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Spiral Dynamics Leadership in the Integral Age

Don Beck
April 2002

Every year (since 2001) Spiral Dynamics co-developer Don Beck holds a Spiral Dynamics integral (SDi) ‘Confab’ – usually in May and always in his beloved Texas.  SDi practitioners from around the world – including many well-known figures – gather for 3 days and more of networking, discussion and cutting-edge workshops – all leavened by good humour and the annual pilgrimage to the Fort Worth stockyards.

This intriguing exploration of 2nd Tier concepts was prepared by Don in April 2002 for that year’s Confab and is reproduced here with his permission.

You can e-mail Don or visit the Spiral Dynamics integral web site to find out more about his work.

2nd Tier/Integral Principles/Processes
vMEMETIC Core Intelligences – The Brain Syndicate

 7th Level (G-T/YELLOW)

  • Systemic
  • Natural functional flows
  • Left brain with feelings
  • More secular than spiritual
  • Surfs the Spiral to keep each vMEME holon healthy and functioning
  • Expresses self but not at the expense of others
  • Strong vertical sense to detect problems in the Spiral’s spine and will present options
  • Strong morphing capacity to ‘act as if’ in each vMEME zone
  • Will walk away from ‘poor card’ stacks or rigid ‘City Hall’ structures
  • Knows “when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em”
  • Thinks like a digital engineer, architect, or specialist in power grids, water flow management and other such linear patterns.

8th Level (H-U/TURQUOISE)

  • Holistic
  • Macro level
  • Embracing, multifaceted, all encompassing
  • Spiritual in tune with cosmic impulses
  • Right brain with data
  • Detects Energy flows around the Spiral
  • Senses nonlocal intelligences
  • Will act for the whole through mandates to protect the Life Force
  • Sacrifices self, now, so that all life may continue
  • Adds a collective sense to YELLOW’s individualistic flair but is not monolithic nor authoritarian for any ‘ism’
  • Knows what it knows intuitively
  • Thinks like an analogue musician, a student of physics who detects deep cosmic patterns, and spiritual leader who senses societal waves.

The thought structures will combine elements of YELLOW and TURQUOISE in searching for the quality and depth of thinking that can deal with complex problems. Since there are not ‘types of people’, but, rather, ‘forms of adaptive intelligences in people’, they will seldom exist in a full measure in any person alive in the year 2002. Different people will possess different fragments, components, or even versions. This makes the formation of creative brain syndicates with insightful interactions and dialogues even more important.

The ‘momentous leap’ in Clare W Graves’ (1974) language describes something of an emergent surge that appears to be much more than simply the 7th ratchet in the developmental sequence of complexity. Several of his graphics make this point dramatically, and he believed this G-T/YELLOW system contained greater conceptual capacity than the sum total of the first 6.

Graves believed his data supported the notion of a series of 6-upon-6-upon-6. He justified the notion of sets of 6 because of the extraordinary quality and complexity in decision-making and other aspects of cognition in people he had tested and observed. The individuals who were expressing the 7th Level pattern had less fear, could generate many more options, appeared to be much more resourceful, etc.

I believe he had early tracings of minds that were becoming aware of problems ‘G’ long before they became visible to the rest of us. Remember, he conducted his research before the time of the microchip, before the end of the Cold War, before the onset of molecular biology, and before the more general impact of the F-S/GREEN code in the deconstruction and pluralistic influences. F-S/GREEN did, indeed, seek to cleanse and compress the Spiral by ‘liberating’ the indigenous people (and all vMEME codes) from the dominance hierarchy. This created the scene where all of the value systems that humans have expressed since the big brain emerged and reappeared, in real time, on CNN — all demanding their respective place in the sun and in the higher valued niches.

Herein lies the complexity that Graves could only imagine, but could not directly experience. So, the life conditions to the power of 7 that would require the new thinking complexity that he had observed 3 decades ago finally appeared on the scene. He knew something was up and was quite accurate in his future visions. The Gravesian blueprint will serve us well for decades to come.

Since these are ways of thinking and not types of people, what are the unique and distinguishing markers of 2nd Tier? Here is the checklist that I use myself:

  1. Can I differentiate between positive/negative or healthy/unhealthy aspects of each of the vMEME codes by looking at issues through the lenses of the code of the Spiral? Do I recognise that humans are musical chords consisting of a number of individual (vMEME) notes?
  2. Do I respect and legitimise each of the 1st Tier codes and recognise their essential contribution to the over all life and well-being of the Spiral? Do I value positive PURPLE, RED, BLUE, ORANGE and GREEN?
  3. Do I accept that individuals, organisations, and societies must acquire these All Quadrant capacities in a step-by-step or developmental process?
  4. Do I acknowledge that the full Spiral operates WITHIN a person or human grouping rather than anybody being ON the Spiral at any whorl?
  5. Do I sense that change in the multiple variations follows self-organising principles and time tables so that no one can ‘grow’ people or predetermine what they will be. (One of my favourite Gravesian quotations is: “people cannot be until they are!”)
  6. 6. Have I, personally, learned “when to hold ’em, and when to fold ’em, and when to walk away?” Can I resist the need to control or engineer people? Have I learned to stand back and let ‘nature’ take its course as the next available solution arises?
  7. Can I respond in a congruent manner to each of the vMEME levels by wearing their ‘costumes’, demonstrating the appropriate leadership style, and communicating on their unique frequencies?
  8. Am I able to differentiate between the original vMEME code and the surface level expression of that code at a time and within a context? To illustrate, Capitalism is not the same thing as the E-R/ORANGE code; religion is not the same thing as the D-Q/BLUE code; and political correctness (or cultural creatives) are not identical with the F-S/GREEN code. Each of these codes and the themes they represent can be expressed in different forms in this Integral Age.
  9. Can I think systemically by addressing complex issues from a multi-cause perspective rather than isolate a single actor? Do I detect the dance, the couplet, rather than lay blame at one of the entities? Globalisation, for example has done damage because of the collusion between the 1st World leaders and their 3rd World ‘partners’. Both deserve blame, rather than just one. Thus, it is the ‘dance’ between the two that is the real problem.

So, 2nd Tier thinkers always look at three domains: (1) The life conditions, (2) the vMEME magnet-like code, and (3) the issue, icon, topic, belief that the magnet has attracted…i.e. the specific ‘content’ of the structure.

Perhaps you would like to add to this tentative list. Keep in mind that the ultimate texture and capacity within this 7th code must match and/or exceed the complexity within the life conditions that it confronts. Those who exhibit this thinking will not be clones, nor will they be cut from the same cloth. Each will have a unique mixture of agency or communal sub-texts; each will bring diverse levels of motivation and energy to the task; and each will respond to his or her own internal drummer. But, all will have an enhanced vertical perspective, with the ability to transcend but include (and value) what came before, and also transcend but anticipate what will be next, thus declaring that we exist in the tension zones between ascending and descending priority systems.

I also believe that the 8th code will rise in conjunction with the 7th; that we will always have a dominant expressive and dominant sacrificial system working in conjunction with each other. Think of 7th level (G-T/YELLOW) as left brain with feelings and the 8th level (H-U/TURQUOISE) as right brain with data. YELLOW will identify the particles up and down the spine of the Spiral and will seek to surf the spine with its multimemetic tool kit; TURQUOISE will focus on the waves and energy flows that engulf the Spiral and will be much more comfortable in command-and-control functions, but only on behalf of the Life Force itself, and in its many manifestations in life forms on the planet.

I am unable to comment at this time on any other emerging system or couplet, since I do not know what the life conditions will be to the power of 9 and 10. And, we will not know those life conditions UNTIL the YELLOW and TURQUOISE vMEMES have run their course, brought their advantages, and did their damage. We may, however, be able to detect the raw material of these systems-to-come within altered states of consciousness.

Finally, since the world in which we now live is struggling with the appearance of all of the vMEME cultural expressions – ethnic tribes, egocentric warlords, both dangerous and redemptive ‘isms’, a whole plate full of opportunists and materialists-in-the-making, and a host of post-modern egalitarian political, religious, and NGO and professional structures – it should be clear that the genuine and authentic work of 2nd Tier is to address the needs and demands all up and down the Spiral while, at the same time, keeping the Spiral itself vibrant, open, and evolving. If we, as humans, are not up to this task, there is no guarantee that we will outlive the cockroaches. Then, again, as dear friend Howard Bloom keeps warning me, the real contest will not be among Christianity, Judaism and Islam beliefs, or even between the United States and China, but the classic battle pitting humans versus microbes.

While none of us can claim, I do not believe, to be totally within 2nd Tier in all aspects (lines) of our lives, we can, for sure, attempt to place the set points in our thinking within 2nd Tier assumptions, and then look up and down the Spiral to search for specific applications. There are, indeed, 2 tracks to 2nd Tier. One works up from the warm colour vMEME codes with a heavy agency focus, just acquiring enough from the cool colour systems to facilitate the upsurge to the next warm colour. This track will produce much more YELLOW thinking.

The other track ratchets through the cool colour vMEMES, with enough exposure from the warm colour codes to shake lose from the previous cool colour collective pressure, to then embrace the next “sacrifice self” theme. One would expect to find these minds more comfortable in the TURQUOISE collective. Let me emphasise, however, that those in the GREEN zone who are able to up shift into 2nd Tier will do so because the YELLOW vMEME dislodged them from the egalitarian, flatlander, anti-verticality sentiments. And, a person might well, on different issues, be moving through both trajectories. I am most interested in developing the YELLOW-TURQUOISE package because I do not think any of the 1st Tier systems has the codes to handle the ‘mess’ the 1st Tier has made. I believe our challenge in the Spiral Dynamics/Integral communities is to craft such a package, and then find innovative ways to (1) introduce the concepts within the 1st Tier whorls, and (2) begin to graft a model for the planet that implements these priority codes. I believe we can do both. We have the tools to do it, and the methodology but do we have the will?


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