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Posted on March 2, 2020
Updated on October 2, 2020

Concepts for Thriving

The Concepts for Thriving model is an amended version of that by Denton Roberts entitled 'The Hierarchy of Functionality'. He developed this model as an extension of the philosophy and the belief that safety and security are of paramount importance. You can use these concepts at both the individual and organisational levels and it can be used as a diagnostic tool as well as a structure to decide where to intervene.

Concepts for Thriving is based on the assumption that there are seven basic components to thriving, i.e. emotional safety, belonging, positive reinforcement, clear communication, productive activity, integration and celebration. To me, celebration needs to run throughout the concepts. 


Integration is more in keeping with developmental cycles. These seven components are built upon each other; that is, one must be in place before you can go on to the next.  

When they are all in place, and fully applied in an organisation, then the organisation, and the relationships within it, will thrive. 

For an organisation to be fully functioning there needs to be congruence between the concepts and the organisational behaviours.  

When these basic components are not established and nourished, then the organisation will become dysfunctional in some way.

Outlined below are the definitions of the concepts:

Integration Table


As Roberts points out these components are implicit in TA theory. Berne is quoted as saying "Every child is born a prince or princess....I'm OK; You're OK....get well first, find out why you were ill later" and so on. These statements express an interest in thriving rather than stagnation. 

In order to thrive we need to be nourished by: 

  • acceptance & protection
  • relationship building and trust
  • praise
  • appreciation & respect
  • realistic expectations
  • facilitation
  • acknowledgement - for doing and being i.e. completion, ability, thinking, self

The negative environment flourishes through:

  • Blame
  • Ridicule
  • Humiliation
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Alienation

When we experience safety as being weak or absent we might feel threatened. This affects our relationships and we are likely to give negative reinforcements.

This, in turn, is likely to lead to poor communication which leads to destructive actions with resultant conflicts. These lead back to the start of the cycle when the person feels threatened instead of safe.

All organisations need to provide a healthy environment for their employees and the understanding of the Concepts for Thriving promotes this process. 

Establishing Emotional Safety will lead to attachment, Positive Reinforcement provides attachment and leads to engagement, whilst clear communication strengthens the bonding through engagement with others and the environment.

Organisational Consultants need to provide emotional safety through ensuring the contracting and expectations are clear.  When undertaking training they need to ensure that training sessions are not  interrupted, and that they facilitate the process between group members in I+U+ ways.  Through  appropriate stroking we provide Positive Reinforcement. 

Listening to those who are briefing us, as well as to participants, will establish Clear Communication, as will keeping out of our driver behaviour. This will enable participants to be productively active and to integrate their experience.

Developing a Healthy Culture

All organisations need to provide a healthy environment for their employees.  

When we come into a new job, or are part of a team, we need to feel that: who we are, where we are from, what we believe in, what skills we bring, and the experience we have to offer, are accepted in this new situation. 

Establishing Emotional Safety starts the process of attachment for team members.  At this point, effective contracting and clear expectations with a sense of welcome for everyone is an important part of the process.  

Boundaries need to be set and maintained and questions need to be welcomed and answered. This is the start of the belonging process, though it does not stop here and will be addressed over time.  

Positive Reinforcement for the new person or team will aid the belonging process. It is difficult to hear positive feedback for work well done if, at the same time, a person feels that other team members are competitive, hence the need for safety to be in place first.

Positive Reinforcement enables attachment and leads to engagement. These two components lead to a developing sense of belonging, and energy can start to be released for other things. When these two components are in place then the workforce are more likely to develop clear communication, which in itself strengthens the bonding through engagement with others and the environment. To a large degree a sense of trust then develops within the team and people are productively active and output improves. 

Good supervision and/or coaching enable the workforce to integrate their learning and experience so that there is continual professional growth and development. This enables the team and individuals to experience themselves as ‘resource–full’.

The Concepts for Thriving model can be linked with the TA concept of physis. Physis is the natural drive to health, it is the thrust of life itself. 

As human beings we are self-actualising and have an innate desire to pursue personal growth and well being. This idea comes from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus and means change or growth. 

In organisations we need to be encouraged and supported to learn and grow. 

In organisations that are over-structured, authoritarian and rule-bound then growth will be hampered, both for the organisation and for the individual. This will prevent thriving and leads to stagnation instead.

The competence curve also relates to Concepts for Thriving.  If we take a look at this curve we can see that it is natural for people to go through a range of emotions when there is change. The Concepts for Thriving model  is one way of addressing the different needs at different times. 

In summary, the Concepts for Thriving model can be used as an assessment tool. When communication is dysfunctional it may be that the workforce does not feel emotionally safe. Therefore, it is not a communication systems approach that is required but the establishment of Safety. This example highlights the need for those involved to explore the Concepts for Thriving for themselves and assess where the difficulty is as they are in the best position to know how to remedy it. 

Usually the issue is lower down at the safety level despite the initial request for assistance with the upper levels, such as Clear Communication or Productive Activity. The people concerned are likely to know what they need to do to develop a healthy environment and improve communication so involving the workforce in the assessment, analysis and any subsequent action is the most positive way to enable change. 

However, the most effective way to a healthy culture is to use this model as a foundation for development.


Roberts, D. (1992). Hierarchy of Functionality, workshop notes from ITAA Conference, New Zealand.

Roberts, D. and Thronson, A. (1997). Find Purpose, Find Power: Sing the Song in Your Heart, Human Esteem Publishing.

Mountain, A. (2004). The Space Between: Bridging the Gap Between Workers and Young People, Russell House Publishing.

Mountain, A. and Davidson, C. (2011). Working Together: Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance, Gower Publishing.