Many of the chapters in this book refer to the importance of value systems. Values are those things we move towards or away from: they either attract us or repel us. When we observe someone else’s behaviour, no matter how odd it appears, that behaviour is driven by their values. Values cause people to do what they do: all our decisions are based on them, usually outside of conscious awareness.
Recognising and understanding the other person’s values (without attempting to modify them) helps us cope with even the most challenging situations. The Graves values system is the most accurate and useful we have worked with. It was derived originally from experimental observation, and in our experience is an accurate model for the variety and evolution of values in the people we meet and work with.
Its predecessor is called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which has been part of the furniture of management training ever since it was introduced.
In 1943 Maslow first proposed that man’s values, the things that were most important to him or her, evolved over time in a fairly predictable way.
- Physiological needs: This level of needs deals with the basic necessities of human survival like food, clothing and shelter. If a person does not fulfil these needs he or she will cease to function.
- Safety: Once the first level needs are met, a person feels the need to have a life of security where safety in all aspects of life is ensured.
- Love & Belonging: The innate need to feel as if one belongs in a chosen social group and in various other relationships. Absence may generate negative effects like depression & loneliness.
- Self-esteem: Deals with the need to feel good about oneself and getting recognition from others. A lack of these needs will result in an inferiority complex and helplessness.
- Self-actualization: Becoming the best one can be. The need to maximize ones potential.
When presented with this model for the first time, most people readily accept its validity: it does seem to fit with our own experience of the life stages we go through. So Maslow’s intuitions about our values (they were not based on any formal evidence) have entered the currency of management.
In the 1950’s, Clare Graves conducted a study of over 1,000 individuals, over 7 years, using a battery of psychological tests in order to construct a knowledge-based theory of the development of human nature and maturity. His major conclusion was that people develop coping systems over time in response to the requirements of the environment that they find themselves in. Although there are parallels with Maslow’s hierarchy, there are also some major differences:
- Evolution is a lot more fluid and less-compartmentalised than Maslow suggests. In particular, there is no fixed level of self-actualisation that applies to everyone.
- Rather than a linear journey from survival to self-actualisation people repeatedly cycle though express self and deny self phases (which overlay the towards/away-from filters discussed elsewhere).
- Each level of maturity encapsulates all the elements of previous levels, rather than appearing to leave them behind.
Graves died in 1986 without publishing his life’s work, so the theory is contained in his collected papers and subsequent books that have coined the term ‘Spiral Dynamics’ for his work.
Values are based on a set of psychological mechanisms that evolve over time to enable a person to cope with whatever is happening around them.
- Rather than having a fixed linear structure, the Graves model is one where each new level emerges over time, each level encapsulating and including the previous one.
- As a person shifts from one level to the next, the movement is in two dimensions – between individual orientation on one side and community orientation on the other, as well as outwards. Different people will tend to travel along slightly different routes – some more to the left and some more to the right.
This section is an introductory summary of the emerging levels of the model: later on we will explore their meaning in greater depth. Each level is assigned its own colour and number in the model.
Level 1(Beige): Survival
Individual orientation. Reactive; Animalistic.
The world is based on the biological imperatives of survival: basic needs for food, shelter, sex and comfort. Relevant to new-born babies but few other people apart from extreme situations like advanced Alzheimer’s or a life-threatening crisis.
Hardly ever seen in the modern world.*
Level 2 (Purple): Tribal
Community orientation. Loyalty; Inclusion; Allegiance.
Our tribe and its chief (and ancestors) are the most important things in life. The world is mysterious, containing good and evil spirits – sacred symbols and totems provide protection from harm.
This is seen in its purest form in some tribal cultures. In western society it is seen in more diluted form in clubs (e.g. football supporters), strong family units, cults, and some organisations which are dominated by loyalty to a dominant leader.
About 10% of the world’s population and 1% of its power.*
Level 3 (Red): Power
Individual orientation. Immediate gratification; Control; Domination.
Egocentric and exploitative – do what I want and to hell with everyone else. The world is all about strength, aggression, anger, selfishness. Success is about winning respect and avoiding shame.
Seen in the ‘terrible twos’ of childhood, rebellious youth breaking from the tribe and tradition. Macho behaviour often seen inside prisons. Red business leaders happy to use punishment, force and bribery to get what they want.
About 20% of the world’s population and 5% of its power.*
Level 4 (Blue): Justice
Community orientation. Authority; Order; Duty; Stability; “Truth”.
The world is rational, well-defined into distinct categories and well-ordered. Strong sense of what is right and what is wrong, and requirement to obey authority. Success is about maintaining stability and punishing anyone who rocks the boat. Rewards will come from working hard and keeping ones nose clean.
Seen in absolutist organisations like strict religions (the monotheistic religions begin to emerge at this level), the military – and well-run railway systems.
About 40% of the world’s population and 30% of its power.*
Level 5 (Orange): Achievement
Individual orientation. Success; Materialistic; Winning; Status.
The world is a playground of personal freedom, abundance, achievement, and enjoyment of material rewards. Skilful and ethical use of power in pursuit of popularity, prestige and accomplishment. Creation of wealth through innovation, science and technology.
Right at the heart of personal and business drive for success: the cornerstone of entrepreneurial capitalism. Historically the core culture driving the “American Dream”. The unhealthy aspects can be seen as based on greed and selfishness.
About 30% of the world’s population and 50% of its power.*
Level 6 (Green): People
Community orientation. Equality; Fairness; Involvement; Inner peace.
The material world contains a spiritual void that requires the rediscovery of basic human needs like love, inner peace and caring for others. Everyone has a right to be nurtured and respected: people are more important than things.
Seen in organisations that tackle prejudice and inequality and where the emphasis is on effective team working. The unhealthy aspects will be seen when the desire for collaboration and reconciliation risks slow decision-making and lack of strong responses to tough issues.
About 10% of the world’s population and 15% of its power.*
Level 7 (Yellow): Systemic
Individual orientation. Knowledge; Ambiguity; Complexity; Non-judgemental.
The world (including humanity itself) is an exciting, diverse and paradoxical curiosity that needs to be studied, analysed and understood. The world’s challenges respond to learning, competence, reason, science and design. Less concerned about ego: willing to take a contrarian position if it fits the analysis.
Seen in scientific research, the emergence of behavioural economics and the original development of NLP.
About 1% of the world’s population and 5% of its power.*
Level 8 (Turquoise): Global
Community orientation. Meta solutions; Universe as single entity; Global co-operation.
The world is in danger of geo-political collapse because of short-termism and short-sighted approaches. In order to eliminate war, poverty, hunger disease and political oppression we need meta-solutions at a higher logical level than current systems. It would require leaders to move beyond local, individual boundaries. Introducing a sense of (non-religious) spirituality into global issues.
Seen in the ‘Gaia’ philosophy. Risks alienation with the drivers of the majority of the population at levels 4/Blue/Justice and 5/Orange/Achievement.
About 0.1% of the world’s population and 1% of its power.*
*Estimates are from ‘Spiral Dynamics’ by Beck and Cowan. The power numbers add up to more than 100% because of transition between levels.