Technique 1.86 Immunity Map (for individuals)


This is way to explore your mindsets and behaviours, etc that are helping and/or hindering the achievement your performance goals. Behind the behaviours and mindsets are assumptions that need reviewing.

Initially the aim is to get data and information to identify mindsets and behaviours to encourage, improve and/or change.
"...keeping both mindset and behaviour on the change agenda is not easy. A too-common tendency - favoured change in only one or the other dimension - highlights the difficulty..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

This can be made even harder by people favouring the action tendency, lacking clarity of purpose of the new behaviours, short-term focus, etc.. Need to accept
"...that behaviour is symptomatic of the system, and any lasting change requires the system to change..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

To improve the immunity map, it should include important people in your private life.

Findings need to be shared with all those who gave inputs. This can create vulnerability as participants could feel anxiety and concern about some findings that will become public knowledge for the first time. This needs to be handled with care so that people are not emotionally damaged. People who have worked together for years will come to know each other in a different light when they discuss their findings. At the same time, participants need to move at their own pace and give each other permission to have these conversations as many could feel threatened by exposing their weaknesses, etc.


Complete the following worksheet*i

Improvement focus*ii 1.
Our improvement goal
(collective commitment)*iii
Our collective fearless inventory
(doing/not doing instead)*iv & v
Collective competing commitments (that have us) *iv & vi
Collective big assumptions
(behind statements in column 2 & 3)*iv & vii
safe, modest,
research test*viii


i) General (the table provides the scaffolding for the process)

ii) Improvement focus (need to list activities that 
- are of value to work on
- are of benefit to team, group, organisation, etc
- can be measured
- demonstrate change
- we are motivated to continue working on)

iii) Improvement goal (design of an appropriate improvement goal should include
- should be true to you
- implicates you
- there is room for improvement
- it is important to you and others around
- has a sense of urgency
- written in the affirmative, ie what you want to achieve, rather than in the negative, ie saying what you do not want
- something he or she is eager to do
- it needs to be done

NB The smaller number of goals the better, as it allows more focus. Stakeholders who know you should have input into the selection of the most appropriate improvement goal, ie 'one-big-thing'.  The consultation can take time.

Ideally, everyone should
"...identify a single goal that 'would excite you personally if you were able to make big gains on this goal' and 'would clearly enable you to add more value to the company'. The goal should not be something technical that you could accomplish by learning some new skill. Rather it should clearly involve your own growth as a person. At the same time, the goal should not be something that would require a complete personality transplant..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

It may take many drafts and consultations to generate the most suitable improvement goal)

iv) Fearless imagery, competing commitments and big assumption (important columns for groups)

v) Fearless inventory (list all the things you are doing, and not doing, that work against achieving your improvement goal. You need to identify specific behaviours, not states of mind, eg stating that 'you get impatient' is a state of mind and you need to list the behaviours that reflect this.
The more entries the better in this column; the more honest you are, the greater the diagnostic power of this exercise. Usually this is completed privately, as a purpose is not to shame or embarrass you or find fault.

One of the main aims is to identify your unintentional behaviours undermining your improvement goal, like counter-productive behaviours.

This column is not about the reason you are doing, or not doing, things or all your plans for the future to handle the situations.

It is a descriptive process, not about solutions.

Again, consultation with people who know you well can help add to the list of behaviours)

vi) Competing commitments (in conclusions for this column:

- acknowledge all the things that you and others are already doing that is moving you to achieve the improvement identified in column 1
- need to be scrupulously honest about yourself and others; it is about growth and development, not shaming or blaming
- list actual objective behaviours (not emotions that coincide or reasons)
- this involves putting your feelings into words, like what would be the worst about that for me, ie
" need to get to a place where you feel yourself at risk in some way; where you are unprotected against something that feels dangerous to you..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

What is the real anxiety?

"...the feeling of being unprotected some way against the danger or a risk you absolutely do not want..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

An example is boredom. Usually, boredom is linked with disengagement or withdrawing. We disengage because there is something we don't want to feel. This feeling, like lack of control creating a feeling of helplessness, etc happens very quickly before disengagement.

Another example is impatience. We can feel impatient because we should be somewhere else other than where we are now. On deeper analysis, we are impatient because we have been reminded of something that we don't like or fear, eg we are not very well organised, something is going wrong, etc

These 2 examples demonstrate
"...- the fear of looking stupid
    - the fear of being humiliated
    - the fear of helplessness
    - the fear of being out of control
    - the fear of making a big mistake
    - the fear of allowing someone else to make a big mistake (especially someone for whom you are responsible)
......we do not merely have these fears; sensibly, even artfully, we project ourselves from them. We create ways of dealing with the anxiety these fears provide. We are not only afraid; we take action to combat our fears. We defend ourselves from what terrifies us. We are actively ( but not necessarily consciously) committed to make sure the things we are afraid of do not happen..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Thus you become captive to a mental system that is working to protect you and prevents improving your performance.

- could include a 'worry box', like above fears from the examples of boredom and impatience

NB this column
"...simultaneously provides cognitive awareness of a change-prevention system at work, and the emotionally unsettling insight that the true barriers to change come from within the system..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

You need to make a commitment to not allowing to occur things that you fear the most, eg in your worry box you might have a statement like 'I'm afraid I will lose credibility'  and you need to replace it with something like
"...'I am committed to not losing credibility' or 'I am committed to not running the risk I will lose credibility', etc
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

By filling in this column
" now have a picture of your own version of the immunity to change..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

At this stage, it is not about solutions. It is about correctly identifying the problem(s) of not being able to achieve your improvement goal(s). Hopefully you are seeing things in a new light. You are developing an understanding of your core contradictions, ie every step forward countered by an equal force in the opposite direction. This understanding results in a paradoxical situation arising, ie
"...It may only be by seeing more deeply how you are systematically preventing your own change that you put yourself in a dramatically better position to bring about the change..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Generally we are strong on our commitment to self-protection. An example, 'I am committed to a better work/family balance' is framed as a way of protecting yourself.  A more authentic description would be
"...I am committed to not having my wife abandon me and my children hate me, and becoming a miserable, lonely workaholic..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

"...self-protective motivation systematically prevents us from achieving exactly what we most desire......Insights can be powerful, even exciting, but they do not necessarily lead to transformation. Those people need a structure to help them channel their aspirations, test and gain distance from the big assumptions, and steadily build a new set of ways to bridge the gap between intentions and behaviours..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

NB Different commitments influence different behaviours)

vii) Big assumption (list those that work against achieving improvement goals (some assumptions are mis-perceived as facts)
We are looking at both the thinking and feeling levels, especially around your own change-prevention system, ie how you systematically generate the very behaviours that prevent our progress. Linked with this is the anxiety-management system that generates behaviours that help protect us from our worst fears. We need to overcome these fears to make progress.

Going straight to eliminating, modifying or reducing our destructive behaviours is not as effective as changing the thinking and feeling, ie assumptions, that generate the behaviours. These assumptions form the basis of how we see the world and our relationships with-in it, ie
"...we see them as truths, incontrovertible facts, accurate representations of how we and the world are..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

They become our reality.
"...these constructions of reality are actually assumptions; they may well be true, but they also may not be. When we treat an assumption as if it is a truth, we have made it what we call a big assumption. Some of our big assumptions are inevitably brittle and necessarily short lived..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Many assumptions can become problematic as they are holding us back from facing reality, ie able to ignore the evidence that our assumption is a distortion.
" short, any mindset or way of constructing reality will inevitably contain some blind spot..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

The big assumptions feed into the commitment, ie making some of them inevitable, and generating behaviours that can undermine your improvement goal.

NB Designing, running and interpretating things from big assumptions are the activities that are the most iterative, time-consuming and the hardest to overcome. For example, designing tests for your big assumption. This means exploring the impact of altering your usual conduct. The initial aim is to collect data and information, not to find immediate solutions.

Some of the challenges

- overly enthusiastic tendency to act like an event-focused approach
- ignoring the need to change your mindset from thinking that some important action will solve the big assumption and neutralise its impact
- expecting this to be the finishing step, ie hurdle overcome and/or obstacle removed
- not regarding it as a learning process for
"...adaptive learning , it's important to understand that the goal in conducting the test is not just to perform the activity specified in the test. We need to collect data about what happens as a consequence of that action, and then interpret those outcomes to confirm or revise a big is not actually successful until its result is connected to our work on the big assumption..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

NB Need to keep in mind when selecting the big assumption
- it is powerful and limits your performance
- it is testable (including casting doubt on the validity of the assumption)
- has potentially the most impact

Then design the experiment that will provide good data, information, etc about the relevance of the assumption; followed by data collection, ie to test the validity of your big assumption.
"...lead you to do something different from what ordinarily would do when routinely holding your big assumption as true..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009)

viii) SMART (SMART criteria refers to

S = safe
M = modest
A = actionable
R = research
T = test

The basis for designing a good test is

1. Write down what you are going to do (make sure you are doing something different from what your big assumption would normally have you do)

2. Write down how you think your test will get you data and information about your the assumption.

3. What data do you want to collect? (in addition to allow people react to you, your feelings can be a very rich data source)

4. How will the data help you to validate, or not, your big assumption (what results will lead you to believe your big assumption is correct? What results would lead you to question the validity of your big assumption?)

5. Review your test results on the following criteria
    - is it safe (if the worst case were to happen, you could live with the results)
    - is that data relevant to your big assumption?
    - Is it valid? (it needs to be a representative sample)
    - Need to be wary of any cognitive biases (like reinforcing your preferences, are you setting yourself up to fail, etc?
    - How quickly can be it be conducted (are the selected stakeholders readily available, have you prepared your 'plan of attack', etc)?

NB In communications need to remember the importance of word selection, body language, tone of voice, etc (see elsewhere in KB). When observing responses, including body language, etc, to act as a non-judgemental observer or self-reporter.

This column includes developing strategies and action to test the big assumptions, etc. It goes beyond thinking, analysing, reflection and insights, to acting, ie reflection without action is as unproductive as action without reflection

NB Need to encourage others to keep you accountable for your changing behaviours, ie
"...we count on others to help hold us to our own goals..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

"...big assumptions, like competing commitments, normally are out of sight. Making an assumption apparent involves bringing it from 'subject' (where we cannot see it because we are so attached to it, so identified with or subject to it) to 'object' (we can now take a perspective on it from outside of ourselves). This is the underlying motion by which greater complexity gets created..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

NB The process is time-consuming. Do not expect things to happen overnight; it requires much patience and resilience.

Sometimes the tests are flawed and will need to be revisited.

One way to check this is to ask the following questions

1. What did you actually do?
2. What happened?
3. What did people actually say or do when you ran the test?
4. If you asked for feedback, what was provided?
5. What were your thoughts and feelings at the time?
6. Check the validity of your data by asking:
    a) Is the data about other people's responses to you directly observable or do you need to interpret?
    b) Would an independent observer agree with your description?
    c) Were there any unusual circumstances?

NB questions 2 to 5 are the basis for your data points.

Now need to interpret the data collected about your big assumption.

Has the data confirmed or disapproved parts of the big assumption, ie has your behaviour changed?

NB A big assumption is rarely complete; neither is it always right nor wrong. Many big assumptions just need modest changes to make them more realistic and relevant. Sometimes a series of experiments is needed to test the big assumption)

Some questions to help with interpreting tests on the big assumption

1. Based on the data collected, what is your interpretation of what happened?
2. Are there any alternative explanations for interpretations of the data?
(Need to be careful of your cognitive biases that will favour predictable interpretations, ie ones that keep the big assumptions relevant. Be sure to develop alternative interpretations to your preferred option)
3. What does your interpretation inform you about the testing of the big assumption?
4. What have you learnt about the big assumption?
5. What aspects of the big assumption are confirmed by the data?
6. What aspects of the big assumption are challenged by the data?
7. Do any new big assumptions emerge?
8. Based on what you have learnt, what tests could be designed to learn more about the big assumption?
NB Generally most big assumptions need more testing.
9. Develop testing for any new assumptions that have emerged through the testing.

NB the aim of the testing is to reduce or eliminate the big assumption's negative impact.

One of the benefits of this process is to improve self-serving skills.

Sometimes the tests are planned and other times they are spontaneous. You need to be prepared for both.

Consolidate your learning (identified hooks and releases)

This involves understanding the concepts of 'consciously released' or 'unconsciously released' in relationship to your big assumption.

If consciously released, you have 2 choices:

1. Continue further tests of your big assumption
2. Explore 'identifying hooks and releases', ie
" asks you to take stock of the current status of the big assumption, assess your risk of getting pull back, and plan how to guard against illustrates the benefits of identifying what hooks us into a big assumption, and what can we do to release ourselves from those hooks..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Sequence from a-consciously immune to unconsciously released

unconsciously immune to change
consciously immune to change
consciously released
unconsciously released

Consciously released
"...Testing your big assumption and discovering the conditions under which it is and is not valid is a crucial part of this development phase. This may include discovering that the big assumption is not warranted in any situation. Often people learn new behaviours and new "self-talk' scripts as a part of this testing process. When you can act on your newly discovered knowledge to interrupt the big assumption (and the whole behaviour and self-talk patterns associated with it) in those situations where it is not valid, you are demonstrating the new capacity to be 'consciously released' from your big assumption. This takes mindful practice. The journey is not essentially straight or free of bumps. It is normal to fall back into old pattern associated with the big assumption. Still, knowing that you're falling back, and knowing how you can get yourself unstuck, are all signs of development. You should also see that you have made progress toward meeting your column 1..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Unconsciously released
"...when you no longer need to stop, think, and plan in order to get around your big assumption, you have developed the capacity to be 'consciously released' from it. At this point, you automatically act and think in ways that run counter to your previously held big assumption in those situations where it is not valid. New beliefs and understandings, informed and developed mindfully throughout the process have taken the place of the big assumption. You have likely made significant progress, if not full success, towards meeting your column 1 goal..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

You are analysing needs situation under who, what, where and when.

Questions to ask during the identified hooks and releases exercise

"...1. Comment on where you now see yourself on the developmental sequence.
    2. Have you reached any conclusions board developed any hunches about conditions under which your big assumption is valid? Think about particular situations - who, what, where, and when.
Have you reached any conclusions or developed any hunches about conditions under which your big assumption is invalid? Think about particular situations - who, what, where, and when.
    4. Do you find your big assumption asserting itself in situations you know it shouldn't? If so, can you generalise about the conditions under which you are likely (more or less) to find yourself being sucked into the old patterns     associated with a big assumption which sometimes hooks you?
    5. Have you developed key releases, ie self-talk that unhooks you, that you can readily use when facing your big assumption in real time?
    6. Have you developed new behaviours or ways of talking to yourself in situations that used to activate your big assumption?
    7. To what extent/how often can you use these 'releases' to help you from being pulled into old patterns?
    8. Think about situations in which you think your big assumption is no longer accurate......?
    9. Any thoughts about what has inside of you to make changes you have?
    10. How do you feel about yourself or making the gains you did on such a challenging role?..."

Robert Kegan et al, 2009

This is a continuing process: as you finish with one assumption, you then start looking for other big assumptions that need your attention, ie
"...these tools can be a resource for a life-long approach to transformative change by helping EC how you can achieve other commitments through identifying, testing, and altering additional big assumptions......developing the capacity to identify such areas is a key to continued growth..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Three Examples (for individuals)

1. Creating a more transparent and better performing organisational culture

Improvement focus 1.
Our improvement goal
(collective commitment)
Our collective fearless inventory
(doing/not doing instead)
Collective competing commitments (that have us)
Collective big assumptions
(behind statements in column 2 & 3)
safe, modest,
research test
  create a culture of mutual trust and unwavering support we don't listen very well to each other; we'd rather tell each other we are each committed to not having to follow anyone else & directions; to being free; to preserving our entrepreneurial passion is to keep our own selfish independence that there is an inherent conflict between entrepreneurialship and collective collaboration; this is an either or situation  
  be more receptive to new ideas we talk behind each other's back we are committed to winning, even if it means others in the group will lose that we are essentially living in a "every person for themselves" world; if things go badly for anyone of us, the firm won't be there to back you up; if we reach out to help, we will not get it; if we don't look after ourselves, no one else will  
  the more flexible in responses including new definitions of roles and responsibilities we feel that if we haven't been personally consulted, it wasn't a decision we are committed to not having to rely on others & to never having to depend on others that in the presence of limited data, how our individual judgements are superior to any collective judgement  
  be more open to delegating and supporting new lines of authority we let our individual agendas trump the collective agenda we are committed to overbooking ourselves so that we will never be back in lean times (building reserves to handle lean times) that taking our teams to the next level is a choice; that will actually have an option that we do not have to take this next step  
    we don't assume the best intent in ambiguous situations; on the contrary, we often tend to assume a bad intent we are committed to having people resources we need when we want them that our present prosperity will not last; that the lean times will come again, and when they do there will be massive casualties. That there is certainly more safety in breadth of work (hedging overbooking, etc) than depth (concentrating on the one big client)  
    we have difficult conversations with each other we are committed to not working through complex directly, to not wear ourselves out that if we are not personally involved in a decision, it can't be a good one  
    we don't extend ourselves to really understanding each other's agendas we are committed to preserving the pleasures of harshly criticising and judging each other that good people, strong people don't need support  
    we don't share information      
    we create and perpetuate an incentive structure that rewards individual rather than collective achievements      
    we are very judgemental and critical of each other      
    we form cliques and continue to collaborate within small circles      
    we are all out there scurrying from clients, staying busy, hedging against downturns and lean times      
    we compete for staff to join our particular projects      
    giving curt responses to new ideas; 'closing off', 'cutting off' or using overruling tone      
    not asking open-ended questions or seeking opinion of others often enough      
    communicating to others too much/too frequently that they need to refer back to me      
    being too quick to give opinion when that may not be what people are asking for   (source: Robert Kegan et al, 2009)  

2. Becoming a better listener

Improvement focus 1.
Our improvement goal
(collective commitment)
Our collective fearless inventory
(doing/not doing instead)
Collective competing commitments (that have us)
Collective big assumptions
(behind statements in column 2 & 3)
safe, modest,
research test
  to be a better listener (especially better at staying in the present, staying focused, being more patient) allow my attention to wander off to not look stupid assume there are limited number of 'chances' I get with my children  
    start looking at my BlackBerry to not being humiliated if they see me as stupid too many times, they will stop listening to me entirely  
    I make mental 'to do' lists; sometimes write them down not feeling helpless assume there is absolutely nothing positive in any direction with my children in which they dismiss and ridicule what I have to say. Such an interaction is clearly worse than no interaction at all  
    if to listen to a client, I often start thinking of what would be an impressive response and stop listening to what is being said to not feeling, or being, out of control assume my wife expects me to be able to help solve the difficult problems she shares with me  
    if it is my child, I start thinking about what he/she should do it differently to what he/she is saying to not making a big mistake assume that helping is always a matter of helping someone take a next step in the right direction  
        assume that if I feel helpless there is no way I can be a good listener  
        share that if I cannot be in control of the situation things are likely going to get worse  
        assume if you make the mistake, not able to recover from it  
    (source: Robert Kegan et al, 2009)   pursue if not able to help family or colleagues, and irresponsible and would be letting everyone down (including yourself); then bad things could happen  

3. Improving self-management and emotional self-regulation

Improvement focus 1.
Our improvement goal
(collective commitment)
Our collective fearless inventory
(doing/not doing instead)
Collective competing commitments (that have us)
Collective big assumptions
(behind statements in column 2 & 3)
safe, modest,
research test
  committed to better managing my emotional state and my expression of emotions including: let myself feel all the emotion committed to giving my best to everything. Anything less is a let-down to my team and to myself if let my team down, this would jeopardise the view of me as a team member that is dependable and up to the team's standard of a good team player  
  when problems emerge in one project or with one person, I am committed to containing my upset to that situation react emotionally (intense and fast) committed to being seen as the go-to-person, ie the person people can count on to get it done and done right. Even if it is unrealistic and at huge expense to myself. This could ultimately burn me out and negatively impact the team performance if let myself down, then I would feel like I'm not giving as much as I should be giving  
  try to deal directly with the problem, and not let my upset spill into other interactions with others or to other projects not checking in with myself, ie how am I feeling? committed to 'holding my cards very close to my chest', ie secretive assume that
- a good team member is giving 110%
- all team members hold the same standard.
  this will help me to better manage my own emotional state and well-being which will also contribute to team balance not aware of spilling my emotions until it happens tend to avoid having difficult conversations with people willing to give 150% even it means burnout  
    don't ask for help prefer not to ask for help; similarly, not saying 'no' to request (including ones I cannot do) if not the 'go to person', I would risk losing my status in the team  
    don't say 'no' to a request for help, etc have intense passion to deliver the perfect end-product. This has resulted in intense emotional and physical pressure that can lead to a burnout assume that the team status depends on my being a top rate, go-to person.  
    do everything I see that needs to be done NB the above statements suggest that the person is self-protective*i cannot say 'no' to a team member's request  
    pushed myself to do each of these things at 110% quality   assume that I should be able to control my emotional state, no matter what situation; even when I am in a highly-strung state  
    don't prioritise, ie don't differentiate between critical/
  (source: Robert Kegan et al, 2009) feel myself operating in overdrive. This occurs frequently and for long durations)      


i) this is less about self-care and more about protecting or defending oneself, as the way we wants others to see us and/or we want to see ourselves


There is a conundrum in the above table: the person is committed to better managing her emotional state while maintaining the standards of perfection (including taking on too much) that causes the emotional state. Also this person has a preference for structure and decisive action, especially in challenging assignments.

Her high performance expectations and personal effort, ie to give 150%, leads to self-imposed, high stress levels.

To handle the situation, there is a need to revise the limiting beliefs and assumptions. This goes beyond stress reduction via exercise, breeding techniques, yoga, etc. There is a need to revisit the very high standards imposed, learn how to compartmentalise emotions, understand the basis for her emotional outbursts, give colleagues permission to 'call-out' any emotional outburst, etc

Benefits (of going through the above process)

When captive by immunity
When released from immunity
gets from others - seen as the go-to-person
- the teammate people can count on to get it done and done right all the time
- regarded as dependable
- raised expectations on what a good team member is, ie 110% effort
- making sure everything is perfect
- seen as dependable by teammates
- respected more for who 'I am' rather than 'what I do'
- teammates provide feedback when they observe me becoming highly-strung
- receive frequent and specific feedback about work
- appreciated for contribution to the team
gets from oneself - feeling that may not be capable
- keeping others from taking away the referred work
- perfectionist
- always gives absolute best
- will not let the team down or myself
- hide from others my defectiveness

 (source: Robert Kegan et al, 2009)
- have confidence
- the satisfaction of understanding the value I add
- willing to delegate
- no longer feeling inadequate
- feeling net worth is more intrinsic than extrinsic
- trusting my unique insights
- more about being myself rather than doing things
- produce excellent outputs
- more satisfied as taking care of oneself
- making better decisions around work
- more in control

In summary, it can be divided in 3 phases

1. Setting the Stage
- honing your map (continually reviewing and revising your community and so that it is relevant and testable)
- initial survey (creating a base line from responses selected stakeholders )

2. Digging into the Word
- continuum progress (envisage a complete success would look like)
- self-observation (identify the assumptions; understand when they are active, the impact on you and there accuracy)
- biography of the big assumptions (for each assumption ask
"...when did it get started? What is its history? What is its current validity?..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009
- testing the big assumptions (test them by reversing them and seeing what happens about to certainty of them)

3. Consolidating your learning
- follow-up survey (from the same selected stakeholders at the initial interview; their findings between the 2 interviews; the about the impact of your changes others)
- future progress (re-engage immunity process as required)


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