Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

Designing Our Future

Jon Twigge

I am thrilled to be able to publish another contribution by Jon Twigge, an ardent Spiral Dynamics Integral enthusiast and supporter of the Centre of Human Emergence – UK. Jon wrote the piece for his own blog and has graciously consented to it being published here as well.

If there is one thing that is certain, it is change.  And that is not about to change.  In fact, the rate of change in the world is increasing all of the time.  The rate of creation of new technology is increasing all of the time and this is leading to an ever more complex interrelated global society.

So how can we design our future when we don’t know what is coming?  Well, we can prepare for change.  What kind of change should we prepare for?  We don’t know, except that it will be big!

It does not sound like there is actually a lot of planning that we can do.  But, there is something very important that we can do. And that is being prepared for change when, inevitably, it does come.

We have recently seen large scale failures in the global banking system and we are threatened by global warming and terrorism to name just two current issues.  There are many other large scale issues facing us right now and these will change and their number will surely increase.

There is one vital ingredient for being prepared for change.  That ingredient is having enough people who cope well with change and complexity.  Of course we can’t just invent people who are good at coping with change out of thin air.  And that, I propose, is where we must design our future.

Strange times
We are currently living in very strange times.  For many people in the West, we have an incredible standard of living. All of those global problems are mounting up around us and yet most people continue with their daily lives in blissful ignorance of the number and magnitude of the issues that are facing us here and now early in the 21st Century. Hopefully, most people may never need to see the full reality of just how complex and dangerous we have made our world; but therein lies a very real danger.

The difference between our global reality and the common man’s view of life is immense. Despite the current times of instant communication through the internet.  It is strange indeed.

Enough people
Going forward, if we do not have enough people who understand the issues and act to overcome them to take us forward into our next years of comfortable civilisation then the concerns of ordinary people, focused on the issues of their daily lives, will drive our society down a dead end.  A dead end from which there may well be no easy return. A dead end that may see our great civilisation stagger or even fall.

Perhaps that sounds too dramatic…and maybe it is; but I feel a real sense that, to get through the next few decades intact, humanity must start to take more conscious control of the direction in which we are heading.  And, as I said earlier, I believe that the best way to do that is to have enough people who can cope with large scale changes.

Preparing the ground
So how exactly do we make sure we have enough people who can cope with change?

The question takes us straight back to Spiral Dynamics (SD) or, if you prefer, the human nature that SD models.  Clare Graves spoke of a great leap for mankind.  Those individuals who take that leap open up to the ever changing nature of human values.  By definition, to take this step you must be accepting of the complex nature of what it is to be human and to evolve.

It will not be an overnight process but; if we are to succeed as a race into the distant future, we must prepare the ground by building a society that allows as many people as possible to make this great leap that Clare Graves spoke of.

It turns out, according to Graves’ theory, that people grow through the Spiral of changing values when they are faced with increasing complexity.  New value systems emerge in individuals to help them cope with the problems that arise when an old value system starts to fail them.  In concrete terms, their behaviour, based on an old set of values, fails to maintain their life in society to their satisfaction.  The name used in Spiral Dynamics for this state is dissonance – the state where people start to become uncomfortable with themselves and/or their lives.

So, to grow through the stages of life that individuals need to achieve their full potential and ultimately take that great leap, people must grow through a series of steps, with dissonance at each step.

Dissonance failure
One of the great values of modern civilisation is our equality and rights. We strive to make sure that everyone has somewhere to live, something to eat, is treated fairly and has equal opportunity.  Unfortunately this is having a rather unpleasant side effect.  When taken to it extremes it removes the natural dissonance that our societies have and creates a rather bland space that lacks complexity, at least in many people’s everyday lives, especially those of children going through an ever more safe and sterile early life.

Where have the rites of passage gone?

Of course, we have not taken all of the challenges out of life.  There are new challenges in life like getting famous and rich.  The trouble with these challenges is that most people fail to pass through them.  They never come out of the other side, having learnt the lessons of life.  Far too many people are unhappy and miserable nowadays.

The answer?
The answer is, in fact. rather simple…at least on the surface.

The challenge facing us now is to provide our children, young people and those of us a little older with a deliberately designed set of challenges that will lead us all onwards and upwards through the complex Spiral of values to the great leap.

In practice that means massive investments in all kinds of education and social programmes designed to help us all help each other and our children to grow as effectively as possible.

It means education for educators: parents, teachers, managers, trainers, coaches and, in fact, all of us – so that we can produce an environment for learning values.  An environment that will provide security and challenge, at the appropriate times, for each and every individual.

It must be a programme designed to allow each and every one of us to reach our best potential so that as many people as possible will be ready to help humanity cope with the many changes that will surely come.

Children are the Future

We could of course choose to allow mankind to evolve unconsciously.  Either way we, and our children, have an interesting time ahead of us.



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  1. Colin says

    I love your style Jon. Coherent, concise and light.
    (and the content..)