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What is Spiral Dynamics?

<© Copyright 1990. The National Values Center, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.>

"Spiral Dynamics is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework for understanding human development and human systems. It unveils the hidden codes and dynamic, spiral forces that shape human nature, create global diversities, and drive social change.

Developed by Don E. Beck and Christopher C. Cowan of the National Values Center, Inc. in Texas, from two converging streams of thought -- primarily, Clare W. Graves' Value Systems theory of 'levels of human existence' and, secondarily, biologist Richard Dawkins' concept of 'memes' -- Spiral Dynamics explores the new science of memetics, the study of ideas and their transmission.

Spiral Dynamics shifts the focus from the WHAT of human behavior, the surface issues, ideas, beliefs, actions, and artifacts -- the memes -- that fragment or unify human groups, to the WHY and HOW of such behavior -- the vMEMES -- the core Value Systems awakened by changing life conditions and manifested as a dynamic spiral of levels of human existence. Thus, 'Spiral Dynamics.'"

-- Caleb Rosado



Designing the Next Stage in Human Systems Transformation

Fresh Start === Bold Strategy === Bright Hopes

Spiral Dynamics is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework for understanding human development and human systems. It unveils the hidden codes and dynamic, spiral forces that shape human nature, create global diversities, and drive social change. This practical, theoretical approach emerges from two converging streams of thought–the Levels of Existence Theory focused on value systems, derived from the seminal research of the late Clare W. Graves of Union College in NY', and the new science of Memetics which explores the study of ideas and their transmission. Spiral Dynamics takes a whole new approach to the alignment of human systems. This new approach is called "MeshWORKS." Spiral Dynamics is the all-encompassing theoretical framework, while MeshWORKS is the approach taken for effecting change within this larger conceptual model.

MeshWORKS is a comprehensive, big picture framework and process for seeing everything before designing specific actions to deal with anything. It displays all the critical elements, entities, interests, and motives represented in specific population groupings and systems, but then demonstrates how to weave them all together to create healthy systems, communities, and societies. MeshWORKS rejects all or nothing "car-wash" solutions based on any political, social, economic, religious, or psychological model, yet integrates, aligns, and blends all of those models to fit what is appropriate for a given people and situation at a specific time and place. It does this by awakening the "natural flows"–the next level of development–of people, organizations, and environments. The notion of "mesh" comes from the Zulu term "ukweluka" which means "to weave or plait the straw so it can hold the milk." MeshWORKS concepts, principles, and procedures can be applied at macro or societal levels or in a micro version in any community or organization.

Rather than putting different perspectives or worldviews into conflict, MeshWORKS provides a mechanism for aligning them along an evolving scaffolding. Rather than promoting ethnic, racial, class, or socioeconomic levels that stress differences, MeshWORKS offers a way of dealing with the deeper value systems that create and sustain these conflicting identities, artificial boundaries, and developmental gaps in human systems. MeshWORKS is a broad synthesis as opposed to simply being another theory, package, or set of solutions. It is the "cover" to the jigsaw puzzle of human systems change. It explains why what is next is next; reveals and tracks the deepest trend makers that produce surface level social patterns and behaviors; and glues interests together instead of pitting them against each other. MeshWORKS contains the formulas, ratios, strategies, and daily operating systems all calculated to deal with the complex realities in the environment. In this sense Spiral Dynamics, with its MeshWORKS approach, differs from any other psycho-social-political framework, motivational appeal, or organizational method in that it legitimizes all of the historic gurus, theories, and programs, and "meshes" them into appropriate settings. It is much more than Thomas Kuhn’s, Stephen Covey’s and Joel Barker’s paradigms and paradigm-shifts. It is based on the bio-psycho-social-spiritual human development Theory of Levels of Existence of the late Dr. Clare W. Graves, emeritus psychologist at Union College in New York.

Spiral Dynamics is the first, major, systemic, conceptual system and complex way of thinking about everything that addresses the "big picture" and holistic perspectives currently in vogue in cutting-edge executive leadership thinking. It provides a mechanism and methodology for looking at macro and micro issues simultaneously. It lays down a specific, practical, and usable change technology that aligns and connects all of the variables, stakeholders, cultures, sub-cultures, and other interests within a uniquely designed framework. This is one that integrates technology, business systems, and human dynamics within a seamless, interactive process.

Spiral Dynamics’ deep Value Systems thinking approach is the first conceptual framework that develops a comprehensive scaffolding on which to hang all other perspectives, theories, gurus, models, concepts, packages, and "solutions." We do not reject any other technology, approach, training program, change initiative, or form of strategic planning, such as Maslow’s, Covey’s, Drucker’s, Senge’s, Peters’, or Csikszentmihalyi’s. Virtually all have their place where they fit and are of use. What is different about Spiral Dynamics is that through MeshWORKS we have developed the capacity to fit all of these programs to the specific needs, developmental levels, and modes of thinking of various groups, functions, audiences, and cultures.

Implicit within this technology is a newly discovered human intelligence–a fresh, carefully researched and field-tested thinking and problem resolution process that gets to the core of issues more quickly than any other approach. Most attempts at cultural change produce minimal results because they fail to deal with the hidden psychosocial "DNA" codes–memes. Coined by English biologist Richard Dawkins, memes (rhymes with "themes") are cultural units of information, "viruses of the mind," that self-replicate by means of thought-contagion, using the human mind as a host, and attach themselves to individuals, organizations, entire cultures, and societies. They culturally impact the body politic, just like genes, the code carriers of DNA, biologically impact the body physical. Memes lie at the "heart & soul" of the way an organization, business, government, school, church, political party, community or state does business. This is also the case with attempts to merge, mesh, or totally integrate what have been disparate organizations or entities into new, competitive, and skillfully aligned relationship.

The applications of Spiral Dynamics are many and varied and can be best described in two types of applications. Firstly, its use as a consulting framework to assist with the holistic strategic development and change dynamics of organizations and societies. Secondly, its use in a training environment to provide people with the understanding and skills to help them become better leaders, managers, teachers, workers, or followers. For example, in dealing with racism and diversity training, Spiral Dynamics moves beyond racial, ethnic, and gender stereotypes, which are the fossils of human activity in the past and which will have no role to play in the new millennium, to explore deep-level Value Systems that can bridge racial/ethnic/gender divides. Only human values count, as these are expressed at the various levels of human development. These are core ways of thinking, believing, and seeing the world and acting toward the same, that lie beneath issues of race, class, gender, and privilege. In order for human systems–institutions and societies–to be successful in the Third Millennium, they must move from Civil War (freedom) and Civil Rights (equality), to Civil Transformation (mutuality). MeshWORKS facilitates this process through an awakening of the next level of human development.

Finally, Spiral Dynamics explains how Value Systems or Memes form in people, organizations, and societies-at-large. It reflects decades of research in developmental thinking, change technologies, and chaos/order sequences. It is also the approach that ROSADO CONSULTING for Change in Human Systems takes in all its consulting and work with organizations. Welcome to the future!

–Source: Don Beck with ideas from Caleb Rosado


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Rosado Consulting
for Change in Human Systems
Email calebrosado@earthlink.net
Website www.rosado.net
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for Change in Human Systems.