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Intro To Spiral Dynamics PDF Print E-mail

I’ve been picking up pieces Spiral Dyanamic for about five years now. These days I integrate it into my coaching and work with business owners and professional coaches.  It is a powerfully model for understanding how and why cultures do what they do.  And if you want to make a change, what must you be aware of.  This can be critical in coaching change.

One of the best teachings I had on the subject came at the ICF Coaching Conference in 2004. I take several examples from that teaching in sketching out SD for you here today.  The program so clearly laid out the model and how it helps to explain the great rifts in our society and the world; Where people are at now & what they are evolving into.

The Spiral Dynamics model is a model of cultural evolution. The models have come from a scientific compilation of sociological and psychological theories and models of human behavior, cognitive development and even good ol’ Maslow. It is a progression of modes of culture. One of its fundamental principles lies in the fact that the problems of an era/cultural stage can not be solved using the same state of mind that created it. So when a culture reaches a saturation point and has to evolve to solve a problem that is when it moves forward collectively. Also one must progress through each of the levels and not skip any of them, for in order to be healthy you need to have completed the lower levels and the strength of the highest level comes from the solidity of the level below it. Anyway.

Basics of Spiral Dynamics - Levels are described by color
Tier 1

Beige - hunter gatherer, survival
Purple - clans, age of story, myths, nomads, family
Red - honor, warriors, gladiators, warlords, fiefdoms, chivalry, feudalism
Blue - collective, common ideal, religion, democracy
Orange - enlightenment, industry, harnessing power, hierarchy, corporations, militia (400? years ago)
Green - “We’re All Together Now”, collective love, sharing, community, me generation, yuppy (150yrs ago)

Tier 2 This is an integrated tier. It repeats tier 1 but in an integrated manner

Yellow - integration, systems, flow, gaia (50-60yrs ago)
Turquoise - interconnectivity, full integration of mind-body-spirit, wholistic (in the last 20-30yrs)
Coral - unknown but starting to emerge (5-10yrs ago)

Note: One is a not just one color or cultural level. You are the culmination of all the levels up to that level. Then there are maturity and balance issues in each level. You might notice the similarities of the first tier with child development.


Some Interesting findings and thoughts with respect to Spiral Dynamics.

1) Most of the world is either in BLUE or RED. NAmerica, Europe, Japan run the spectrum up into YELLOW, TURQUOISE and CORAL. However most of the world is RED & BLUE. What does this mean?

2) Take S Africa - Don Beck, one of the founders of Spiral Dynamics was called into S. Africa at the end of appartide to help them through the transition. The world wanted SA to become ORANGE right away. However in SA they were dealing with a predominantly PURPLE culture which had been oppressed. The PURPLE culture remember is one of stories. They need to be heard, they need to be told. Thus was born the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which allowed this PURPLE culture to heal and then move into RED, BLUE & ORANGE.

3) Take Iraq. Here we have a RED culture - a feudal land with a RED dictator. We come in with a plan to “evolve” their country into a BLUE culture “democracy”, a belief in something greater than oneself. The “Allies” have taken an ORANGE approach to doing so - corporatization, military strength, hierarchy, command and control which has resulted in a regression of the culture to PURPLE (tribal, clans with mythology and story ~ what kind of stories do you think they are creating about “America” and “democracy”). The people against the war are predominantly GREEN culture where everyone should get along and we just need to sit down and talk, we shouldn’t get involved. As a result we have a ORANGE culture trying to remove a RED culture (2 level difference) without an appreciation for the fact that they need to bridge the gap between these two culture memes, now three given the regression to PURPLE. And the GREENs don’t see what all the fuss is about - because aren’t we all the same?

4) The Conference occurred days after the 2004 US Presidential Election.  The presenters made some interesting observations. 51% v 49% largest voter turnout in history in the US. If you are a Bush Supporter take a look around and look at the model. If you were a Kerry Supporter, take a look around and at the model. What do you think is going on in the USA? OK, so if you want to persuade, evolve, converse, with those who have a worldview (culture) different from your own what do you have to do? Remember they do not perceive the world the same way as you do.

We are going to be hearing more and more about Spiral Dynamics in the coming years.

What level are the people who put together What the Bleep? movie? Notice the approach to the movie. It works on several levels of the spiral to share elements of what is going on.

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