The 6 ‘Spiral Dynamics’-secrets behind spiral-shaped development lead by the spiralpreneur

Did I just read the word spiral three times in the title alone? I bet you did! But for a good reason. In this article we’ll dive into why it’s so valuable to view sustainable development like a spiral. Therefore we first want to look at the definition of a spiralpreneur who is aware of the 6 secrets behind spiral-shaped development.

For this it helps to split up the word into halves. Spiral reflects the movement of sustainable change. I’ll share in a minute why development is spiral-shaped. Preneur may be derived from the Latin word prendes, which means understanding. The definition of a spiralpreneur is an entrepreneur who understands why sustainable development is spiral-shaped and acts upon this knowing. Now let’s zoom in on why it’s helpful to view sustainable development as a spiral-shaped process instead of a lineair movement. But first, let’s shortly introduce the Spiral Dynamics model.

Integration of Spiral Dynamics

I highly value the theories of Clare W. Graves, Christopher Cowan and Don Beck for many reasons. They are the creators of the Spiral Dynamics model, which is a model that shows how we interact with life conditions. Using this model to better understand the complexity of life can be extremely insightful. The “secrets” which I’m sharing in this article are inspired by the theory from Clare W. Graves mainly.

Secret 1. The leaping spiral

The opposite of a spiralpreneur is a linearpreneur. A linearpreneur thinks change follows a predictable path. That you’re working step by step to a certain outcome. A spiralpreneur on the opposite believes change is often something unpredictable. All you can do is trying to facilitate it. Because all of the sudden, a big leap can be made which you never took into account. Therefore you can better put your attention in guiding change instead of planning the change from A to Z. This way of planning leaves little room for uncertainties. That’s a pity. Because transformative change is goes along with uncertainty. And transformative change is the kind of change which will have the biggest impact on your development.

Secret 2. The including spiral

The spiral shows it’s not sustainable to skip a part of the spiral. This would split up the spiral in a part which has been developed and an imaginary part which haven’t been developed yet. This imaginary part can be destructive because it has no solid foundation. It’s important to connect your development to your foundation. This will make your growth sustainable. That’s why you never want to rush through your development. Even though you can make big leaps from time to time (secret 1), you still need to go through the process of change. Going through the process will prevent fallbacks.

Secret 3. The oscillating spiral

A spiral also moves back and forth if you’re looking at it from above. Personal change will affect your personal values. Transformative change can even replace your key values. Although your values may look static, they are variable in nature. But less of course if you’d compare it with your behavior or skills. The theory of Bateson (better known as the logical levels) shows this. The lower in the pyramid, the more dynamic it is. Changing for example your environment takes of course less effort than changing deep-seated beliefs about yourself.

Logical Levels Bateson

The spiral is oscillating between the focus on yourself and on the group. Your key values can therefore be subdivided. This subdivision is self-expression and group-cohesion. If for example most of your key values are about self-expression, you could say that the need for self-expression is dominant. Think about key values like passion, autonomy, ambition, excellence, and self-reflection. But your dominant need would be group-cohesion if your key values are for example harmony, family, connection, and patriotism.

Side-note to the oscillating nature

Of course, there is a big grey area between the need to self-expression and group-cohesion. But most of the time, one of those overarching needs are dominant. The primary need for either self-expression or group-cohesion can change many times during a lifetime. Once you develop yourself, you’ll eventually move the center of gravity towards the opposite need. Which is self-expression if the need for group-cohesion was dominant before. And if you’re coming from a stronger need of group cohesion instead, you’ll move back to a stronger attraction for self-expression. Although this dynamic may seem that it swings back and forth, there is more to it, which we’ll discuss in the next secret.

Secret 4. The transcending spiral

A shift of focus to either self-expression or group-cohesion usually reflects a personal transformation you made. It makes you more sophisticated. Meaning you’ll develop more complex capacities. You’ll also develop a stronger compassion as a by-product. The development of complexity and compassion moves up like a spiral.

Viewing the spiral from above may conceive you in thinking like you’re just moving back and forth between self-expression and group-cohesion. But by taking into account the dimension of the development of complex capacities, it’s in fact an upward moving spiral with a dynamic nature (meaning regression is also possible).

Secret 5. The open-ended spiral

Many models about the needs of humans assume there is a holy grail. For example the need for self-actualization as the highest possible need according to the pyramid of Maslow.

Maslow’s hierarchy of need

Spiral Dynamics is a model which shows development is a never-ending quest. New value systems keep being added to the model. This makes the model a living model instead of just another modeled snapshot of somebodies static view on life. The spiral continues to grow without any boundaries. Development itself has no boundaries, only humans themselves. This could be hard to get your head around. In that case you could ask yourself the question: why should something variable in nature suddenly not change anymore? Even though you may not be able to conceive a new worldview yet, doesn’t mean a new worldview cannot emerge within next generations.

Secret 6. The double spiral

Where is the double spiral coming from? Well, you’re right. I didn’t mention this earlier in this article. But when thinking about development, it will be helpful to add a spiral within the existing spiral. Why would that be helpful?

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, Spiral Dynamics is the main inspiration for this article. I also shared that Spiral Dynamics is about getting insight in the interaction between humans (or other human systems like organizations, societies, etc.) and its life conditions. This last sentence contains the answer for why we should add an extra spiral to development. One spiral represents the human system and the other spiral represents the life conditions. The double helix reminds you of the constant interactivity between the inner world and outer world.

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