Spiral synergy?

a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.



Why is change often so hard? Well, for one, everyone wants change, that is, for everyone but themself. 

change meme


I am feeling ambitious this week on the blog and hoping to help us imagine a human situation that, for many reasons, demands change. The trouble is, the problem needing remedy is one that, by and large, most people local to the situation simply do not care aboutthey are in a “CLOSED State” in relation to the issue. Their ‘CLOSED State’ is witnessed by the fact that the concern is one they do not share: “The more CLOSED…the stronger the denial that anything significant is even going on. [SD, pg. 78]” So, how does one solve a problem shared by a community that very few people in the community even know, much less care about? We’ll see in just a moment. 

Six Conditions needed for Change…

Last week we explored the first condition (of six) needed for a change in values potential and/or expression (here). “POTENTIAL” for change is the first condition that is required for change and that makes really good, yet often overlooked, common sense. We’ll build on the “OPEN State condition” as we gothe first fruit of which is animating the second condition needed to make vMEME change possible, “Solutions.”



Solutions are demanded…

The second condition required for a change in our values orientation (vMEME basin) is “SOLUTIONS.” A wake-up as the second condition needed for change provides a quick reckoning of the difficulty in effecting leading-edge change. More than a mere recognition of the need for new solutions to the existential problems created by the present and previous vMEME orientations, real solutions need to be well in hand. If the present leading-edge has failed to provide adequate solutions, then any sustainable changethat is, creative advance into novel Spiral values saturationbeyond the present leading-edge is unlikely. It is foolhardy to expect healthy advance when serious problems remain extant in present Life Conditions [LCs]

In their (1996) book, Spiral Dynamics [SD], Beck and Cowan write:

Sensible people put first things first by concentrating on issues appropriate to their current level of existence. If you raise the threat of ‘Huns at the gates’ with the expectation that more complex thinking will emerge, do not be surprised if the walls go up instead and the person or group retreats into a psychological fortress of denial. If you resurrect even older Life Conditions and reawaken the vMEMEs calibrated to resolve those archaic problems, growth up the Spiral is unlikely and a regression may be the result. 

Instead of threats, satiate the vMEMEs that are active. Read the problems and solve them at the present level. If stability is the key issue, bring order. If Black Market corruption is rampant, flood the market with merchandise. If fear is draining productivity, deliver the bad news quickly and then make things safe. 

swirls fractals sized 500
Creative Commons CC0

Lighting the Spiral…

In this series we are only partially through unpacking the various vMEMEs, and only beginning to compare and contrast the values basins. Then, too, my ‘orienting generality’ grounding the blog is focused on identifying dysfunctions and pathologies. Nonetheless, I think the time has come that we see how these different basins of values (an individual’s, or organization’s vMEME‘s constellation) are able to work in concert (like a musical ‘chord’), collaborate in healthy ways, and functionally enhance the health and vitality of the whole. So, what would it look like for all the colors of the system to cooperate on something, on anything? Each values basin system, operating within the individual/organization, must be honored and included in healthy collaboration. When vMEMEs that regularly compete for getting a corner on reality somehow align to work together, a truly amazing and powerful synergy often enables new solutions

Thought experiment… 

For a moment I’d like for you to imagine a situation in which a problem exists. The problem may or may not be immediately visible to everyone, but it is not hidden, and is certainly subject to being identified. To that I’d like you to add the fact that the community immediately proximate to the situation does not care about the problem. Individuals in the community may or may not know about the problem, however, even if they know, or even if one points out and demonstrates the existence of the concern, most people in the community simply do not care about the problem. 

OPEN and inclusive…

So, have you been able to imagine such a situation? I’m going to try and help out with an illustration in just a moment, first let’s reflect a bit. So, I’ve asked you to imagine a situation in which you have identified a problem that needs to be addressed. That simply means that whatever it is that you have identified violates your values in some way. If the problem did not touch on your values, you would be just like the people we’ve described in our imaginary community, you would not care about the problem and you’d simply ignore it. So, the question quickly becomes obvious: How do you, or does anyone, create a solution to a community problem that few individuals in the community even recognize as a problem, and don’t care much about it even if they do?

‘Superordinate Goal’ (meta-Blue [DQ])…

Let’s watch this brief video story and then we’ll unpack how each basin/color of the System is recognized, honored, and integrated into the solution this community found to their shared problem.

Breaking it down…

A fine example of meta-Blue [DQ] ‘order‘ values working effectively; e.g., creating clean waterways in an Indonesian community through a superordinate goal aligning all the first six values systems to work collaboratively for the common goodin a community that, going in, did not even care about the problem. 

  • Beige [AN] survival values ~ clean water = life. This most basic orientation of values is a basin of non-verbal values, is always poised in the background of our consciousness, and will not be ignored should LCs demand. Beige is as simple and complex as fight or flight.
  • Purple [BO] human bond values ~ includes ‘family sections.’ This ‘fish farming’ solution included making families key stake-holders. Villages are made of families and no solution to a community problem will be sustainable without the support of families.
  • Red [CP] power values ~ champion, heroic savior. Causes and movements are built one individual at a time and so the Red values system is key. Spiral synergy seeks to enlist ‘champions’ for the cause and best accomplishes this through alignment of all values systems creating many common affinitiesany solution must show ‘what’s in it for me?’ So, Red provides any action its animating energy. That is then somehow channeled for adaptation and change.
  • Blue [DQ] order values ~ here, in meta form, or, a superordinate goal. If Red provides animating energy, then good, healthy Blue harnesses and directs that energy toward an overarching goal that integrates all the values systems into the ‘mission,’ e.g., healthy fish farms –> creating clean waterways.  
  • Orange [ER] ambition values ~ entrepreneur, the benefits of fish farmingfresh meat for the family and income from selling some of the fish. The freedom to participate and innovate a better way to make the household economy serve the family, neighbors, and village/region.
  • Green [FS] justice/ecology values ~ individual/communal/ecological good. The leader in this case cared and became a Red champion for the clean waterways movement initially because of this values system.

So, transformation from ‘I/we don’t care‘ to ‘I’m/we’re helping solve‘ is a moment that we need to understand and master as soon as we are able. I’m suggesting that Gravesian Dynamics can be a very practical tool in helping create Spiral synergy. Whether by intentional strategy or intuition, some churches are beginning to tap into the power of Spiral awareness/sensitivity. Witness Los Angeles 1st UMC:



Your thoughts?

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



3 thoughts on “Spiral synergy?

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