The Nine Domains are the nine essential components of complex systems, be they natural or designed by humans. When each of the Nine Domains are present AND they are in balance, the entire system thrives. Domains can, however, be missing or distorted. Such imbalances not only diminish the performance of a system, but may also threaten its survival.

Furthermore, the Nine Domains are a new way of talking about a complete whole with interrelated parts. As such, they are a “check list for completeness” (Riso) and can be applied to the development of a team, the analysis of a particular problem, or the evaluation of an entire complex situation or crisis.

The following are the archetypal elements of each Domain. Many other words and concepts also apply to each Domain, depending on the level of analysis or application one wishes to make in an actual case. A much more extensive treatment of the Nine Domains concept as well as a more complete list of the major qualities seen at each Domain are part of the Nine Domains Facilitator’s Training program.

The Nine Domains

These 18 Key Words are simply a beginning point for understanding and using the Nine Domains in a wide variety of settings. Each Domain encompasses much more than these 18 words; indeed, there are hundreds of words that are appropriate expressions of each Domain. The following table gives a few more of each Domain’s qualities to fill in the picture of the range and depth of each Domain.

First Domain
Honesty, fairness, impeccability, wisdom, impartiality, discernment, conscientiousness, congruence, truthfulness, purpose
Second Domain
Nurturance and self-nurturance, unselfishness, empathy, attunement to others, concern, appreciation, encouragement
Third Domain
Inner-direction, modesty, self-acceptance, authenticity, self-assurance, admirability, poise, accomplishment, focus
Fourth Domain
Introspection, self-awareness, intuition, sensitivity, honesty with self, discretion, emotional strength, meaningfulness
Fifth Domain
Profundity, curiosity, pioneering, insightfulness, objectivity, perceptiveness, originality, inventiveness
Sixth Domain
Mutual Support
Groundedness, interdependence, fortitude, reliability, preparedness, faithfulness, devotion, mutuality
Seventh Domain
Appreciation, receptivity, satisfaction, joyfulness, enthusiasm, resilience, vivaciousness, productiveness, versatility
Eighth Domain
Decisive Action
Courage, self-surrender, majesty, self-confidence, strength, action-orientation, empowerment, protectiveness
Ninth Domain
Dynamic Stability
Self-possession, serenity, presence, peacefulness, flow, naturalness, optimism, humility, inclusivity, patience

Choosing which descriptors (of the hundreds of possible concepts) are most appropriate for a particular situation depends on the Facilitator’s insight and experience. In other words, to use the Nine Domains effectively, one cannot simply grab a handful of words arbitrarily. Which descriptors are used depends a great deal not only on experience and insight but also on discrimination, sensitivity to the meaning of words and their connotations, as well as the level of conceptualization that needs to be used to find a solution to a particular problem. Although using the Nine Domains is subtle, it is actually easy to do once a few basic concepts are understood.

Remember, the Nine Domains are abstract expressions of human activity, thoughts, beliefs, and universal needs. They encompass the whole of our personal and interpersonal lives. Therefore awareness and care must be taken when using the Domains if they are to be meaningful and helpful for gaining a deeper and more complete understanding.

Management, Organizational Development Practitioners, Change Managers, Human Resource Professionals, Business Consultants and Strategists can use the Nine Domains to develop a plan that truly builds on the specific strengths and addresses the specific weaknesses / development areas of a team.

While many professionals can develop a workable list of important considerations, the list will invariably be different from person to person as it is based on their own history / experiences, limitations, and personal biases. The Nine Domains overcomes this limitation by providing elements that are often overlooked or devalued.

The final message is that each Domain is absolutely necessary for a thriving and surviving system. One can be assured that when working with the Nine Domains material, you will not be overlooking an important element of a possible solution. With confidence in the completeness of the Nine Domains, one has the freedom to “unpack” problems or challenges, and not merely address symptoms. We can go as far as we need to with this conceptual vehicle.