Spiral Dynamics Book Summary, by Don Edward Beck, Christopher C. Cowan

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1-Page Summary of Spiral Dynamics

A Universal Framework

Spiral dynamics is a model of how human beings and cultures develop through eight stages. Each stage has its own values, beliefs, and worldviews that are different from the other stages. People move up or down on the spiral based on their life conditions, experiences, and challenges. When people face problems they can’t solve in their current systems (or level), they seek alternatives until they reach a higher stage of development.

The spiral model is a good way to visualize how progress occurs. You need to make gradual progress, as you move through the stages of development and not skip any steps. In fact, this evolution should happen over time; your group will leave behind old ideas that are still dominant and gradually shift upward toward new ideas that appear on the horizon. If there’s no movement at all, then something is wrong with either the organization or the people in it.

The spiral can be a very useful tool for understanding and aiding others. It helps you to tailor your change initiatives to the person or group’s current level. You should recognize that several layers of values influence each person or group, but it does not define types of people.

You can’t just force solutions on a country that doesn’t need them. For example, if a nation is trying to rebuild after years of authoritarian rule, you have to let it gradually liberalize and become more free before introducing new ideas.

This approach may sound simple, but it’s hard to recognize someone’s current level and resist the temptation to push them further. Properly implemented, this technique has great power for change management. It can be used in many different situations and is nearly universal.

The Colors: Levels and Values

There are six levels of maturity that humans can attain. They’re color-coded and based on memes, which are ideas or symbols that spread throughout a culture.

  1. “Beige” – People at this level act on instinct, focusing day-to-day on survival. They form groups to hunt and gather food or for protection. Babies move out of the beige state quickly because they’re curious about their environment, and so do most primitive cultures. Older people might regress to the beige state when they get Alzheimer’s disease because they can’t remember things as well anymore. Work with these groups by appealing to their senses, such as taste or touch (for example). Only.1% of the global population is in this category; that means only.01% of world political power belongs to them.

  2. People who are driven by a desire to influence their surroundings and improve conditions form more complex associations than families or clans. They move beyond those groups into tribes, which have rituals, mysticism and ancestor worshiping. These people respect the group’s customs, signs and symbols. For example, if you’re working with a sports team (which has members at higher levels), respecting their superstitions might be beneficial for your business relationship with them.

  3. In the beginning, there was purple. People believed in superstitions and rituals to protect them from harm and bring good fortune. When people realized that they didn’t need these things anymore, they became reds. Red cultures are dog-eat-dog environments where power is everything and people think of only themselves. They will do anything to get what they want, even if it means hurting others or taking advantage of them. In a red culture, you should respect your superiors because without them we would be lost since there’s no structure or order in society at all. You’ll have trouble getting along with reds unless you show them why something is important for their own benefit; tell them how it can help solve their problems

Spiral Dynamics Book Summary, by Don Edward Beck, Christopher C. Cowan

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