Spiral dynamics is a model that describes the evolution of the consciousness of a person, organization, country, and world and helps us in conditions of instability to build a clear idea, give us a vision and an instrument with which we can extend, be able to predict the future. In this article we will look into the structure of personality, word, organization development as a part of spiral dynamic and locate our development.
Where did this Spiral dynamic model come from?
In 1943–1948, Doctor of Psychology Claire Graves consulted for a number of industrial and commercial organizations, worked as a consultant for the construction of the Ohio punishment and correctional system, consulted on the problems of clinical, child and adult psychology at the Schenectady Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, New York, and consulted the American Virginia Department of Social Services; New York State Department of Social Services and Mental Health.
Graves noted that different people react differently to the same situation. He thought about it and decided not to share any of his conclusions yet, he plunged into research for about 30 years.
After 30 years of analyzing the statistics, he noticed that people mostly make decisions based on internal beliefs and are usually in the paradigm of the victim (sacrifice themselves to achieve a common goal with other people) or in the egocentric paradigm, when they believe that their goal, idea and decision are paramount and they are right.
Graves developed the emergent cyclical theory of adult human development. He argued that a person is an open developing system, that the adaptive capabilities of his brain are unlimited, that in response to changing living conditions, people develop new value systems, changing their own level of psychological existence.
Human nature is not static or final. Human nature changes as a result of changes in the conditions of existence and it invents new systems. However, the old systems remain with us.
When a new system or level is activated, we change our psychology and rules of life in order to adapt to new conditions.
We live in a potentially open system of values, and we have an unlimited number of ways to live life. There is no final state towards which we should all strive.
A person, company, or society as a whole can respond positively only to those management principles, motivational appeals, educational methods, legal and ethical rules that are acceptable for the current level of human existence.
Graves’ followers Chris Cowan and Don Beck, using Graves’ research (after Graves passed away in 1986), simplified the theory, created a “spiral dynamics®” model, and in 1996 published a book by the same title.
Spiral Dynamics categorize our deepest consciousness and understanding why we make certain decisions and what motivates us. What drives us from inside, sometimes even unconsciously.
The Spiral Dynamics model consists of 8 colors, the colors are random and have no meaning. According to the legend, the researchers saved documents in folders of different colors; it was very convenient, so these colors remained.
Let’s simplify the model: Beige level (wave) — survival. Purple level (wave) — togetherness. Red level (wave) — freedom, strength, goal orientation. Blue level (wave) — order, rules, structures. Orange level (wave) — success, self-realization, achievements. Green level (wave) — harmony, spirituality, search for meaning. Yellow level (wave) — integration. Turquoise level (wave) — integrity, global thinking.
This model describes the evolution in consciousness, so when we transfer it to the real world, it does not jump from one color to another; it is a continuous spectrum when each layer/wave smoothly passes into another.
This is not a typology of people — “this person is a red person, and this one is blue”, this is a way of looking at the world.
This model is open and not final, it means that levels may be added in the future.
Levels are cumulative — as soon as you rise to the next level, you absorb everything that was in all previous levels. For example, if you have risen to the blue level, you can be motivated and deal from each previous level.
How can we use this model?
Let’s analyze the levels of existence:
Beige — 30–40 thousand years ago, when the main thing was to survive; in some countries this era still exists. Food, reproduction, safety. Purple — tribes, grouping. “We are”, “are you with us or against us”. Inside “we” we are safe, outside “we” we are in danger and in an unknown world. The world is inhabited by spirits. The emergence of mystical rituals. Red — The strongest man can replace the shaman. Rebellion, the ability to achieve things by force and war. Great conquests, conquest of new lands. Blue — Establishing rules, laws, justice. Building discipline, submission. Stability, order, bureaucracy. The emergence of religions. Orange — “Blue level is boring and I want to express myself!”. The opportunity to see the possibility of the world, to use and win. Success. My success. Success recognized by everyone! If you are successful, you are accepted by everyone (The American dream). Green — 60s, hippies, “We are not interested in material values, we are looking for the meaning of life”. Level when you search for harmony, search for unity. Public organizations, United Nations Organizations that fight for minority rights, political correctness, multiculturalism. Yellow — (started around 2000 year) Self-realization, achievement of dreams, flexible integration and connection with any previous level. Integration processes. Turquoise — a global village; everything together and everything for everyone. Coral — we still don’t know…
We see that in this spiral, warm colors turn into cold colors and again into warm ones.
Warm colors are concentrated on “I”, for me. Cold colors are concentrated on “We”, for us.
Let’s analyze the self-development of the individual with spiral dynamic model:
Beige — The Instinctive Self Driven to survive. The Instinctive Self is archaic, basic, automatic, and instinctive. It thinks and acts in a needs-driven, wish-fulfillment manner.
Purple — The Magical Self The Magical Self wants safety and security. It is tribalistic, magical, and mystical. Turns to gods and higher powers with rituals for protection.
Red — The Impulsive Self The Impulsive Self drives for power, glory, rage, and revenge. It is egocentric, exploitative, impulsive, and rebellious. The Impulsive Self believes it can take what it wants by aligning with power.
Blue — The Rule/Role Self The Rule/Role Self seeks the ultimate peace, locked in the battle of good and evil. It is absolutistic, obedient, purposeful, and authoritarian. By following the rules and exceeding its given role, it learns the fundamental truth. Most religions and religious values are rooted in this stage.
Orange — The Achiever Self The Achiever Self desires autonomy, achievement, and self-interest. It is materialistic, strategic, ambitious, and individualistic. The purpose of the game is to compete and win: material pleasure, acquisition, and the development of civilization.
Green — The Sensitive Self The Sensitive Self lives through connection, community, egalitarianism, and consensus. It is relativistic, personalistic, pluralistic, and sensitive. Green appreciates diverse views and focuses on the needs of the many.
Yellow — The Integral Self The Integral self looks to become whole and synthesize all the levels that came before it by awakening as many lines of intelligence that it can and integrating them into a cohesive whole. The Integral self is systemic, ecological, flexible, and conceptual. By learning and adapting it can incorporate the levels that have been before it.
Turquoise — The Holistic Self Compassion and harmony guide turquoise. It seeks peace in an incomprehensible world by developing more profound receptivity of multi-dimensional perspectives without privileging any of them. The main theme of the Holistic Self is to “experience the wholeness of existence through mind and spirit.”
Warm colors turn into cold colors and again into warm ones. Warm colors — masculine energy seeks autonomy and independence.
Cold colors — feminine energy drives toward communion and togetherness.
Organization development analysis:
The key to effective leadership is first to understand where your team members are coming from and then help them to grow to higher levels of development.
The main feature of red culture is the authoritarian decision-making by the leader (two leaders are rare and live in a red management culture for a short time). Another important feature is the mismatch between the real roles and responsibilities of employees. People are more important than rules — this is the principle of red culture. A Red Organization is a clan dominated by a strong-willed and authoritative leader, strict but fair (or at least trying to look like that).
The main hallmark of blue culture is the primacy of rules. Routines, regulations, procedures, documented processes, budgets, reports, tiered staffing and, of course, mission. If all these numerous documents are not an empty phrase (the remainder of the life of a wandering consultant), but a real guide to action that defines a corporate code of conduct, then you are dealing with a blue culture. Rules are more important than people — this is its principle. Structurally, a blue organization is a deeply echeloned hierarchy.
Signs of an orange culture are a complex and fluid organizational structure with relatively few levels of hierarchy (flat), a high degree of delegation and decentralization, autonomous decision-making in cross-functional teams, and high costs for personnel development and training. Business is the most important — this is the principle of orange culture.
You can find green organizations in civil society, research and development. Green culture is easy to recognize by the absence of any kind of structure and “bosses”, collective decision-making (most often based on consensus).
We still don’t see yellow organizations.
Organizations can be a place in which all employees achieve their potential, whilst benefiting others in a meaningful way.
What Do You Think? Are you aware at what level of self-development you are? Are you realizing what organization you are working in or leading?
How could you change it? By awakening and discovering what stage you and your organization are at. Learn how you limit your perspectives.
What do you ignore and don’t want or are scared to look deeper? Create your personal or your organization development plan. Develop your self-awareness, empathy and active listening skills.
Share your thoughts on what you’ve discovered or seen recently.