Change seems impossible?

Blue digs in
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Blue digs in…

Last week, as we began unpacking Blue [DQ], we noted that naïve DQ tends to be absolutist. Actually, in fairness each stage of values development usually displays some degree of absolutism, especially in the entry [naïve] phase. It’s simply a characteristic of developmental/human nature to think very highly of our latest epiphanyperhaps even investing it with ‘ultimate’ status in our scheme. Along with our most profound “Ah ha’s” comes the oft paired, “I’ve finally found THE answer!” right behind. This is especially so when the transition is one of assent to a meta-narrative as is the leap from Red [CP] to Blue. Agreement is required to coalesce conventional community around any specific ‘answer.’



So, Blue frames reality with a mythic narrative that becomes the agreed-upon convention of the members who share that frame. Convention is accepted by assent, in other words, on faith and in trust. Not coincidentally, our conventional commitments are, encouraged, reinforced, and strengthened when others voluntarily join inour own trust in our narrative is strengthened when others assent to the same convention, it forms a feedback loop of support. Here, it’s good to note that this feedback-loop-support-process does not necessarily prove our scheme to be right. However, it is likely to make us feel a lot more confident in our choice of convention. Strength in numbers isn’t it?

Feedback loop illustrated…

The video below demonstrates the feedback loop needed to help generate communal ground. In this instance, one bold, courageous person begins with a vision/commitment powerful enough to move him to action [to dance]. He acts. It then takes nearly twenty seconds to get that prized, first early-adopter. Building quickly from that initial ‘follower,’ just sixty seconds later in the video, ‘one’ has become a crowd, and thirty seconds later a crowd has become a mass movement.



Note: Recall a vMEME is a collection of values (aligning on a theme) and potentialities that are activated by particular life conditions. As a vMEME is a response to specific life conditions [LC’s] (context), this dance [vMEME] was a response to a specific song [LC]. The fact that the song is of finite length drives the urgency of the ‘dance movement’and it also makes a nice metaphor for a key impetus needed in any change. Also note, the dance example is analog [real life in real time], think how the digital realm factors into our feedback loopsthink social media “Likes” to the content we share.

Readiness for change…

Spiral Dynamics [SD] is an elegant anthropological model that brings much needed insight to the whole area of change, both in persons and organizations. In their book, Spiral Dynamics, Beck and Cowan lay out six conditions necessary for vMEMEtic change.




The authors list the first condition for change as “Potential.” Is the person or organization ready for, or even capable of change? The answer to that question is a function of the relationship the person/organization has with their own values constellationagain, a values constellation is a chord of two or more values stages (vMEMEs) operating in collaboration within a given individual or organization experiencing particular LC‘s.

Of special interest is the subject’s center of gravity[CoG], that is, the subject’s dominant values stage (vMEME) operational in their specific values constellation and LC‘sin a given circumstance. Note: growth is reflected in both increasing the health profile of present vMEMEs, and CoG, and an up-spiral movement in the CoG of a person/organization.

It’s always crucially important to remember that in SD, none of this is independent of LC‘s. For example, sometimes LC‘s demand CoG regression of values expression in order to meet changing LC‘sor to free a frozen system allowing further development in healthy spiral expression. So, it’s possible that even though change is clearly needed, the LC‘s demand change, the impetus and urgency are there, sometimes the capacity is not.


color sized

Three states of Potential

How we relate to our own values will predict how we perceive/engage challenge and growth. What Clare Graves discovered in his research is that people vary in their change potentials falling on a spectrum running from OPEN <– ARRESTED –> CLOSED (OAC). These are not meant to be universal descriptions in some way offering a global take on a person or organization. Better to think of these states in relation to a particular issue or area. In other words, the same person might be in an OPEN State in relation to family, an ARRESTED State in relation to politics, and in a CLOSED State in relation to religion.

Beck and Cowan write:

If you can assess the OAC status of an individual or organisation’s vMEME profile, you can predict the likelihood of movement and what would need to be done to facilitate it. The more OPEN the vMEME system, the more capable the entity will be responding to shifts in the milieu. The more CLOSED, the greater the stress of dealing with change, the higher the resistance, and the stronger the denial that anything significant is even going on. If you push against a CLOSED system, know that you are asking for real trouble because it will push back. [page 78]

One way we might think of the context that candidate Donald Trump inheritedand found a way to exploit for political gainis this: Obama represented eight years of pushing against all the CLOSED aspects of our contemporary society, e.g., Obama seriously aggravated a CLOSED, 18th century system desperately struggling to deal with 21st century LCs.

CLOSED State system…

Whenever a person or organization is stuck, and simply unable to make necessary change, there’s a pretty good chance (for any number of possible reasonsbiological, psychological, or sociological inadequacies, history, trauma, or pathologiesthey are most likely operating as a CLOSED system. The CLOSED State is well summed as, ‘This is all there is.’ Yeah, having a ‘closed mind’ is an everyday way of describing someone operating as a CLOSED system with respect to a specific LC. Beck and Cowan write regarding the CLOSED State:

  • CLOSED thinking is on or off; the thinking lacks the flexibility even to envision alternatives and instead locks-up, hunkers-down, and tries to make the world fit what it can do according to the values and beliefs it defends.

CLOSED state thinkers often exhibit a core vMEME at its peak, shutting the door on both past and future vMEMEs on the rest of the Spiral. Frenzied zealots, political extremists, workaholics, bleeding-heart social workers, and hard core criminals are typically CLOSED. Alternate perspectives are rejected, even cursed and demonized. ‘My way is the only way a rational person could think,’ they believe. Those standing elsewhere on the Spiral are seen as heretics, idiots, renegades, criminals or fools.

If pushed too far on the CLOSED issue, these individuals may have breakdowns, show panic and manic behaviors, fits of rage, violence, suicide, severe depression, or psychotic incidents. [page 80]

Beck and Cowan continue, Signs of CLOSED thinking are:

  • INAPPROPRIATENESS ~ lack of adaptability to a changing milieu; every idea is washed in the same color, regardless. Laughter, anger, controversial topics are out of context. Behavior appears awkward and contrived.
  • [continued next week]


Closed State graphic sized


As we’ll see, a CLOSED State is simply not ready for, or capable of change. Next week we’ll finish unpacking the CLOSED system end of the OAC spectrum. Then we’ll take a look at what’s minimally required for change, e.g., an alterable ARRESTED State or an OPEN State. Finally we’ll summarize Change Condition 1: Potential.


Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?

Note: I know it’s ambitious trying to introduce a big picture idea in a blog format, so I’m using a serial approach. Introductory post (here). First in series (here).


SD Worldview Color Key


Blue digs in

4 thoughts on “Change seems impossible?

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