spiral dynamics

Spiral Dynamics is the title of a book published by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan in 1996. In it, the authors present a psychological model explaining the behaviour of individuals in organizations. They based their work on the research of two American psychologists, Maslow and Graves.

Their model identify different stages of development through values. This hierarchy of values structure consists of eight levels, that individuals express in their psychological life.

The emergence of these systems in societies is based on a fundamental principle of the Spiral Dynamics concept: that of the evolutionary dynamism of human cultures and mentalities.

The living conditions of an era influence ways of thinking - whether we consider a particular social structure or an individual. And these ways of thinking influence their environment in return, until these new living conditions, again, transform cultures.

The psychological mechanisms of individuals and societies are therefore constantly evolving, the same way an individual or a society can evolve.

The value systems in Spiral Dynamics are colour coded. Each value system has its own characteristics.

Beige: Archaic-Instinctive. The level of basic survival. It is characterized by an infinitely fragmented structure, without real communities.

Purple - Magical-Animistic. Thinking is animistic; magical spirits, gods, curses, and spells determine events. It is the age of ethnic tribes. The purpose of this system is security.

Red - The basis of feudal empires—power and glory. This is an era marked by an absolute cult of power and domination.

Blue, on the other hand, is a colder and more neutral system. This is the level of the conventional society, which establishes what is right and wrong.  It is the system of pyramidal structures, stability, authority and totalitarianism.

Orange: In this level, individualism prevails. It is marked by the quest for personal achievement, exalting ambition and independence. It is the era of materialism and capitalism. 

Green marks an evolution towards a more egalitarian system, where the notion of equity takes on a new dimension. Green worldview individuals are those who have met their goals. They therefore start to think in terms that are ‘we-centric’ again.

Yellow, and finally turquoise, are the two most advanced models. It is about system thinking, realising that everything is interconnected. People work together in a system where they make their own decisions. It is at these highest levels where the world is seen as an interactive, interconnected system.

Finally, the construction of the Spiral Dynamics model reveals another essential principle. Each of these systems, alternatively, puts forward inverse values: of individual affirmation and independence or, on the contrary, community, absorbing individualities within larger groups.

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