Conceptions and Misconceptions of Spiral Dynamics

In the last half a year, I started working with Spiral Dynamics. A concept/model I knew but never applied has become an key part of my current professional development as of my personal life, and so I thought of sharing a little about it, for those who are thirsty for something estimulating that I could recomend to get your hands on and munch a good bite of.

I personally think this theory can be powerful if mixed with other tools such as MeshWORKS and Theory U.

So here a glympse.

Conception of a Model describing the Evolution of Individual, Organizational and Societal Conscience

When you look back on your actions, decisions, and ways of coping with problems, were your responses consistent? Or have your reactions changed over the years? (Most people’s do.) This is because our values and motivations change over time.

Psychologists have long been interested in these changing reactions. In fact, some of the best-known psychological theories on motivation have been derived from looking at this very phenomenon. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and McGregor’s Theory X versus Theory Y are just two of the theories that have emerged to explain what motivates people and why. Although each theory is different, the question of what people value is central to the theories of motivation and human development.

Spiral Dynamics, a fascinating but less known theory of motivation, looks at the value systems that drive individuals’ beliefs and actions. The concept originated in the 1930s with the work of Dr Clare Graves, but he died before publishing his theory. With the popularity of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Graves’ theory slipped into obscurity until one of his students, Dr Don Beck, wrote “Spiral Dynamics Integral”.

Essentially Spiral Dynamics was developed in order to help us understand:

  • How people think about things (as opposed to “what” they think).
  • Why people make decisions in different ways.
  • Why people respond to different motivators.
  • Why and how values arise and spread.
  • The nature of change.

And interestingly enough, it applies not only to individuals, but also to organizations and societies. Taking a little time, you can apply it for the personal development of any individual from childhood on, analyze the structures and business models present in organizations through time and place where they are or to see patterns in the historical development of human kind.

I don’t think I need to tell you it is enough material to go on for years.

Misconceptions of Spiral Dynamics: You are less evolved than me, so bugger off!

In my path to discover this interesting theory, I came across consultants and practicioners that dislike it. Going a little deeper into what they dislike, I came to the following point of misunderstanding:

Spiral Dynamics talk about more and less evolved people, this creates a hierarchy and a feeling of superiority from some towards the others aka. I am yellow and you are only orange so bugger off unconcious being.

This is a misconception that easily happens when you go through the theory quickly without suspending and taking the time and space for it to really sink in.

Spiral Dynamics differs from other theories of human development and motivation in one key way: It doesn’t argue that we travel towards an ultimate destination and stay there, it says that we continue to spiral through a helix of developmental stages depending on the biological, social, environmental, and psychological forces at work. As such, Spiral Dynamics attempts to explain “everything” that influences human experience.

Spiral Dynamics argues that with enough personal mastery, we can live in one meme and communicate to others, collaborate with others and foster their development from the place they are at enhancing then common understanding and the efficiency to achieve a goal.

The theory also suggest that an individual does not “belong” in a color clasification, but they can have different colors in theferent spheres of their being. Eg. I can be orange in my external individual sphere, while being yellow in my inner individual etc etc.

At this point, a picture says more than a thousand words, enjoy.

Full size picture here.



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Filed under Business, Change, Innovation, Leadership, Personal Discovery, Society, Sustainability, Technology

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