Spiral Dynamics Value Memes or Mindsets

It seems there are almost as many ways to look at values and mindsets as there are different values. Spiral Dynamics emerged from the research of Dr Clare Graves and was elaborated by Beck and Cowan in the book Spiral Dynamics, Mastering Values, Leadership and Change, whence came the „theory of colours‟: Beck and Cowan use warm colours to denote the expressive memes (a meme being a self-replicating pattern of information that propagates itself across cultures – an idea or value or pattern of behavior that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means; “memes are the cultural counterpart of genes”) and cool colours to denote the sacrifice of self memes: so those people expressing from the cool colours have an external focus and sacrifice themselves to „fit‟ or „serve‟ the world around them, where as those expressing from the warm colours are predisposed to an inner focus of expressing themselves and initiating action to bend the world/environment to their requirements. I am not going to get into a full blown introduction to Spiral Dynamics here – I simply want to utilise the different value memes within the theory to demonstrate some of the value systems that have been identified. Spiral Theory maintains that we have a center of gravity in a particular colour but that we have access to the different memes that came before as Graves proposed that, “the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding oscillating, spiralling process, marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behaviour systems to newer, higher order systems as man‟s existential problems change” It‟s important to remember that these are systems within us not types of people. Beige Value Meme – Express Self Now for Survival Starting with Beige where the goals are survival and the satisfaction of basic biological drives such as hunger and reproduction. It‟s a basic, automatic response to life with the goal of survival, and the major drive is to sharpen instincts and innate senses to that end. The transition from Beige to Purple comes with the recognition or awareness of being a distinct self and the awakening of perception of cause and effect along with the understanding that survival requires a group effort. Purple Tribalistic Value Meme: Sacrifice Self Now to the Wishes of the Chieftain, Spirits or Tribe: Purple is an animistic, tribal valuing system where the goals are safety and security and protection from harm and the drive is to seek harmony and safety in a mysterious and threatening world. The Purple value system prioritizes defending the clan against danger and being willing to sacrifice the self for the good of the group and/or the chieftain. Red Value Meme – Express Self Now Impulsively- „to hell‟ with Others: RED = EGOCENTRIC/EXPLOITATIVE The emergence of a dominant ego and the sense that the self is more powerful than the group signifies the entering of the Red Vmeme and the desire to confront one‟s adversaries and dangerous forces in order to control them. At the core of the Red valuing system is the sense and desire of “I control”: the goal is power or action and asserting oneself to dominate others (I always think of the terrible twos). Great examples would be what it takes to survive on the streets – gang warfare and feudal landlords. The drive here is to express self impulsively; to break free of all restraints and to gain enough power to instantly gratify needs, impulses and desires through a willingness to fight against any kind of domination or threat (real or imaginary). Exiting Red and entering the Blue value system begins with the recognition of mortality and a quest for meaning and purpose in life along with the ability to understand extended time frames or have a sense of „future‟ somewhere beyond now.

bring order and ensure the future. Most „isms‟ (Puritanism. enjoying the thrills of winning and the satisfaction of accomplishment. Islamic fundamentalism. Life from this value system is seen as a diverse. any fundamentalism) have at leas t a touch of blue believing theirs is the „one right way‟. The drive is to Analyse and Strategise in order to prosper. We saw this manifested in the Christian crusades against Islam and today in the call to Jihad against the West. The purpose is to maintain stability in the present and to guarantee future reward. Institutions such as the military and navy. sharing and a richer inner life. This value system is goal orientated. overwhelmed by the emotional and economic costs of caring and beginning to enter an „existentialist perspective‟ we can see a world in danger of collapse because the human species has misused both nature and itself. ORANGE = STRIVEDRIVE – MATERIALIST/ACHIEVER The individual achiever‟s goal in life is geared toward achieving politically and materialistically through the skilful use of power. paradoxical and pluralistic experience in which man must restore nature. continually strategising to do better. Think of the swinging sixties as a great example though this meme emerged much earlier with such phenomena as state pensions (early last century) in Western Europe. The goal in life is to conform to those superior forces which guide man and his destiny along prescribed paths. creating scarcities. The personalistic goal in life is to seek peace with the inner self and the inner selves of others in the belief that people need to be needed. popularity and prestige. and indeed Hitler‟s Nazis where there are (were) clear lines of command and control are also good examples of Blue meme manifestations. The goals in the Green Meme are joining together for mutual growth and awareness and harmony and love. The Leap from First to Second Tier GRAVES PERCEIVED A MOMENTOUS LEAP BETWEEN THE GREEN AND YELLOW SYSTEMS as. Culturally Green strives for an ideal society through egalitarianism and humanitarianism. then the Green vmeme starts to emerge with a focus on human bonding and a sensitivity to have/have not gaps. The drive is to find purpose. With the recognition that there is one best way among many options and the challenge to higher authority to produce tangible results along with the aspiration for a better life now (never mind waiting till I get to heaven for my reward) Orange Values emerge onto the scene: Orange Value Meme – Express Self Now Calculatedly-not to arouse the ire of others: Orange aims to „improve‟ upon the givens of life and has a strong orientation to achieve in the materialistic domain. The Orange Value system is driven to success and to search for the best way among many. Green Value Meme – Sacrifice Self Now to Obtain Now: HUMANBOND – RELATIVISTIC/SOCIOCENTRIC If one begins to realise that material wealth doesn‟t bring peace or happiness and discovers within a desire for community. Culturally the achievist goal is to conquer the world by learning it‟s secrets in order to provide a higher level of existence here and now.Blue Value Meme = TRUTHFORCE – ABSOLUTISTIC/SAINTLY Sacrifice Self Now to Obtain Later: The Blue Vmeme is Absolutistic. Yellow Value Meme: Express Self Now but not at the Expense of Others YELLOW = Systemic/integrative . The drive is to explore the inner self and equalize others with „fairer‟ distribution of resources. believing there is only one right way to be and think. believes in the free market and the economic focus of competition.

different motives can collide in the same manifestations of behaviour. We see here Spirituality and Physics coming together in such films as What the Bleep. Graves defined traits of 7th level thinking (Beck and Cowan assigned colours to the levels. Graves was fond of saying it wasn‟t our job to change people. So understanding Values matters a great deal. Unfortunately we cannot tell what someone‟s values are by their behaviour. Here. He also somewhat contentiously maintained that it was pointless putting criminals who were primarily motivated from the Red system in prison as punishment works well in the Blue meme but is no deterent for the person with a strong Red center of gravity. where as at second tier (yellow-turquoise) there is the understanding that different value systems are appropriate in different contexts or life-conditions. Planetary concerns rank above narrow group interests and we experience the synergy of all life-forms and forces.The goals in this value meme are independence and self worth combined with fitting a living system: knowing moves above the priority of feeling that occurred in the Green Meme. which Graves had designated as letter pairs originally):       Seeks to do better but is not ambitious.humanemergence. and value their way above all others. understanding that chaos and change are natural part of emergent systems and that integrative structures and forms exist within evolutionary flows. reason and necessity. where as in the Red value meme learning happens best when much activity is spent getting to the reward. measures self against self Responds to competency. how they best work. The drive in Yellow is to take a big picture view and integrate and align systems. Dr Don Beck in his contribution to the dismantling of apartheid and his later work with Elza Maalouf in Palestine and Israel maintained that the polarization that occurs in these high conflict situations was more due to differences in valuing systems than about creed or ethnic tribe and that those vmeme differences within the same culture were doing at least as much (if not more) to maintain the conflict as any conflicts between the cultures. and tells us what is important to them. one of the biggest contributions of Spiral Dynamics is understanding the „war of the memes‟ as in the „first tier‟ (beige through to green) all the memes tend to „see‟ the world through their own lens. but not persons or dogma Satisfaction from doing well but anathema to praise Fights for Self but is not defensive or suspicious Free from inner compulsiveness but can enjoy the best of life Finally we reach the HOLISITC/WHOLEVIEW of the Turquoise Value system which emerges with a search for guiding principles as whole-earth problems arise as technology connects everybody. “A person has the right to be who he is.org. To work out someone‟s values we have to get underneath the behaviour and understand the why: what motivates you to do what you do? Do you even know? (c) Rachel Castagne http://www. not to authority and rules Respects the power of knowledge and necessity. dammit” and suggested that organisations should be built or grown around the capacities of the people present rather than we try and get people to change to fit the role. For me. Graves also had a lot to say about learning systems as the different value systems learn in different ways: at the purple level learning takes place through classical conditioning (like Pavlovs dogs).uk/events/ . it informs how people learn.

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