The Enneagram in Business – Barriers to Acceptance

enneagram wheelI have been using the Enneagram with business for over ten years now and it get clearer and stronger to me every day. Its general acceptance among the business community is becoming a reality – but slowly. Some of this is I believe is to do with the way it is taught and the language that is used to teach it. I know that if someone rolled into a business training session I was a part of, with their own spiritual agenda (whatever that might be) and tried to force it down my throat it would taint the taste of whatever I was taught and perhaps put me off it for life.

The fact that the Enneagram originated in Philosophical tradition (as did Psychology) and was taken forward initially by Jesuits in the US  (such as Don Riso of Riso and Hudson ) means that it has been taken by the spiritual community and has emerged from there to the business world. Having come from the business world to the Enneagram myself (the opposite route) it is obvious to me that the language used for teaching must be adapted to the new audience.

I have also come across attitudes that suggest that the business community does not need the Enneagram and in fact it may be harmful in the wrong hands. I would point out that there is a greater need than ever for the Enneagram in business and not just because of its impact on Emotional Intelligence and on the performance of the bsuiness. What about people being happier with their lives and their lot? Most Business is about dealing with or working with other people. Its 30% of our waking time so surely its a good place to start. Also the Enneagram is the sort of learning that is taken home from work and lifts the lives of others at home and in ones social circles too.

When I was researching the Enneagram for my dissertation I interviewed a lot of Enneagram trainees and almost all of them who were introduced to the Enneagram at work continued the learning on their own time outside work, perceiving its value. However when I broach the subject of the Enneagram to business people who have never seen it, I see a suspicious glint in their eye and the question that most often comes out is “is that like the Belbin thing or that Myers Briggs thing” and I have to say yes….but NO! There is a lot of history with those two models (fine for their time) of being labelled with no real benefit. Coupled with that is their immediate fear of being “found out”.

However they do get found out – by themselves. The Enneagram is about self realisation first and foremost and about self improvement. When you can identify the colour of the lens through which you view life you comprehend things very differently. As Helen Palmer repeats regularly “you can see things as they really are”. Often the most powerful of the revelations are based around the fact that the focus of attention is different for each type so you selectively perceive your own truth. Further you crave different certainties in life than other types – so you focus on getting them. It takes time and it takes awareness but the rewards are the understanding of what drives you, your resultant actions and reactions as a result and the understanding of how others differ from you in these respects. So you drive up your Emotional Intelligence and the resultant rewards can be considerable.

Heavy stuff ? It can be. Enjoyable? Certainly. But it requires change and this creates fear initially. So the language must be carefully chosen when the invitations are sent out. This is important stuff. Hardly Sales skills 101.

Aidan Higgins

Scroll to Top