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KEYNOTE: Dr Otto Laske

What coaches should want to know about their clients

Session on Tuesday, Jun 23th, 14:00
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Dr Otto Laske is the Founder of the Interdevelopmental Institute (IDM), its Director of Education, and its main instructor. He has a broad, multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary background linking philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and the arts. Being a scientist as well as an artist, Otto draws together in his work many cultural influences and creative projects.

At the present, Otto’s main interest as a scientist is in the applied developmental sciences. He wants coaches and other consultants to take better advantage of recent adult development research. For this reason, he developed the Constructive Developmental Framework (CDF), a methodology taught in various forms in all IDM courses. The student body benefitting from Otto’s teaching is international, and comprises “the best and the brightest” coaches and consultants from Australasia, Europe, and North- and South America.

Otto was raised in Europe (Poland, Germany), and studied philosophy and social research at the “Frankfurt School,” Frankfurt am Main, Germany (Dr. phil., 1966); music at the Darmstadt Conservatory, Darmstadt, Germany; New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, MA, USA, and the Instituut voor Sonologie, Utrecht, The Netherlands. He also studied information processing psychology with H. A. Simon at Carnegie Mellon University, USA, and computer science at Boston University. Between 1992-95, Otto, a perpetual learner, attended Harvard Graduate School of Education (“Kohlberg School”) to absorb developmental psychology, and in 1999 submitted his second doctoral thesis to Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, Boston, MA (Psy. D.).

As is true for his early mentor, Th. W. Adorno, Otto’s central interests have always been the theory of knowledge and the arts (which he has practiced as a composer, lyric poet, and visual artist). These two disciplines have schooled him in deep listening, whether to speech or instrumental-vocal and electronic sound.

After professorships in music in the 1970s, Laske became a software and knowledge engineer, simultaneously directing the New England Computer Arts Association (NEWCOMP) and its international annual competition. When engaged in organizational consulting on expert systems during the 1980s, Laske realized his lack of psychological knowledge of how people behave and function at work. He therefore decided in the early 1990s to become a clinical-organizational psychologist. His clinical training in major Boston teaching hospitals made evident the need for merging developmental and clinical know-how in work with individuals and teams.

Based on his two-volume study of the adult-developmental effects of coaching on executives (1999), in 2000 Laske established the Interdevelopmental Institute, where he has been teaching ever since. In the first decade of this century, he published two textbooks on applied adult development under the title of “Measuring Hidden Dimensions” (2005; 2009), emphasizing the need for assessment as a platform for the design of developmental interventions and support. In the U.S. as well as in Europe, he is considered a major author writing about developmental approaches to human resources, specifically coaching psychology, and as a major teacher of developmental process consultation expanding on the work of Edgar Schein.

As an artist, Otto has practiced as a composer, lyric poet, and visual artist at different times in his life (www.ottolaske.com). His work at IDM since 2000 is documented at www.interdevelopmentals.org


The purpose of my keynote is to bring individual and team coaches up to date on coaching approached from the perspective of research in adult development over the lifespan. In particular, I want to share with the audience new, validated coaching tools that derive from that branch of research. To do so, I speak from the perspective of CDF, the Constructive Developmental Framework, which embodies a developmental model of coach and coachee.

At the outset, I give some pertinent examples of short coaching dialogs and then follow them up by an analysis focused on coachees’ Frame of Reference (FoR). This allows me to introduce the key dimensions of FoR, referred to as “social-emotional” and “cognitive”, respectively, and to indicate their close interconnection.

Counting on the audience’s basic understanding of the two main developmental dimensions, in the next step I discuss CDF intervention tools I use and teach, not only in individual but also in team coaching, again giving examples.

I discuss team coaching based on making a distinction between upwardly and downwardly divided teams, an important developmental concept in team coaching. My main purpose in doing this is to show that developmental factors alone, independent of behavioral ones, determine much of what happens in teams’ interpersonal as well as task process. In conclusion, I am led to proposing two new guiding concepts for coaches that derive from developmental research: collaborative intimacy and collaborative intelligence.

I close with a note on coach education in CDF via internet, offered at the Interdevelopmental Institute (IDM), Gloucester, MA, USA.

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