The shortest Spiral Dynamics explanation on the web – 6 characteristics

In this article, I’ll share with you 6 important characteristics which will help you to better understand Spiral Dynamics. It’s not a practical nor a complete guide about Spiral Dynamics. In order to keep this article concise, it only contains a minimum amount of Spiral Dynamics theory.

1. The underlying drivers behind behaviour

Spiral Dynamics is a model which can be used to better understand situations. It does so by providing you insight into the deeper motivations of human behaviour, both on an individual and collective level. The collective level includes teams, organisations, communities, and the society. Insight in the drivers of certain behaviour will help you to better accept situations. Without the approach of getting down to the key drivers, these situations would be confusing otherwise. And may lead to destructive behaviour, ranging from infertile discussions all the way to deeply hurting others and yourself.

2. The continuous interaction with the environment

Spiral Dynamics shows how human systems interact with their environment. It reveals the continuous interaction between your changing self and the changing environment. That’s why Spiral Dynamics is a double spiral model. One spiral reflects your inner word (driven by your core values) and the other one the outer world (your life circumstances). The goal of Spiral Dynamics should be to align the inner world (of an individual or organisation) with the outer world. So that friction will be solved and the person or business will become functional in its environment again.

3. The emergent nature of development

Spiral Dynamics doesn’t have a holy grail. In the Pyramid of Maslow for example, self-actualisation is the highest need. But in Spiral Dynamics, the highest need is constantly evolving. By know, Spiral Dynamics contains 8 different well-known value systems. There are already new value systems emerging. About these value systems (like the very complex coral value system), very little is known yet. That’s because there is little collective experience to draw reliable conclusions about the newly formed value systems. Although it can be interesting to dive into the mysterious lesser-known value systems, it will be more functional to better understand and live the well-known value systems. That’s where the biggest impact can be made.

4. The ascendancy of complexity

As already mentioned, Spiral Dynamics consists of 8 value systems. A value system can be seen as a specific collection of values which can be dominant in someone or some business. To make a distinction between those value systems, each system has a different colour. Ascending in complexity, you first got beige (the least complex value system), then purple, red, blue, orange, green, yellow, and lastly turquoise (most complex value system). You may ask yourself, ‘What does the ascendancy of complexity mean?’ Once you’re developing a new value system within yourself, you’re basically developing more complex capacities to better grasp the complexity of your environment.

5. The include-principle

A newly developed complex capacity in a person or organisation would be unstable if it doesn’t include the previous less complex value systems. Those are laying down the foundation for the new complexity. A more complex system includes the healthy expressions (qualities) of the less complex systems, but it excludes the unhealthy expressions (pitfalls).

Because of the nature of inclusion, it will never be sustainable to just skip a value system altogether. That’s why it’s useful to understand the order of the value systems. It will help you to identify your personal dominant value system and shows you the next stage after transformation. In other words, it gives you a map on where you are now and what your next destination could be.

Let’s give you an example so that you’ll better understand the include-principle. The blue value system (which is more complex than the purple and red value system) includes the purple and red value system. Next to the include-principle, there’s also the transcend-principle. 

6. The transcend-principle

Let’s get back to the previous example. The blue value system transcends the previous red value system because it develops a new way of looking at the world. The red value system views the world as a jungle, whereas the survival of the fittest takes place. In the more complex blue value system, the world is being seen as a divinely controlled and orderly, purposeful place. Kind of a different world view, right? In a nutshell, the more complex the value system, the more value systems it includes and the bigger the transcendence is.

Some final words

Be aware that there is much more to Spiral Dynamics. This article is only meant to give you a tip of the iceberg. If you would like to further dive into the theory, I’d highly recommend you to check out The more you know about the theory, the better you’ll be able to apply it to others, yourself, and your business. Keep an eye on the SpiralPreneur blog so that you won’t miss articles which will help you to apply Spiral Dynamics for sustainable product and business development.

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