Enneagram: Berghoef & Bell Innovations

Leadership. Communication. Teamwork.


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Modernizing the Enneagram

The Enneagram is a practical tool created from combining ancient wisdom teachings and contemporary psychology. Part of its appeal is the way it has stood the test of time. From its roots in the philosophies of the Desert Fathers and the Kabbalah, as well as its integration of newer psychological insights, modern students of the Enneagram have an eminently applicable system for understanding themselves and others, communicating, resolving conflicts, and working on themselves. Human nature has remained consistent over time, so it’s no surprise that a system rooted in long-standing wisdom traditions has a lot to offer us today.

The Enneagram of personality, as it is currently taught, is also old enough to have acquired its own history and tradition. Most teachers and students still consult classic Enneagram resources from a few decades ago, and there’s good reason for that. There’s nothing like the early works of Riso and Hudson, Palmer, Naranjo, and other Enneagram pioneers to give a sense of the system’s depth and intricacies. There are situations, however, where a modern update is called for in teaching and learning the Enneagram. The economy and job market have changed since the first Enneagram books were written. In our globalized world, we use forms of communication on a daily basis that would amaze even yesterday’s science fiction writers. It’s useful to have ways of teaching the Enneagram that reflect these new realities.

In our book The Modern Enneagram, we gave a lot of thought to bridging the gap between the Enneagram’s timeless insights and the interconnected world of today. Here are some principles we came up with for modernizing Enneagram work for contemporary audiences, while maintaining the essence of its teachings.

Adapt to a changing attention span.
People today are busy, with the constant buzz of smartphone alerts adding on to schedules full of work and family commitments. The ease of rapid communication means that we are expected to pay attention to more input, more quickly, for shorter amounts of time. A 2015 research study shows that the human attention span has fallen to about eight seconds. When introducing the Enneagram in a modern context, it’s helpful to offer a concise introduction that gets the point across and piques your audience’s interest. From there, you can ease students into more in-depth learning, but first it’s helpful to communicate why the Enneagram is worth their time.   

Use contemporary examples and case studies.
A lot of our favorite Enneagram books reference celebrities and pop culture from decades ago. If you’re introducing the Enneagram to newcomers, they may not be familiar with these examples, or they might find them hilariously dated. It’s helpful to find type examples from modern pop culture, which audiences can immediately relate to and younger students will recognize. Workplace and social realities have also changed since many Enneagram references came out. If you’re working with a group, address these changes and make a point of incorporating recent case studies to support the ideas you’re conveying. In our book, we included references to social media, dating apps, and modern workplace dynamics to keep the content relevant to readers’ lives.        

Take advantage of new ways of learning.
There are more ways of teaching and learning the Enneagram now than ever before. Some of the most popular Enneagram courses are now offered online, and you don’t have to travel to a workshop, or live in an area where one is convenient, to learn about the nine types in depth. There are Enneagram blogs, apps, and podcasts. While new ways of learning the Enneagram are proliferating, there’s still a lot of room for expansion. Consider ways you could reach a broader audience through the wide array of platforms available, and seek out people who want to learn what you have to teach. Don’t be afraid to incorporate new ways of learning into your in-person Enneagram work, too.        

The Enneagram has been around for a while now, and it continues to grow in popularity each year. With an eye to modern realities, it will continue to be a relevant and useful way of learning about ourselves and the people we interact with every day.


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5 Benefits of Supporting Emerging Leaders

FullSizeRenderIn our Enneagram workshops, we’ve trained many emerging leaders, including younger professionals in their 20s and 30s, and people of all ages embarking on new careers. We really enjoy working with this demographic. Emerging leaders of different Enneagram types have unique talents to bring to the workplace. Initiators (Enneagram types 3, 7, and 8) bring energy and willingness to take risks. Soloists (types 4, 5, and 9) bring creativity and focus. Cooperators (types 1, 2, and 6) bring people skills and commitment to company culture. One thing they all have in common is that they’re eager to contribute to their fields and step into leadership roles.

In today’s businesses, there’s a trend toward hiring people with extensive experience and qualifications, rather than identifying and training emerging talent. One benefit of this strategy is that these hires are well-prepared to step into their new roles. On the downside, companies often overlook excellent potential hires. Emerging leaders and career transitioners bring fresh perspectives, energy, and great value to established organizations.

Here are five benefits of supporting emerging leaders, in your workplace and beyond.

1. Emerging leaders are flexible.
Newcomers to their fields are easily teachable, interested in learning, and readily adapt to the culture of the workplace. These qualities make them quick at adapting to changes in the industry and take on unconventional roles.

2. They offer new skill sets.
Younger professionals, as digital natives, are often particularly adept with technology and social media. Newcomers who have transitioned from a different industry bring valuable transferable skills from their past positions and an interdisciplinary outlook.

3. They bring innovative ways of thinking.
If there are aspects of a company or industry that aren’t working, or would otherwise benefit from changes, emerging leaders less entrenched in organizational or industry norms and culture are more likely to notice. They’re also more likely to think of out-of-the-box ways to make these changes.

4. They have time on their side.
Young leaders, especially, bring boundless energy, and have decades to grow in skill and contribute to their fields. Emerging leaders of all ages are interested in being mentored and taught new skills. You never know who will become a future CEO, or even revolutionize your industry.

5. They add to workplace diversity.
The most effective companies have workforce talent that includes people of diverse backgrounds and ages. This makes them better able to connect with different consumer demographics.

There are many ways that established professionals can support emerging leaders in their fields. One is by identifying and mentoring talent, and by leading from example. Newcomers to your field have a lot to learn from your real-world experience – and you’ll probably find they’ll be teaching you new things, too. Investing in growing and training new hires will pay off in ideas, energy, and colleagues who will keep contributing to your field long after the current leaders have retired.

Emerging leaders are among our favorite people to work with. They bring so much vision, great new ideas, and a desire to make a difference. Now is the time to invest in them, to ensure the future of your company.


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Bringing the Enneagram to Teens

Having learned the Enneagram at a young age, bringing the Enneagram to more young people remains a topic close to our hearts. For teenagers, the Enneagram opens a door to improving relationships with parents and friends, and feeling seen for who you are–a person with thoughts, feelings, and needs independent from those around you. It gives a language to describe your viewpoint to the people who matter to you, and helps in making decisions about the direction you want your life to take.

When we were teenagers discovering the Enneagram, wonderful books existed about this system–Melanie has fond memories of holing up in the college library, browsing the “Enneagram corner”–but none of them focused on people our age. The vast majority of our peers were not familiar with the Enneagram, leaving us largely to teach it to them.

Elizabeth Wagele’s latest book, The Enneagram for Teens, has the potential to change this. Wagele previously wrote an Enneagram book aimed at children, but as far as we know, this is the first book exclusively oriented to a teenaged audience. In this fun and clearly-written read, Wagele writes in an engaging manner that teens are sure to enjoy. Wagele’s cartoons, both illustrative of the types and entertaining, grace most of the pages of her book. Wagele dedicates a chapter to each of the nine types, and a final chapter depicts each type’s leadership style. Wagele describes each type in a way that is easy to grasp, with examples most relatable to high school and college-aged readers.

Wagele excels at creating material that connects with the target audience. Each type chapter offers a quiz made of statements that come directly from teenagers–a refreshingly clear and direct approach. (You might be a Six if you “want to be safe and to be told the truth.”) Wagele also offers practical goals for self-development tailored to teens of each type.

The heart and soul of Wagele’s book comes from the primary source material. In each chapter, she interviews several people from each Enneagram type, both teens and young adults looking back on their experience. The subjects Wagele interviews provide a diverse cross-section of perspectives. Some, such as a type One rebel, do a welcome job of defying personality stereotypes, while others give a well-rounded sense of each Enneagram type’s strengths and challenges. Especially affecting is one Three exemplar’s memory of telling the principal her team had lost a tournament as she received her diploma–“That’s all I ever think about when I think about high school graduation.” It should be easy for readers to hear their own experiences mirrored in the young voices in the book.

We believe The Enneagram for Teens is a wonderful resource for teenagers and college students first learning about the Enneagram, as well as parents hoping to get into the shoes of their teens. Our own experiences of encountering the Enneagram young were pivotal: for example, Kacie finally understood her parents’ perspectives and why they were different from her own, and Melanie learned strategies to manage her emotions. Wagele’s book has great potential to more widely engage young people in learning the Enneagram. We hope this book will help young Enneagram enthusiasts connect with each other!


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The Enneagram and Young Adults

P1020354When we first began attending Enneagram conferences, we were surprised to discover that young adults studying the Enneagram were almost as rare as unicorns! We’d love for that to change, and hope to bring more young people into the community. We were both lucky to discover the Enneagram at a young age, and it offered a level of support that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. It was like having a secret key to unlocking our strengths and understanding other people.

Young people face a lot of challenges. At that age, so many of us feel misunderstood and like we don’t fit in. We get into conflict with our parents. We struggle to find our footing as we first strike out on our own. The Enneagram can be useful in all of these situations.

Young people offer a fresh perspective to Enneagram work. They bring a wonderful openness to learning (as long as it’s interesting!). They’re in a great place to start observing themselves and noticing what their usual patterns are, laying a foundation for a self-aware life. Given the ever-shifting nature of the young adult years, they’re also in a place where they want to make change.

Here are some tips for teaching the Enneagram to young people:

  • Contextualize the Enneagram to the person’s age group. For example, if they’re in college, show them how the Enneagram can help them choose a major and make empowering career decisions.
  • Introduce the idea of observing yourself and being aware of your patterns in an approachable, relatable way. Give concrete examples of how this can be helpful in your audience’s daily life.
  • Break the material up with interactive exercises, and give everyone a chance to speak.
  • Remember when working with younger people that the brain is still developing until about age 25, which may impact how they learn and apply the material.
  • Make it fun! 🙂

We’d like to see more people get the opportunity to learn the Enneagram at a young age, and are excited to be part of this movement!