The Existential Universe Mapper framework authored by Ashok Malhotra traces its origin to
a research conducted in early ‘70s on ‘Work Values of Indian Managers’. This research was
conducted through a questionnaire designed by Scott and Susan Myers, based on Clare
Grave’s work on ‘Levels of Existence”.
While the research threw up significant insights into patterns of the Indian manager’s
psyche, it also exposed the limitations of the instrument and the underlying framework.
In the late 1990s. Malhotra picked up the threads of his work on Graves and articulated the
Existential Universe Mapper framework, which has similarities with Graves’s theory but with
Soon after, he designed the EUM – I and EUM-O in quick succession to map the individual
and the organization respectively. These tools have been in use for close to two decades
and address a variety of needs at the individual and collective levels.
Some of the foundational ideas that inform the framework are:
We are all similar but also unique
We are this, that, and more
We and our context are intertwined.
We evolve; nothing good or bad about it.
We respond to an inner call and to outside forces.
We are whole in ourselves and also a part of a larger whole.
The idea of Universes is important to understand as we work with the framework. A
Universe is a composite and coherent set of needs, values, wants, proclivities, worldview
All these Universes are a part of us.
They are configured uniquely in each of us.
The interplay of these Universes impacts our meaning making, choice making and role taking.
No Universe is more or less desirable than another.
Each Universe offers unique learning essential to our development.
The framework speaks of six Universes as relevant to individuals and their correlates as
applicable to organizations.
what is eum?
eum and its distinctiveness:
The Six Universes:
At the Individual Level:
Universe of Belonging & Protection
It is that part of us that wishes to belong to a safe haven where we feel secure and protected. Its primary orientation is towards familiarity, predictability, harmony and strong bonding/ identification with our own kith and kin. It enables us to have trust and faith in our people, abide by the established norms and customs and experience a sense of pride in our heritage. It gives us a strong sense of “oneness” with the group(s) we belong to and enables us to accept with all its positives as also its angularities.
Universe of Strength & Desire
It is that part of us that believes that we are the center of this universe and it is up to us to get what we want through our own strength and efforts. Its primary orientation is towards curiosity, assertion, adventure, aliveness, excitement and competitiveness. It enables us to dream for ourselves, invest in developing our strength and power, question the established ways of our context, venture out in the world, undertake heroic journeys, expand our horizons and have a sense of dominance over the world.
Universe of Roles & Boundaries
It is that part of us which wishes to relate with the world in a orderly fashion so that we know what to expect from others and what is expected of us. Its primary orientation is towards balance, clarity, conformance to agreed rules, norms and systems, adjustment and appropriateness. It enables us to have a sense of proportion, accept that our lives are intertwined through roles, respect one’s boundaries and of others, and look at situations without getting influenced by our feelings and prejudices. It enables us to accept peaceful co-existence as possible when we perform our appointed role.
Universe of Aspirations & Achievement
It is that part of us which continually strives towards higher level of achievement and recognizes that this is possible only through forging mutually beneficial links with others. Its primary orientation is towards purposiveness, goal directed action, enlightened self-interest and resourcefulness. It enables us to invest in our own capabilities as also respect the capabilities/resourcefulness of others. Who the other is and what we feel about him/her becomes less important than what he/she brings to the table. Simultaneously we recognize that the world would view us in a similar way.
Universe of Meaningfulness & Intimacy
It is that part of us that wishes for and works towards a utopian world where everyone can live in peace and harmony. Its primary orientation is towards meaningfulness, intimacy, compassion, empathy, respect for others, and acceptance of ourselves and others at a human level irrespective of their clan, creed, class, ethnicity, etc. It enables us to feel one with the larger human context, transcend the preoccupations with ourselves, our subgroup(s) and enables us to dream collectively for a world that ensures a higher level of well being for all.
Universe of Duality and Simultaneity
There are several parts of us that are often at play simultaneously. While they may blend in harmony at times, at other times they may also pull us in different directions. Eg. Our need for harmony and our need for achievement. Simultaneous engagement with these multiple pulls is the essence of this universe. Its primary orientation is towards being in the “here and now”; acceptance of different aspects of human existence without judgement and acting on the basis of what seems right in any situation. It enables us to live with uncertainty and ambiguity.
At the Organization level:
This Universe is concerned with providing belonging and safety to members of a collective,
including organziations. It plays a significant role in our notions about who we are and what
are the reference groups to which we belong. The Clan Universe focuses organization
culture towards tradition, continuity, and a a strong sense of belonging to the organization.
This Universe drives the propensity of members of collectives including organziations to be energetic, competitive and expansive. The Universe shapes an organization culture of ‘win at any cost’, risk-taking and opportunism, rather of thought-through, goal directed and strategically focused action. Vigilance regarding threats is likely and the scope for cooperation and collaboration may be reduced.
This Universe provides a degree of predictability both to external stakeholders and an
organziation’s own members. This is achieved through laying down rules and regulations,
systems and procedures, and defining roles and goals. Disciple and adherence is held to be
important. The culture it shapes provides stability, role and goal clarity but is low on
vibrancy and innovation. In turn it expects discipline and adherence to rules and norms.
This Universe hold members of the organization together through pursuance of goals and
aspirations that belong to individual members and also to the collective as a whole. In this
sense, each member can be seen as an autonomous node, which is connected to multiple
other nodes in a network of mutually beneficial relationships. The culture this Universe
shapes is geared towards meritocracy, goal alignment, continuous learning, and a strong
bias for action and speed.
This Universe drives members of the organization to not just value self and others for
abilities alone but for individual uniqueness and human qualities. It shapes a culture of
inclusivity and listening to the marginalized, relationships with all ‘stakeholders’ and
democracy. This Universe triggers orgnaizational concerns about environmental
consequences of systemic actions. It places a premium on quality of life over career success
as an absolute value.
This Universe teaches organization members to value and accept duality. While systems and
structures are held sacred, there is recognition that they cannot be adhered to in an
absolute manner in all situations. Objective analysis and subjective wisdom are both valued.
People are valued for their contributions and for who they are. Organization members
honor heritage and yet remain open to new influence.