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Value Systems as Foresight Frameworks #2


VS approaches to the future
It is suggested you refer back to the Value System Time Orientation diagram when reading these value system profiles.

A-N/BEIGE: has no cognitive awareness of time at any sense. All actions are geared towards meeting biologically connected functions.
Recommendation for foresight practitioners:-
This value system will not respond to anything at a cognitive level of awareness. If you discover an adult exhibiting these characteristics, it is likely that you will have an elderly person suffering variations of dementia-like disorders or someone with a brain injury trauma. Even if this is not the reason (as in cases where severe psychological trauma is likely to have occurred), attempting to engage this person in discussion of the future is a futile exercise. Provide sustenance and keep them warm and clean.

B-O/PURPLE: has an extensive understanding of time with emphasis towards ‘learned history’ acquired through rites of passage and clan-like rituals. The proven history of ancestors and elders generates a sense of perpetuity of the clan into the future, providing the ability to consider the future BUT only as it fits within the sense of continuity of the tribe, especially as this VS is not yet aware of itself as an entity separate from the group. Respect to the elders is a significant driver.
Recommendation for foresight practitioners:-
Generating a notion of ‘the future’ will need to be well connected to the ancestral values that form the structure of this VS thinking. Attempting to expose discontinuities of the past as a means of suggesting change into the future will likely meet with explanations revolving around the idea of ‘gods and spirits being angry’. Mythology of the past may provide an avenue into enhanced futures thinking through questions like: “What would (revered ancestor/guiding spirit) do or recommend?” and ‘If this event were to happen in the future, what have you learned in the past that would advise you how to deal with it?’

C-P/RED: Arguably this VS has taken the notion of existence into perpetuity (as learned in the B-O/PURPLE VS) as an absolute. This VS has broken free of the clan identification. Because existence for eternity is taken as a given, this VS spends its time seeking immediate gratification of the senses. There is no recognition of the value of historical fact and no consideration of potential future outcomes as everything is in the here and now. Fear of ‘losing face’ or being shamd are strong drivers of behavioural responses as are opportunities for immediate gain.
Recommendation for foresight practitioners:-
Potentially the best thing you can do is provide some avenue to entertain them whilst working through the foresight process. You may be able to involve them only in so far as there is a perceived sense that instant gratification for engagement is likely. This VS is passionate, enthusiastic and loves challenges. Options occur only as single blips to be acted upon. Multiplistic thinking is not yet available and all options will be accepted one at a time and acted upon, one at a time.
If a process (such as a group scenario development) was waning it may be possible to have this VS inject immediacy and action, particularly if you can establish this task as a test of their ‘skill’. Alternatively if you have managed to keep this VS involved at some level, asking them for their idea of what the first action step should be (following, say, a Backcasting process) could see them able to contribute a useful first stage. Questions such as “Well, if you were boss and this was the world in which you lived, what would be your first decision?” may get them involved. Do not however expect this VS to be able to contribute much by the way of a deep assessment or consideration of what the future may hold. Most feedback will be couched in terms of immediate gratification of some impulse – “I’d sack everyone and start again” or “Burn the factory down and claim the insurance”.
If responses like these are given, use them as a launching pad for further discussion by the group as in “Okay, if the factory burned down, what would that mean?”, etc.

D-Q/BLUE: This VS operates in a predominantly linear mode and considers time like 2 book-ends – there is a ‘start’ at one end and a ‘finish’ at the other. In between is a constant battle to do the right thing today, so thinking about the ‘now’ requires much attention. Richard Slaughter’s ‘Bounded Present’ (2003) represents delightfully the way this system thinks about time. There is a strong guilt (history) association generating ‘baggage’ that then clouds the future orientation thinking within the ‘now’ time frame and this leads to a limitation of choices as there is ONLY one ‘right’ way to proceed.
There is an ordered structure to the world and anyone who does not follow this structure deserves to be ‘punished’. The key driver is sacrificing his or her own desires (as dominated the C-P/RED system) for greater reward in the long term. The past exists as accepted fact laid down by the proper authority and shall be accepted without question. All future activity shall be undertaken using the rules of the rightful authority as THE way forward. Prescriptive forecasting methods, historical (proven) trends will be accepted.
Recommendation for foresight practitioners:-
Foresight practitioners will need to ensure that they are accepted as the appropriate bearer of the potential future. In order to do this, introduction to the group by the senior official of the organisation is a must or, alternatively, the practitioner’s reputation must be held in such high regard (by all others) as to be considered THE authority by this VS.
This VS is an almost polar opposite to the C-P/RED system that preceded it. The future is ‘a gold watch’ upon retirement of faithful service to the company or ‘salvation in the afterlife’ for a life lived honest and true. Attempting to expand the range of options will be extremely challenging for the foresight practitioner. For this VS there is ‘one true way’ and only the self-indulgent seek alternatives. The (company) bible or other such artefact is held sacrosanct and change agents that deride the founding fathers will face the ire of a VS with its ‘back up’.
Foresight practitioners who gain the trust and confidence of the D-Q/BLUE VS will discover ‘loyal soldiers willing to keep the flame lit’ during the difficult stages of more challenging foresight processes. Utilise their skills at being thorough and robust in their application of the foresight tools and methods. Documentation of ‘How to do’s…’ will be absolutely essential as will certificates indicating attendance and contribution to a foresight workshop.

E-R/ORANGE: This system can generate multiplistic options though they are geared toward achieving an outcome for itself. This VS learns how to manipulate the ordered structure of its environment to better suit its own desires, looking for the best option from a number of potential choices – often seen as ‘cutting corners’. The guilt driver associated with the D-Q/BLUE VS has been transposed into questions over self worth and the ‘toys and trinkets’ of success are sought to overcome feelings of inadequacy. For foresight practitioners this system can be useful at overcoming roadblocks and will engage in a process readily if it feels that a sense of achievement and ‘one upmanship’ will accrue them a higher status.
Recommendation for foresight practitioners:-
This VS will love Scenarios, Wildcards and anything that can test their imagination of ‘what is’ against ‘what might be’. The multiple options often generated through scenario work will appeal though any thinking of the future is tinged through lenses that seek constant acquisition of recognition and status for the individual. It is recommended that you utilise the skills of option generation and then attempt to add depth to each option as your foresight process evolves.
Long term thinking that aims to consider future generations may not be high on the agenda and ideas that were not self generated may be derided or ignored. This is the realm of the 3-year business cycle and predictions of the ‘next quarter results’. There is a constant search for the latest result and leading edge ideas and this may lead to ‘shallow’ thinking. Trends indicative of increasing wealth will be well received whereas myth and metaphor themes uncovered through a Causal Layered Analysis (Sohail Inayatullah, 2000) may shake their beliefs (and may still be worth pursuing).
These ‘knowledgeable amateurs’ will readily take part in foresight work, in particular if there is a competitive element amongst peers. Outcomes will need to show a near term benefit for participants and generation of multiple options. Leave this VS system to determine which of the options is the ‘best’ option. Outputs tend to be ‘methods’ or technology reliant with any human element possibly playing second stage.

F-S/GREEN: This VS begins to use tools that no other system has yet to employ. It attempts to find equivalent value in every option and every point of view. Whereas the D-Q/BLUE system believed that there existed only one valid opinion and the ER/Orange system believes there is one best opinion of a selected bunch, the F-S/GREEN system attempts to reconcile differences by assigning value evenly across all present view points. As such the type of outputs likely to be generated in foresight work will be distinctly different from anything else generated.
Recommendation for foresight practitioners:-
This VS will design humanistic approaches to foresight and look to adjust the current system to better fit a wider group of ‘stakeholders’. Where the C-P/RED ‘was’ the system, the D-Q/BLUE ‘acquiesced’ to the system and the E-R/ORANGE attempted to find a quicker way through the system, the F-S/GREEN approach is to tweak the entire system – a preference for a ‘work with’ rather than a ‘work within’ approach to systemic frameworks.
Scenarios that enable the F-S/GREEN system to ‘walk a mile in the shoes of these (future) people’ will be highly regarded and, unlike the B-O/PURPLE VS that understands through the lens of ancestral stories passed down from generation to generation, the ability to step out of one’s own mind set to seek understanding from the outside, has begun to develop in the F-S/GREEN system.
Futures work that centres on social sustainability of the enterprise, community or group will have strong appeal. Futures methods generating suggestions that ignore human capacity for caring and understanding or for advancement for the sake of advancement will be derided. Where relevant, practitioners should seek to ask questions that look for ways that humans can use technology to improve the human condition, not to gain financial or political advantage.
This group will generate significantly different outcomes on the subject of ‘globalisation’ than will the E-R/ORANGE VS. Practitioners that have an opportunity to separate these 2 systems and have them work on the same idea should do so, particularly if the future worlds generated can then be handed over to the opposing group with a suggestion of “What’s wrong with this world and how would you fix it?”

G-T/YELLOW: This VS has the capacity to hold multiple points of view concurrently and considers that whilst they are all valid, some will add greater value than others. This thinking is considerably different from the F-S/GREEN approach that attempts to assign equal value to all perspectives or the E-R/ORANGE that seeks the best one approach of a bunch of choices. Another significant distinction between this system and the others can be explained as follows: –

  • A-N/BEIGE knows nothing of a system (of being)
  • B-O/PURPLE is connected to a system
  • C-P/RED ‘IS’ the system
  • D-Q/BLUE obeys THE system
  • E-R/ORANGE manipulates the system
  • F-S/GREEN works WITH the system

G-T/YELLOW seeks to improve the system and attempts to do so in a way that enhances the lot of all other value systems simultaneously. This is the first VS that seeks to find ways to enhance, downplay, replace or add to existing components that make up the environment in which they exist. This system may clash with any of the other systems by suggesting a multi resolution platform or way forward. The previous value systems mentioned will be of the firm belief that their way of approaching or preparing for the future is the right one. G-T/YELLOW does not hold this to be true, being far more open to taking a bit from here or there to construct alternatives.
For foresight practitioners, it is likely that the perspectives generated from within this way of thinking will consider their living elders and those of future generations not yet born. This may or may not include their own descendents.
Recommendation for foresight practitioners:-
Given this VS’ ability to generate much deeper, broader and complex considerations of the potential futures, foresight practitioners should seek to utilise participants at this level of thinking to help generate options. They will be highly critical of thin or poorly constructed foresight methods and attempts to pass off such approaches as ‘critical’ or ‘sound’ methods are likely to be openly challenged. Alternatively if they feel that time is being wasted or the process is futile, they will ‘cut their losses’ and seek an activity elsewhere.
Potentially the level of complexity of an idea or option generated by this VS may need to be explained – so seek to draw them out on how they arrived at such an option or why they feel it is a valid perspective worthy of inclusion. These insights may provide excellent learning opportunities for other participants about how such a future world may eventuate, though this does not mean all people will agree with such perspectives. If you recall the D-Q/BLUE VS, you will remember that the D-Q/BLUE VS thinking process believes there is only ONE way forward.
The G-T/YELLOW thinking system will be drawn to Causal Layered Analysis and other critical methodologies and will generate foresight outputs that can include consideration for the needs of future generations as well as outputs aimed at improving the immediate needs.

H-U/TURQUOISE: Please note: Due to the lack of available research data, this perspective of the H-U value system is an interpretation of ongoing discussions regarding H-U that appear on the Spiral Dynamics Yahoo chat group and the author’s own understanding gained from his own reading, training & discussions with the authors of the Spiral Dynamics book over previous years.
This VS holds extensive understanding of the macro-historical trends and potential futures across a vast array of life. It believes that the human species does have precedence over all other life forms; however it accepts that other life forms are essential to the ‘web of life’ and as such, are to be included in thinking.
Unlike any other value system, the TURQUOISE thinking style looks to maintain the existence of the human species and will not shy away from making hard decisions that remove completely, malignant members for the good of the overall ‘global tribes’.
Foresight practitioners are unlikely to recognise this thinking style and, even in the event that a participant in the room is centred at H-U, the type of exchanges generated in any forum probably will not alert other participants to their perspectives or complexity of thinking. What is more likely is that this VS will seek collaborative groups of like minded individuals to identify useful tools (including other people) who can help them achieve the desired aims of the group, or will manipulate the voice of an accepted authority in order to have the views raised.

Foresight frameworks
Readers should be aware that, for simplicity of understanding, the overviews provided here are interpretations of the ‘nodal’ stages of VS development. In reality people are rarely creatures of one central state, nor are they necessarily (as in Myers-Briggs typology) ‘locked in for life’.

The Spiral Dynamics model clearly shows that people can and do change as their life conditions change and other development occurs. This means that growth and recession can be a normal part of value system development. It is important to remember that Graves and the SD framework are clear on one vital aspect of their models – older value systems stages are retained and incorporated into the overall thinking capacity of the entity and are available as required. Unlike linear models of development, older VS stages are not discarded and replaced by newer ones; they instead form foundation stones for further growth.

The most turbulent stages of activity occur in the transitional stages between each nodal point. Here the entity wrestles with holding true to previously held notions of existence and accepting that they no longer provide a sufficient means of coping with their world. The changes in orientation from a ‘me & mine’ focus of the warm colours, to the cool colours’ ‘we & our’ focus (and vice versa) pose enormous challenges and can consume extensive amounts of energy. Not everyone succeeds in making a transition and may experience extensive or permanent fixation at a transitional point.

For foresight practitioners the ability to spot VS transitions occurring, or being able to plan for future VS transitions is of utmost importance. Arguably, this is where the majority of futurist methodologies come unstuck for, whilst claiming to provide a long-term perspective, for the most part the outputs of a methodology are geared towards achieving a quantifiable end result that can be claimed as ‘most likely’ for a nodal state. The trouble with this approach is that ‘most likely’ varies for each VS and what was valid in one sense may no longer be valid as transitions occur.

Value Systems - ComplexityThe next step is to assess the ability of each VS to deal with greater levels of complexity in their worldview. The diagram left (SD Value Systems & Complexity) indicates the coping-ability development available to deal with increasing environmental complexity available to each value system. The diagram lists the VS colour codes in an order that shows a growing capacity to deal with increasing complexity (as seen by the arrows that define the breadth), and also allows subsequent codes to draw on the perspectives of any code that preceded it.

When combined with the knowledge of orientation toward time (past through to future) along with the inherent drivers of that orientation, an extensive (and somewhat complex) appreciation of using VS as foresight frameworks is added to the foresight practitioner’s understanding. For the purposes of this paper I have excluded the A-N/BEIGE and H-U/TURQUOISE Value System codes and the diagram indicates each colour code and its ability to cope with expanding complexity over time. As previously indicated, there is no compulsion for development beyond any level.

We now have a useful structural model for using VS as foresight frameworks that addresses a variety of situations for foresight strategists:-

  • To what extent (i.e. – Can?) this person/entity understand the notion of future?
  • If so, how does this person/entity approach thinking about the future?
  • What are the influencing drivers for this person/entity in thinking about the future?
  • Does this person/entity have the ability to cope with complex interpretations of the future?
  • If so, to what level and depth?
  • Knowing what I know about the person/entity, what would be the most appropriate set of foresight tools to meet the desired outcome?
  • How do I build increased strategic foresight capacity in line with what this Value System would be open to accept?
  • How do I structure a foresight process that allows for transitions between Value (thinking) Systems to occur?

These 8 questions provide the consultant with set points for building a foresight process that will more closely match the needs of the client in a way the client can accept. They also provide clues to remind the consultant to add depth to the client’s understanding about potential future(s) and allow for changes in thinking processes. Critically, they remind the practitioner that developing strategy that actually works, is a process of accepting variations in thinking and how people engage with the future.

An understanding of value systems, how they influence a person’s thinking of the future and allow or constrict differing perspectives of time will provide the foresight practitioner a much richer appreciation of how to deal with their clients.

Significantly it places an enormous responsibility on the practitioner when utilising their foresight tool kit. Gaining a deeper understanding through something like a Causal Layered Analysis can now be seen to have multiple perspectives. Scenarios too are enriched when the ‘storytelling’ and future spaces incorporate an understanding matched to each of the VS present during the process. Selecting an ‘ideal future’ prior to a Backcasting exercise and then expecting agreement on the appropriate steps can now be seen as no simple task when differing VS are present. Even when all are in alignment as to each step, there is no guarantee that the ‘content’ will be agreed upon.

Any futurist attempting to build foresight capacity and increase their client’s or their client’s organisational foresight quotient (FtQ) (Marcus Barber, 2002) will benefit greatly from utilising the recommendations provided with regard to each of the VS. Knowing how to encourage engagement, being aware to how that engagement may play out and how to further develop participation and acceptance of a foresight process for each VS, is likely to significantly increase the client’s satisfaction with regard to the use of strategic foresight approaches.

Overall the value system frameworks add a broader and deeper capacity for consultants by raising their ability to handle multiple perspectives of the future and how the issue of the future is accepted. Developing further understanding of each VS and in particular the transitional stages between them is strongly encouraged. Taking that enhanced knowledge and using that capability as a foresight framework will open up a world of improved possibilities for the use of foresight.

It could be argued that ultimately, the aim of foresight is to increase the level of contentment of our clients by giving them greater awareness of possible futures, the alternatives available and to increase their capacity to deal with change. To that end, I offer the following quote:-

“Happiness is that state of consciousness, which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values”Ayn Rand (2005)

For foresight practitioners, the real challenge may be in designing processes and outcomes that better enable people to achieve a conscious state of happiness. Using value systems as foresight frameworks should go some way to realising that aim.

Suggested Further Reading on Futures and Human Values:-
‘Understanding Human Values – Individual & Societal’Milton Rokeach (Free Press, 1979)

The field of Emergenics may also interest readers.

A useful foresight glossary can be found at Foresight International.

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