As shown in this review, fifty years of research on real-world practice, guided by the Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry (CDAI) paradigm of social science and social action, have documented more powerful impacts than any other research and practice approach on leaders’ and organizations’ transformation (Fisher & Torbert, 1995; Taylor, 2017; Torbert, 1976, 1987, 1991; Torbert & Associates, 2004). CDAI is a rich combination of quantitative, qualitative, and action research in field settings where the researchers are also lead-participants studying themselves and their influence on the setting under study as it attempts to transform. In this early stage in the development of the CDAI paradigm, it is quantitatively anchored by the two psychometric instruments currently defensible for measuring and debriefing leaders’ developmental action-logics – the Mature Adult Profile (MAP) (Cook-Greuter, 1999, 2011) and the Global Leadership Profile (GLP) (Herdman-Barker & Torbert, 2012; Torbert, 2013, 2017).

This briefest possible summary of CDAI introduces the key terms “action inquiry practice” and “developmental theory of persons, organizations, and science,” as well as a brief history of the MAP and GLP psychometrics. Next, you will encounter a highly condensed, skeletal set of headlines to action inquiry studies and interventions in the realm of leadership and organizational development.  The most practically and statistically significant studies are telegraphically presented, and are also referenced to refereed scholarly journals, PhD dissertations, and research volumes, so that you can dig deeper at will.  See also McCauley et al. (2006) for an earlier peer review of the role of action inquiry in the field of developmental theory, research, and leadership.”

Continued here.

Integrating visual images in coaching action plans

Here is a great article on integrating visual images in coaching action plans from Yaron Prywes and Elisabeth Mah.

Seeing Polaris: A Call to Integrate Visual Images into Coaching
Action PlansYaron Prywes, Elisabeth Mah,<br /> Philosophy of Coaching: An International Journal<br /> Vol. 4, No. 1, May 2019, 34-56.<br />

The link is full paper is here and the abstract is below. Nice work!

Here is a link to our chapter on a related topic.


This paper recommends that coaches consider equipping clients with a visual
image to refer to between sessions. This recommendation is based on the authors’
personal experience as well as research and theory from the fields of education,
persuasion science, and motivational psychology, which suggest that visual images
may help clients learn complex new behaviors and enhance motivation for goal
pursuit. The authors identify the components of an integrative approach (visualtext hybrid) called “Polaris” and present a case study to provide coaches with the
information needed to adopt this tool for their own practice. The paper concludes
with implications for coaching researchers, coaching supervisors and coach

The Seven Life-Logics in Detail

More wisdom below in this post from our partners Elaine and Bill. This is a companion piece to their prior post on action inquiry. Note that the terms “life logics” and “action logics” are basically interchangable. (more…)

Forward to Numbskull, a Memoir by William F. (Bill) Torbert

Bill Torbert is publishing his memoir: NumbskullBorn Again & Again & Again: Transforming Self, Communities, And Scientific Inquiry.

I am honored to write the forward for his book. Here it is in pre-publication form.

In a moment of leadership gone awry, the young Bill Torbert dives headfirst into a shallow creek and splits his head on a rock — becoming the titular Numbskull of this memoir and eventually a man of knowledge. (more…)

Past, Present & Future Cloud Maps

Here is a description of how to use Transformations cards in a group setting to see one’s own path within a collective patterns. This creates both intimacy and safety while allowing people to go deep with their insights. Thanks David Hudnut, CCL Senior Partner!

We have used space on the floor with groups and teams to create cloud maps of past, present and future. As people put their Logics cards down into one of the three clouds they tell their own story to the whole group. This ends up creating a really fascinating collective story about how people see themselves in these different points of time in their lives. Then we use the Catalyst cards, so that which place Catalyst cards (which they have also chosen) in between the clouds that were created by the past, present and future exercise. This gives people an opportunity to explain heat experiences without necessarily having to use that vocabulary. It’s a way for them to make sense of the stimulus they feel gave them the push into a new way of thinking and making sense of the world. In my experience, when we’ve done this exercise with groups, the whole question of people getting uptight about what “level“ they might be at evaporates.


Vertical development of leadership culture

Here is an excerpt of Part 1 of our forthcoming article in Integral Review on the vertical development of leadership culture. The Leadership Culture Toolkit is described in Part 2. Contact John McGuire and Chuck Palus for the full article and look for it online shortly. /

McGuire, J. M., & C.J. Palus (2018). Vertical development of leadership culture. Integral Review. In press.


This article defines leadership culture and provides a framework for its vertical (aka constructive-developmental, or transclusive) transformation. The idea of leadership culture and its developmental potential has been a key focus of research and practice at the Center for Creative Leadership since the mid-1990s, as CCL began transcending and including its domain of developing individual leaders within an explicitly relational ontology. The Direction, Alignment, and Commitment (DAC) Framework models leadership as a relational process operating at both individual and collective levels, in which beliefs and practices for creating DAC are shown to develop vertically. Collaboration with Bill Torbert and associates has produced a model of leadership culture transformation in parallel with the action logics observed in individual leaders. The second part of this article describes an approach to change leadership via multi-year collaborative inquiries grounded in culture. The Change Learning Cycle integrates three intertwining domains of change: self, cultural beliefs, and systems. Finally, the article outlines the use of a leadership culture tool box for change leadership initiatives designed for engaging, scaling, and democratizing leadership culture development for everybody, everywhere.  

Introduction (more…)

From Here To There (FHT): A Leadership Essential

More on the FHT Model here

Our second most important asset at CCL Ethiopia

Leadership Explorer tools at our office in Ethiopia.

A heartwarming note below from Aaron White, one of the founders of our office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Aaron calls the Leadership Explorer tools “our second most important asset at CCL Ethiopia.” (See the photo at the bottom for the first!) Thanks Aaron!

I spent the day at CCL Ethiopia’s new office here in Addis Ababa. As I explored our new digs I found three new storage cabinets packed with Explorer tools. Some had square corners, some rounded, but all had been in the hands of dozens, if not hundreds of people.

These Explorer tools get used in every single program here. If we didn’t have these – and our Leadership Essentials – we really couldn’t have been successful here.

Thanks to all of you that brought these in your suitcases, stole them from supply closets, and helped create them!

Aaron White
24 November 2017

Our most important assets are our participants and our faculty! More on the Leadership and Debate Club Program here.

Leadership and Debate Club participants and some CCL Addis Faculty. Photo by Rahel Asefa.

Protected: Transformations Self-Estimate Guide v3

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Brief tutorial videos by Bill Torbert on action inquiry

Bill Torbert & his associates wrote the book on action inquiry, and you can read it here.

And you can start here with these very brief, informative videos that together frame vertical development and its main vehicle, action inquiry.


Vertical Development: CCL Shanghai 2017 Leadership Forum (VIDEO)

This is my keynote on Vertical Leadership Development, at the
2017 Leadership Forum presented by
The Center for Creative Leadership, Greater China

Video, slides, and a bibliography follow.


Leading From Within

Thanks to my CCL colleague Bert DeCoutere (IP and Innovation Lead at Center for Creative Leadership) for this description of his new experiential design for Leading From Within.

We worked with the central question: How can I continuously evolve into the leader the future needs me to be?

Leading From Within

The flow of the experience is to use what we have inside us to transform into what the future needs us to be.

We used Visual Explorer to discuss “me as a leader now” and “me as a leader in the future.” We explored four roots of our leadership: personality (Work Place Big 5), experience (Experience Explorer), values (Values Explorer) and identity (social identity mapping). Then we concluded the poster with our transformation journey ‘”from here to there” – using cards from the Transformations deck.

Transformations at CARE Ethiopia

This story comes to us by way of Kuku Mesfin, CCL Deputy Regional Director, East Africa. Notice the use of the Transformations cards in Life Journey collage format (which we call “From Here to There.” Thanks Kuku, Rahel, and Rakeb!

Transformations Introduction

Below is a tutorial on vertical leadership development, the basis of Transformations. This is a keynote delivered to the 2017 Leadership Forum in Shanghai, Center for Creative Leadership Greater China CCL 创新领导力中心(大中华区)Both the video and the slides are provided. (more…)

Directing “Me” as an Ensemble of Characters

Thanks to Valerie Livesay Ph.D., faculty member at National University, for this dynamic technique for self-development called Ensemble of Characters. This method is a creation of Valerie and her colleagues Fredrick Jones, Ed.D. and Michael Berger, M.A. Contact Valerie at vlivesay(at) for more information.

This is an approach to vertical development that leverages theater as a way to look at the self, performing. (more…)

Transformations in a Ed.D. Program at Stockton University

I am pleased to share this wonderful, detailed report from Professor George Sharp about using the Transformations decks in the doctoral program in Organizational Leadership.

I received very positive feedback from a number of graduate students about the use of the cards. It was an extremely powerful class.”  (more…)

Transformations in Singapore


Kaushik Gopal and Anand Chandreseker

Our Coaching Community of Practice in Singapore was celebrating their one year
anniversary one evening recently and wanted something both fun and serious to engage 20+ of their members and their families. They used the Transformation tool to reflect on their individual life journeys. We discussed the basis of this tool in Bill Torbert’s work on The Seven Transformations of Leadership (this review was engaging but not critical to the experiences that followed).

The cards were all laid out on a table. The instructions were to:   (more…)

Forward to the Transformations User’s Guide

By Bill Torberttransformations-270x300



The Transformations Card Deck makes a major and wonderful contribution to our tools for communicating the liberating potential of adult development theory and the practice of Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry (CDAI) to leaders, citizens, and to youth worldwide. (more…)

Vertical leadership development for a complex world

Horizontal development is about adding more knowledge, skills, and competencies. It’s about what you think.transformations

Vertical development is about the ability to think and act in more complex ways. It’s about how you think. It’s about maturity, and  growing “up” and increasing one’s “depth.” (more…)

Transformations in Zambia

Steadman Harrison says …



quoteGreetings from Zambia! Led a session today on Vertical Development with MSI and will conclude our week looking at Transformations (the new tool with life logic cards and catalyst cards). 10 countries represented here and all thoroughly appreciating the development.

Transformations in Rwanda

Transformations in Rwanda

Transformations in Rwanda via Steadman Harrison


Transformations for promoting agility in an executive team

Our CCL faculty colleague David Hudnut just used Transformations for the first time and sends this report. Check out his article in Strategy+Business on vertical development here. Thanks David!

David Hudnut, Senior Faculty at Center for Creative Leadership

David Hudnut, Senior Faculty at Center for Creative Leadership

quoteI did a team coaching day with an executive team that has completed the Leadership Agility 360. I’ve already spent 2 days with them during which I covered the LA-360 and the basics of vertical development in “agility” terms which is critically important to them due to their highly competitive and swiftly changing market.

As a follow-up, I wanted to do something that helped the team further understand and engage the idea of vertical development. I chose the Transformations cards, which I had heard about but not used before.

This is what I did:

Appreciating the system

Drawing and facilitation by Bruce Flye

Drawing and facilitation by Bruce Flye

Thanks to Bruce Flye for this report from the field!
quote What we were doing in this NCMS Institute on Leadership and Management in Healthcare:

  1. A Soft Systems Analysis of situations they brought in.
  2. Halfway through all the diagramming, I invited them to look at Transformations and pick out any mental models or behavioral patterns relevant to their system.
  3. We then used the Future Trends cards to agree on three that would most disrupt the system.


Transitioning to the Third Act

Check out the great work of Nick Owen and Edward Kelly in the Third Act Conferences and Retreats!

owenFriday January 20th (1800) – Sunday January 22nd (1530), 2017

The Third Act Retreat: Transitioning to the Third Act
Facilitators: Dr Edward Kelly, Nick Owen & Annette Hennessy
The Abbey, Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire

A weekend working with our own stories of transition, our stages of development, and the ancient insights of The Elder Tales in our journey to What’s Next for us? A residential weekend of craic and inquiry in a delightful rural setting.

Single: £495; Shared: £445 per person; Non-residential: £395 (including lunches & dinners)

To reserve your place contact or



Leadership stage development and its effect on transformational change

From Lyndon Rego at CCL:

I thought this paper does a very nice job of linking Torbert and Wilber’s work. Well worth a read.

Jorge Taborga (August 2012). Leadership Stage Development and its Effect on Transformational Change. Integral Leadership Review. 


New version of Transformations

We are pleased to announce a new version of Transformations™,  available 15 September 2016. See below for ordering information. Transformations is a CCL Labs beta product and available to those who wish to test it and share feedback.

red back

Logic card back

Latest revisions (beta): (more…)

How did you experience power being used in the U.S. presidential election?

Here is a report from our colleague Dr. Nancy Wallis who is teaching an Organizational Behavior course. Thanks Nancy!


What are ways in which you can use your power to effect what you want to see happen next?

One sign of the impact of the recent U.S. presidential election was the agitation, fear, sadness, and worry felt by many of the undergraduate students in my Organizational Behavior course two days after the results were known. (more…)

Imperfect beauty: Hierarchy and fluidity in leadership development

Imperfect Beauty

Imperfect Beauty

In their new paper on vertical leadership development, Imperfect Beauty, Elaine Herdman-Barker and Nancy C. Wallis explore the complexities of development, in which the predictability and order we crave as practitioners is embedded in “an imperfect and fluid process, in which change is contextualized, dissonant and enigmatic.” This paper explores the polarity of development is which hierarchical order is in tension with fluidity. (more…)

Transformations at the Silver Bay Leadership Forum

Transformations was well-received at the Silver Bay Leadership Forum last month.

Thanks Bill Jensen for this report:

Thanks Bill Jensen!

Thanks Bill Jensen!

Mediated Dialogue in Action Research

Here is an extended excerpt from our chapter: Mediated dialogue in action research, in The SAGE Handbook of Action Research, 3rd Edition, edited by Hilary Bradbury. To see the full chapter and lots of other wonderful chapters, get the Handbook!

The SAGE Handbook of Action Research, 3rd Ed., Hilary Bradbury, Editor

The SAGE Handbook of Action Research, 3rd Ed.,
Hilary Bradbury, Editor

Palus, C. J., & McGuire, J.B. (2015). Mediated dialogue in action research. In H. Bradbury (Ed.) The SAGE handbook of action research, 3rd Edition. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. 691-699. Click here for the complete Handbook.

Here is our “how-to” white paper connecting this chapter to change leadership.

Mediated dialogue is an approach to reflective, insightful conversation that is useful for action research and related endeavors, including inquiry as a part of leadership development. With mediated dialogue, various media (typically visual images, such as those in Visual Explorer™) are used as sources of metaphor and as places to project thoughts and emotions related to one or more focal questions. (more…)

The From Here to There (FHT) Model of Human Development

The From Here to There (FHT) Model frames development as a long-term journey:

FHT model

From Here to There Model applied to a life journey

Starting with:

“Where are you from?”
Origins, identities, communities


“Where are you now (here)?”
Present state, presencing, observation, reflection, assessment


“Where are you going (to there)?”
Toward a desired future state, aspirations, visions, strategies, goals, dreams, and possibilities.


The Vertical Circle


98th Annual 2016 Silver Bay Leadership Forum

We just had a great Transformations session last week at the 98th Annual 2016 Silver Bay Leadership Forum and I want to share insights and my design.


The vertical circle

A key insight is about “the vertical circle.” (more…)

Transformations in Japanese

Transformations is now available in Japanese! Thanks to Emma Ren and the Language Strategy Team at CCL. Contact Chuck Palus for details.


Action-Inquiry Workshop Featuring the Transformations Deck

The Action Inquiry and the Global Leadership Profile Workshop is a 3.5-day workshop for GLPbusiness leaders, consultants, coaches, researchers, and sustainability practitioners who wish to further their personal development and learn about the power and practice of Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry—the only approach statistically confirmed as reliably generating both personal and organizational transformation. All workshop participants take the Global Leadership Profile (GLP) and receive feedback on their centre-of-gravity, emergent, and fallback leadership action-logics. Those who wish can become authorized to use and debrief the GLP with their clients.

Here is the flyer with registration details: GLP_Workshop_Oct2016_Flyer (more…)

Facilitation technique for Transformations

Steadman Harrison shows us a great option for using the Transformations deck with larger groups which requires fewer decks and potentially less time. He suggests laying out the cards before the session, clustered in the seven stages. Then, talk about the catalysts each person has experienced in their own development.

quoteWe laid out the cards in stages with the group ideas for what catalyst most naturally moved individuals or groups from one stage to the next. If you set it up like this rather than having individuals and small groups make sense of it on their own, it saves a LOT of time!


Navigating YOUR Next Stage

I am pleased to announce this workshop for women who are in a season of change, offered by the Center for Creative Leadership. See the video below for more information. This video is a good example of how the Transformations™ tool can be used in a workshop (starting at 1:25).

Who Should Attend This Workshop
Women who are in a season of change.

  • Changing professions
  • Returning to the workforce
  • Transitioning from the professional space into retirement
  • Transitioning from college to a professional career

DATE | Wednesday, June 22, 2016

TIME | 9:00 – 4:30 pm

PLACE | Women’s Resource Center, 628 Summit Ave, Greensboro, NC 27405

COST | $225.00 includes lunch, snack breaks, & program materials


Using the catalyst cards in the Transformations deck

The Catalyst cards in the Transformations deck represent processes, triggers, or catalysts for human development. There are 50 such catalysts included in the current version of the deck, see the list below. Use of these cards is optional. They are designed to help people go deeper in their exploration of their life journeys and the forces that influence vertical development.

Steadman Harrison recently used the cards to help participants see “underneath” the development of their action logics (see photo).

quoteWe did an exercise at Randolph this weekend where the group placed the Catalysts (positioned slightly lower on the carpet) they believed helped them get from one stage to the next…Randolph Catalyst cards (more…)

From Here to There: The Young African Leader Initiative (YALI)

Sam Ray has just returned from Kenya where he, Kathy Vaughan and Sam Kasera facilitated a final round of  Leadership and Self-Awareness workshops for USAID’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

From Here to There with YALI Leaders

From Here to There with YALI Leaders

Approximately 400 leaders from East and Central Africa have now been through this Center for Creative Leadership workshop (Addis Ababa office) in Nairobi.

The two-day workshop was built around the CCL F-H-T Framework. Every module mapped to a part of their life journey:
a) Where I have come from (FROM)
b) Where I find myself now (HERE)
c) Where my team and I are going (THERE)
d) How I got here (FROM to HERE)
e) How my team and I will get there (HERE to THERE).

Participants mapped their learning on the walls in real time, resulting in 400 unique ‘selfies’ of these young peoples’ leadership journeys. The YALI program has offered rigorous, large-scale testing of the From-Here-To There framework and never fails to generate perspective and insight for users.

Bruce Flye, Graphic Developmentologist

Transformations™ first came alive through the artwork of Bruce Flye.

Bruce Flye: The Garden of Eden

Bruce Flye: The Garden of Eden

One day I asked Bruce if he could draw some avatars of action logics. “What?” …   “What does that even mean??” The first character-images he drew are the same style you see now. It was an amazing moment of creativity. Bruce birthed these characters along with a world in which they continue to live, develop and evolve. They express the logics of life in self-engaging ways that invite interpretive play. This kind of graphic illustration of developmental states and stages is unique, I believe. (more…)

The DAC Framework: Creating shared direction, alignment, and commitment

quoteHow would you know if leadership is happening in a team, in a workgroup, on a task force, or across the organization? Look for three important outcomes: direction, alignment and commitment (DAC).

Making Leadership Happen, Cindy McCauley



Dialogue by putting something in the middle

Dialogue is a reflective conversation engaging the multiple perspectives of a number of people to explore assumptions and create new meaning. Create dialogue by putting objects in the middle of amediated conversation. Meaning becomes projected onto the object. Images work very well. You can use photos, art, stories, Visual Explorer and other Explorer tools, mementos, videos, graphics, and so on.

When people get good at this, they don’t need a physical object—they can put a topic (a challenge, a problem, an idea) in the middle.

As the Star Model graphic illustrates, multiple layers of the topic are explored from many angles (multiple perspectives).

Try This (more…)

Adult development (vertical) theory

The post below is adapted from McCauley, C. D., Drath, W. H., Palus, C. J., O’Connor, P. M. G., & Baker, B. A. (2006). The use of constructive-developmental theory to advance the understanding of leadership. Leadership Quarterly, 17, 634–653.


Constructive-developmental [also referred to as vertical development] theory is a stage theory of adult development that focuses on the growth and elaboration of a person’s ways of understanding the self and the world. (more…)

Leaps in Perspective

CCL senior faculty member David Hudnutstrategy and business published Leaps in Perspective on the Strategy + Business blog on Sept. 30. His piece explores the theory that people develop in fits and starts with sudden bursts of growth, as opposed to developing in a steady, gradual fashion.

Writes Hudnut: 

quote markFamilies, companies, cities, and civilizations also make developmental leaps. Indeed, changes in the larger systems can trigger evolution in individuals, and vice versa. This is a heartening theory because it shows not just that progress is possible, but how to create conditions in which it is likely. If you’re a business leader, it can help you manage your career path and create opportunities for those who work with you.”

Read the full piece.