Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

Innovation & Values in the 21st Century

Alan Tonkin
20 October 2007

Alan Tonkin is Chairman of the Global Values Network Group whose web site is one of the most advanced in the world at using Spiral Dynamics to monitor shifts in societies and assess impacts at both national, international and even global levels

Alan generously allowed this piece, written for the GVN site, to be published here.


We continuously hear the call for more and more innovation in our 21st Century world; but the question is what is innovation, as seen by the larger mix of global citizens? In a developed world view this means better ways of resolving issues by the use of technology, either by the use of existing technology or by considering new approaches to the issue being tackled. However, in other less well developed and resource-deprived societies the question of innovation may appear to be very different to the 21st Century approach above.

Values and innovation
The level of values present in a society reflects very clearly on the type of problems that it is able to tackle in an innovative way. Some examples taken from the various values levels show that the ‘life conditions’ clearly influence the type of response to a particular issue.

At the same time innovation is clearly not only a developed world characteristic as developing countries and even failed states possess innovation of sorts but at very different levels of complexity. Some real life examples are illustrated below:-

  • Survival values: innovation at this level depends on ‘staying alive’ and finding the next meal. This includes people in both the developed and developing countries who operate at this level of existence. Examples in developed countries are ‘street people’, with developing countries including those who forage on rubbish tips. 7% of current global population or 455 million people.
  • Tribal values: at the level of the tribe it is the Chief and elders who will broadly decide which direction the tribe should take. However, due to tribes generally operating at a local level, the issue of innovation will largely focus on local issues. There are many examples of this value system around the world from Afghanistan, the tribal areas of Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and many parts of Africa. 12% of global mix or 780 million.
  • Power values: at the power level innovation means the dictator or warlord being able to leverage power now to his or their own advantage. This is particularly the case in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Zimbabwe. 20% or 1.3 billion people.
  • Order & Stability values: at his level those ‘in charge’ will generally decide what is good or not good for the broader community or country. This can result in innovation being stifled as the leadership may see other issues being of significantly more importance. This is currently the case in countries such as China and Russia. 30% or 1.95 billion people.
  • Enterprise values: technological innovation only really ‘kicks in’ at this level as ‘getting ahead’ is a particularly important issue for countries and individuals at this level of existence. This also applies to individuals and organisations in developing countries who may be part of a business or political elite as well as in the developed world. 25% or 1.625 billion people.
  • ‘Green’ values: innovation here is often difficult to implement as the group is an important part of the decision making process. In many cases the group may employ an all-or-nothing approach which can be very slow and self defeating for the group as a whole. However, as more organisations and developed countries move into this level, real world initiatives using innovation to effect change are becoming more and more evident. 3% or 1.95 million.
  • Integrated values: it is only at this level that a clear understanding of the need to integrate the requirements of all the other groups and values comes through. We are starting to see more and more individuals, organisations and governments taking serious steps to use innovation in order to get the global balance right. 2% of total or 130 million.
  • Kosmic values: The eighth level is really not important at this stage as only a small fraction of individuals currently fall into this grouping which is currently relatively insignificant. In addition, the ‘critical mass’ fit below this level from ORANGE Enterprise down. 1% or significantly less than 63 million of the approximate 6.5 billion global total.

What does this mean for our ‘Global Village’?
The survival of our planet and our human species will ultimately come down to how well we as global citizens and leaders are able to use innovative approaches to issues like climate change, global governance, health care, education, housing and other key related issues.

It is important to consider that no one individual, organisation or country sits neatly in any particular values level. We are all spread across a number of different levels with those having multiple values generally being located in the higher values levels. This, however, does not mean that there are not individuals or countries having the full range where they ‘change gear’ as required by the existing life conditions. This can be likened to the gears in a Formula 1 racing car which requires the right gear for the track conditions at a particular time.

Innovation is a widely used word that means very different things to different people. In order for our global village to continue to offer more and more of its citizens a “better quality of life”, it is important to see both the opportunities and threats. In using the values approach one is able to view the different levels of innovation required by different organisations and societies.

Spiral Dynamics co-developer Don Beck has a wise saying that illustrates the differing values issues very well, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Simply put, this means that if you are at a particular level of core value that you will not be aware of the next level in the Spiral. This statement shows us how much we still have to learn and understand about our world and how to manage in it.

The challenge of the early part of the 21st Century is to realise how to manage innovation in such a way that the benefits of this are experienced equally by both the developed and developing parts of the global community. In many ways the real challenge is to know how to leverage new technologies in such a way as to allow the developing world to leapfrog old technologies which are becoming redundant.

There is a real opportunity here for the developed economies to lead the way in bringing the developing world to a totally new level of development over a relatively short time period. This in turn we believe will assist in generating a move from the lower to higher values levels with all the accompanying benefits of better living standards for all.

Note: The numbers used in the above article are extracted from GVN QuickSCAN carried on the Home Page of our website


Verification Captcha (human, not robot!) * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.