What is transformational learning?

People talk about mission a lot these days. You know you’re on a mission when you take on a challenge so vast, and yet so important to you, that you’ll endure almost anything to be a part of its solution. Chrysallis is that kind of story.

Already several years in the making, Chrysallis was founded to help people evolve by building the world’s first large-scale transformation learning platform. In biology, a chrysalis is the protective container that surrounds a caterpillar as it undergoes transformation into a butterfly. In human psychology, transformation is the process by which a person “grows their mind” through new skills, habits and perspectives. And just like the butterfly, a supportive container is critical to your transformation, too.

Chrysallis is designed to be your private space for transformation, combining the world’s largest repository of personal and professional development guidance available on the smartphone with supportive groups of trusted friends that help you make a change, build a new skill or shift a mindset.

Research has shown that all of the most important skills in life–leadership, health, happiness, productivity and many others–rely on translating cognitive insight into enduring mental, emotional and behavioral habits. But these habitual patterns take time to build, and so Chrysallis developed the only mobile-centric platform in the world to help you translate research-based best practices into professional and personal growth over time through new habits.

Transformation comes in packages large and small. Think about who you were 20 years ago, and contrast it with the wisdom and skills you have today, and that can feel like a pretty huge transformation. But it also comes in small steps, and in fact, with a few exceptions (like life-changing epiphanies), the only way transformation happens is through small, incremental steps: pausing one moment longer to really empathize with the perspectives and fears of someone who doesn’t share your political views; breathing just a little bit deeper when confronted with bad news; catching yourself before you reach for your mobile phone when your child comes into the room to spend time with you; noticing how hard it is to resist that extra bite of dessert; encouraging your team to stay in an innovative growth mindset when a failure arises, etc. If the twenty-year journey you’ve been on has been transformative, than these and thousands of other small, slowly-building habits of mind, emotion and behavior have formed the real asphalt of transformation upon which you’ve traveled. And for those of us who live fully into the challenges and opportunities of 21st century life–as leaders, parents, managers, coworkers, investors, citizens, activists etc.–this journey never ends; it’s a lifelong movement towards greater freedom, fullness and functioning in every aspect of our lives.

Now, to qualify as transformation, something has to change shape. And because transformation is not just cognitive learning, new knowledge often does not transform the shape of your mind. This is why many of the existing learning tools are simply not getting at the hard problem and the core opportunity of helping people to grow, evolve and learn in the ways that truly count. We see cognition, emotion and behavior as part of a holistic system that is constructing meaning from life conditions, creating stories and internal narratives to make sense of them, generating emotional reactions that impel action or withdrawal, and responding to social contexts and situations with patterned behavior. To transform one’s listening skills, it’s not enough to just try a new behavior, it’s far more robust if a deeper inquiry is made into what resistance or deeper fears stand in the way of the sought-behavior to begin with. Chrysallis supports growing our minds through just this kind of transformational learning.

As Robert Kegan, professor of adult learning at Harvard and a Chrysallis content expert, states, there is a need across contemporary culture to grow our minds:

“[If we view] contemporary culture as a kind of ‘school’ and the complex set of tasks and expectations placed upon us in modern life as the ‘curriculum’ of this school…it remains for us to look at [this] curriculum of modern life in relation to the capacities of the adult mind. Expectations of us…demand something more than than mere behavior, the acquisition of specific skills, or the mastery of particular knowledge. They make demands on our minds, on how we know, on the complexity of our consciousness.”

Said another way, we live in an era of rapid change, and changing life conditions necessitate adaptive responses within each of us. Just ask any employer why among their top priorities are finding talented people who don’t just have domain knowledge, but also are resilient, innovative, communicate well and capable of leading others in just such a world. The data shows that corporate leaders are in over their heads relative to the complexity they’re facing. From a transformational learning point of view, only a dialectical process of differentiation (e.g., getting distance from one’s current viewpoint) and integration (e.g., allowing a more complex, higher-order viewpoint to emerge that subsumes the prior viewpoint), can give rise to new skills that are capable of meeting this complexity. Growing our minds in applied and systematic ways is no longer a luxury.

At Chrysallis, our mission is to support the world’s best organizations to help people grow their minds and become more complex, more conscious and more skillful in their lives at a cost and across a topical continuum that leaves nothing out. Let’s support people to be freely and fully human. By delivering digitally, we are aiming to make transformational learning inexpensive and mass-personalized enough to make it available to everybody on the planet while still being highly-effective. And though we’re several years in, we’re really just getting started.

If, working together, we can liberate the world’s scientific knowledge of human transformation–all its wisdom, research and practices–into a real-time format available everywhere and always, and that helps people build mindfulness, skills and habits, than we can influence every known problem on the planet. It’s true that it’s a big vision. But it’s also true that there are only a few levers long enough to effect global transformation. And those are worth a lifetime of effort if there’s a possibility that even one succeeds.

We think we’ve got a pretty good idea of how to do so, and we appreciate you taking the time to be interested.