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8 Dynamics of Human Values

My first introduction to Spiral Dynamics was during a lecture at a Leadership Course. It was truly an "eye-opening" experience.

8 Dynamics of Human Values

8 Dynamics of Human Values

Understanding People Using Spiral Dynamics

We all have an inner drive that shapes our beliefs and gives us our worldview of life. This belief or value system is what drives our behavior and is similar to a computer's operating system. Everyone has their own unique operating system which was formed over time through our experiences and what has happened in our life to mold and shape our beliefs.

Our belief system can now be categorized into a simple, easy-to-remember language of colors, which help us understand people and their world views on life. This will help us understand and communicate better with the people we live and work around.

Have you ever worked with someone you couldn't get along with? Maybe their ideals were totally different than yours. During your conversations, you realized they didn't see life the same as you. Before judging the person for their views, it would be better to understand why they have those views of their world, their motivations, and how they differ from yours.

First, we need to establish a deeper understanding of each person's inner drive, values, and what drives them to make their decisions. We need to try to understand HOW they think and not what they are thinking. We need to somehow read their inner mission statement or what is the driving force of their behavior. This will help us relate to them and improve our communications.

Spiral Dynamics Background

In the late '70s, a University of Union College professor, Clare W. Graves, set out to understand and prove the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs theory created by Abraham Maslow. He was a colleague of Abraham Maslow and had been teaching the Hierarchy of Needs theory to his students for decades, but there were still unexplained behavior patterns in people that didn't fit within Maslow's theory.

Professor Graves studied thousands of individuals and was able to group their belief systems into 8 different categories. Each belief system or worldview was called a vMEME (the small v is for value system). People's values or belief systems are the driving force behind their behaviors. It's their way of thinking, driving principles in their decisions, motives, and behaviors. He named this new system “The Emergent, Cyclical, Double-Helix Model of Adult BioPsychoSocial Systems Development” by Dr. Clare Graves. It was later to be called Spiral Dynamics.

Once he identified the different categories of people's belief systems, he gave each category a color to aid in remembering each. These colors are the eight basic points along the spiral of Spiral Dynamics.

Belief Systems

We are often confused by people who don't share our beliefs and values because they don't act as we would expect in the same circumstances.

There is so much conflict in the world that we don't understand why it's happening and don't understand what drives people to do something we don't agree with. We struggle to understand the other person through the lens of our own beliefs and values without trying to understand how the person thinks.

Each of us has been shaped and molded over time through our experiences. Our values have developed into a mindset that we live by. Spiral Dynamics gives us a language to discuss and understand another person's values and belief systems.

We can now use this language of colors to understand people better and maybe even predict what works for the other person. We might even be better at seeing how they view their world.

Spiral Dynamics simply organizes people's behavior values into 8 different colors representing 8 value systems. First, we must identify the person's color to understand them.

What's Your Color?

Below is a brief explanation of the different colors used to identify people's inner drive and world views. As you read through the description, try to recognize if you know someone who identifies with one or more of the colors shown below. What might their dominant color be?

Maybe you fit into one of these profiles or portions of each. It's common for people to have multiple levels of each color in their lives. Not everyone is a perfect match for a single color.

Map of the Spiral Dynamics Colors

Human Behavior vMeme Memetic Codes Map


























1. Beige

Beige is the most basic color or human needs of Spiral Dynamics. Someone who is self-expressive and their thought patterns are automatic and instinctive. They value their own biological urges and desires.

Their basic need is to survive while focused on food, shelter, warmth, and companionship.

Most commonly found in the life of a caveman, but also found in the sick or elderly and victims of tragic emotional life-altering events. Imagine a plane crash survivor days after the tragedy.

Someone with a mental illness which blocks normal emotions and thought patterns could behave in the Beige vMeme.

This person might find comfort in a similar thinking group where there is the absence of a political structure or hierarchy to the group.

This type of behavior or value system is not commonly found in the workplace.

2. Purple

The second color is Purple, someone who finds comfort in a group with whom they have a close bond.

This person is self-sacrificing for their own group's benefit. They live for the group, their tribe, clan, or kinship.

They would do anything to please the elders or spirits of their group. The elders or spirit leaders of the group. The leaders act as this person's parents and make the decisions for all the members.

The members of the group perform rituals and have superstitions, ceremonies, and traditions that are meant to please the elders or spirits.

Everyone works to keep the group in harmony. This type of person can commonly be found in a tribe but also in athletic teams, college fraternities, cults, gangs, tribes, families, or any group of people who congregate for these purposes of rituals.

3. Red

The third color is Red, someone who is primarily focused on themselves with little desire to join a community. This person sees the world as full of threats and the need to dominate every situation for their own perceived survival.

This person seeks immediate gratification of impulses and strives to live without guilt or shame for their actions. Guilt and shame are seen as a weakness by someone who shows dominant red motivations.

They seek attention for their actions and behavior. This life condition can be found in individuals who could be typical individual athletes striving to be the best they can be without regard to being a team member. Many great heroes and villains can be found with these qualities. This inner drive is primarily focused on their own success and survival. These individuals are highly motivated to win.

4. Blue

The fourth color is Blue. This represents someone who seeks out order in this confusing world. They understand there is a basic purpose and order to life. They feel a need to establish laws, structure, rules, and order to maintain their existence. There are rules to follow than cannot be broken.

They believe everything has a structure and a clear hierarchy in life. Structure gives us a road map to success. Discipline keeps us on the right path to success. Success is doing the right thing. They believe life is full of sacrifices each person must make, but the rewards will eventually come.

They believe there is one true leader, and that is there a spiritual leader who gives guidance through scripture. They value honor and trustworthiness over any other feelings. They are loyal to their group and will sacrifice their time or give up their pleasures to follow their spiritual leader.

Blue can be found in religious, military, and large corporate organizations. These large groups work together to be a large force with a single mindset.

5. Orange

The fifth color in the spectrum is Orange. Self-reliant risk takers and entrepreneurial people are always striving to gain personal success in life. They are willing to bend or tweak a rule to gain success. Knowledge is their power, and knowledge is used to obtain success in life.

They are motivated by material wealth and opportunities to gain more influence. Competition drives their motivations and innovations to improve. They are focused on what can be gained today and not interested in rituals from the past.

Orange can be found in many of the innovators of highly successful businesses today. They have a keen sense of what it takes to gain a profit and create products that people are willing to pay to own.

6. Green

The sixth color is Green which is group-focused. These people tend to seek out comfort in a community. They strive for harmony and balance among everyone. Greed and divisiveness are never allowed.

Fairness and sharing throughout the community where everyone can be viewed as equal. Human rights and liberty are emphasized. They are always looking to understand others through bonding, networking, and building relationships.

The community they feel can manage itself without any hierarchy or structure. Expressing one's emotions is an important way of communicating.

Green can be found in many charitable and humanitarian organizations. They have an extraordinary way of connecting people together.

7. Yellow

The seventh color is Yellow, which focuses on understanding other people's differences and learning to cope with each form. These are the people who value knowledge most of all. They see the world as a complex organism that requires many different ways of thinking for each circumstance.

They see the world in "The Big Picture." A higher level view than all the rest of the colors but still focused on themselves and how they survive in this world. These people understand that change is inevitable and must use their knowledge to thrive in the chaos.

8. Turquoise

The eighth color is Turquoise which also views the world in "The Big Picture" but focuses on how we all live, interact and survive through all the chaos. They see the holistic view of the universe where everyone must strive to survive.

For the world to survive, we must all live in harmony with each other and with nature. They understand some groups may not survive for the world to survive. There is no personal or group thinking, only what is best for all of nature to exist in harmony.

This is the global thinking society that wants technology to connect and distribute knowledge to benefit the universe, not for themselves or their community.

Dr. Don Beck, Ph.D.

After reading Clare Graves's 1974 article “Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap.” which explained “the emergent, cyclical, double-helix model of bio-psycho-social development," Dr. Beck called up Professor Graves and met with him in his home in Schenectady, New York. Their friendship was formed, and they worked together on Spiral Dynamics until Professor Graves's death in 1986.

In 1996 Dr. Beck co-authored with a former graduate student Christopher Cowan the Spiral Dynamics book, which explains in detail Graves's research, which he explains and lays out in an easy-to-understand format.

Spiral Dynamics in Action: Humanity's Master Code by Prof. Don Edward Beck

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 RichFatCat


Pat from United States on July 19, 2015:

Interesting! Like you said, you can have a mixture of colors.