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To App or Not to App the Enneagram: That Is the Question

Is an Enneagram App for smartphones controversial? Yes, of course it is, although it wasn’t clear to me that this would be the case until I launched Know Your Type, my new Enneagram iPhone App this past January. What is the controversy about?  How big is the issue?Let me start by saying that I don’t know how big or widespread the issue is; I’m not hearing much about it. However, I am hearing bits and pieces, enough to surprise me and cause me to reflect. Let me start with the main issue, as I understand it, then describe Know Your Type in more detail.

The Main Issue: A belief among some people that the integrity of the Enneagram is compromised when it is widely disseminated, particularly through pop culture platforms such as Apps.

Dissemination of the Enneagram is a longstanding issue within Enneagram circles. Because it was considered a sacred system by the “original” 20th century Enneagram teachers and those who followed them – for example, Gurdjieff, Ichazo, and in his earlier days, Naranjo – their “students” were not allowed to share their learning – orally or in writing – with others, and there were valid reasons for this. The 20th  century Enneagram was emerging, although the system itself was ancient, and our understanding of it was evolving. The original teachers wanted people to learn the Enneagram deeply and fully in these exploratory stages. Were there additional reasons for holding the information closely? Most likely, but I am not privy to the internal dynamics during this time period.

But then there were books beginning in the 1980’s; one barrier to the Enneagram’s more widespread dissemination broken (including a very painful lawsuit that included serious copyright issues, but eventually allowed even more Enneagram books to be written). Are there good books (accurate and useful) and not-good books (inaccurate, judgmental, and harmful)? Yes, of course, there are both, as well as books in between. But what can be done about it, other than to not buy the not-good ones and to support the writing of really good new ones?

And then came the Internet. By the 1990’s, the Enneagram became electronic, and today, there is Enneagram information everywhere on the web. Google the word Enneagram, and you’ll find almost 1.2 million references. Enneagram websites abound, and there are places for eLearning; accredited and non-accredited online courses; teleconferences; webinars; online Enneagram typing tests; and more. Another platform; more Enneagram dissemination. Are there good and not-so-good online avenues for learning about the Enneagram, just as there are books? Obviously! What can we do about this? Not much, except fill the Internet with high quality Enneagram information.

And now there are Apps, with many more people learning from their smartphones and electronic tablets every day, and it’s not just younger people.  Apps are simply one more platform for communication in what is now called The Information Age. And yes, there are good Apps and not-good Enneagram Apps out there. The Enneagram Institute has had the short and long forms of the RHETI as Apps for several years. And yes, there are other Enneagram Apps (all that preceded mine) available through the iTunes store, many of which are not nearly as good quality as the RHETI, but this is public domain territory. There is no quality committee to decide and enforce a good versus not-good App policy, but this is also true for websites, books and, yes, Enneagram teachers.

But what is an App, really? What we hear about is Apps like Angry Birds that sell millions and are games and diversions. But Apps are just technological platforms, very much like computers, that can do a variety of things, games being only one of them. Some Apps are quite complex, have many layers, and do wonderful things. Apps can be many things: silly, entertaining, useful, informative, simplistic, or complex.  An App is simply technology. Whether they are “games” or not depends on their content.

Perhaps the underlying question is this: Should the Enneagram be in the public domain and how do we deal with the quality issues involved? The problem or opportunity is that the Enneagram is already in the public domain, and there is ambivalence about this. We want the Enneagram to be available as a way to heal ourselves and heal the planet! But we want it done with quality and integrity. This is our paradox.

What’s actually in Know Your Type
Know Your Type has almost 100,000 words, the equivalent of 2 books, but is set in an architecture that makes all the information readily accessible. In other words, you don’t have to thumb through pages to find what you need. Know Your Type has theory; type interactions; ways to reduce stress; a typing process that is interactive (my typing cards used in animated form and really fun to do); short videos of actual people that make the types real; a way of testing your Enneagram knowledge in a variety of situations at home and at work; and more.

But I’ll let two Enneagram teachers I respect speak for themselves about the App, plus you can read a review from an independent App review site.

From Peter O’Hanrahan’s review: “To my eyes, it’s much more than an ‘app’ – it’s a smart and handy electronic handbook combining compelling content with colorful graphics and video.”

From Lynette Sheppard’s review: “For $2.99, you can discover your type, learn self-development strategies, manage inter-type conflict, and so much more. The interface is clean and easy to navigate. There are even videos of each of the nine types explaining personality from the inside.”

From AppSafari.com’s review: Know Your Type is a highly informative app that does what it sets out to do, and then blows it out of the water. A great buy at just $2.99, so if you’re into self-discovery and betterment, then it should be on your device right now.”

This blog first appeared in the Enneagram Monthly, 2011.

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I benefited and still do from the teachings of the Enneagram from teachers with high integrity like Ginger, David, Thomas, Russ, Helen and I belief that is about time that the Enneagram becomes more accessible. If the App supports people to become more self-reflective, triggers them to lead themselves more effectively and show more compassionate to the other 8 styles we can only be but grateful to those who put so much passion and energy into distributing this great development system!

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