As an NLP practitioner, I have studied a bit of Spiral Dynamics, a model of societal evolution based on work by Claire Graves — see details here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_Dynamics
In a nutshell, SD places people (or organizations or …) into categories. The lowest level of “evolution” is what they call Beige, the “survival” instinct. The levels go on as follows:
Beige – Survival, care only about the self. Example: a baby
Purple – Tribalistic, follow the tribal ways, it is all about the trine. Example: Close family
Red – Power gods, big egos, My way or the Highway. Example: Warlords, gang leaders
Blue – Rule based, organizational, Order. Example: military, churches.
Orange – Achiever, “Yes I know the rules but I have a better way”. Example: Pick your favorite yuppie; it is about goals and accomplishment.
Green – Save the planet, save the whales, save the forests, to heck with materialistic achievement. Example: Greenpeace
Yellow – Systemic, integrated. Yes we want to save the planet but we have to earn enough to do it as well.
Turquoise – Spiritual / Holistic — this plane no longer matters.
As I read through this list, I know I have parts of all of these elements within me — I can go Red to protect my family; I am pretty green around Christmas time; I can be Blue when I have to, to follow all the rules to get an outcome; but probably I live most of the time as Orange, the achiever / entrepreneur.
At Date With Destiny, a Tony Robbins event, quite some time is spent talking about these levels. He picks people out of the audience to play the role of each color, and then has them talk with each other. Sometimes when he is picking who will be the ‘Red’, fights break out; as you might expect, Reds are about violence, control, power, and domination. So they will do anything to win — usually with violence. It even happens when we are just messing around at an educational seminar! A similar altercation happens when picking the Orange, but it is more of a friendly competition about who will do it best.
Once the players are chosen, he starts asking each color what they think of the other colors. This is where it gets pretty interesting, if the players are wearing their colors accurately. Someone who is primarily Red has a very hard time understanding why anyone would want to be green, for example. It provides an insight into why people act how they do — for example, many people see ‘saving the rain forest’ as an important goal, and can’t understand why someone would voluntarily cut it down. But someone who is Orange might want to cut it down to build condos, and someone who is Purple might want to cut it down to plant crops to feed their family. The Purple (Tribal) people can’t understand why they shouldn’t cut it down, because raising a crop is vital to their survival.
So let’s now look at the recent history of the United States. Let’s start with the Greatest Generation, the generation of my parents, the folks that fought for our freedom during WWII. For the most part, these folks had RULES. They were Blue, because if rules were not followed people died. They were a huge generation of Rule followers. But they wanted something more for their kids, so they gave and sacrificed tons for the Baby Boomers, who created the largest entrepreneurial and achiever surge in history. The Blues gave birth to a generation of Orange. And now we are seeing what has happened, as the Oranges didn’t think about the long term effects of their success; we see some politicians doing anything they can to stay in power because it means more money, we see others making sweetheart deals with corporate America so they can make more money, and we see them carefully voting in rules so they can do things (such as insider trading) that is illegal for ‘regular’ people.
And there is revolt — the Millenials, the current generation, many of whom voted for the current president, are looking for a green solution — make everyone happy, save the planet, stop the evil politicians, stop the evil corporations, everyone should have the same everything so can’t we all just get along? Of course this won’t turn out any better than the Orange blight, it will take evolution to Yellow to get past the mess we are in.
Much of the problem is that while the USA might actually succeed in creating a ‘green’ society, there are still other societies in the world which are very much Red and they will see green-ness as weakness and come calling. It has already happened. And we have to go Red to respond, or we will die. Or, we can go Yellow and use Red influence to deal appropriately with Red problems.
Occupy Wall Street is a primarily Green phenomenon. They are fighting against Reds, and Blues, and Oranges, whom they see as the source of all our problems. But really we need to evolve to Yellow. Are there any Yellow politicians? I doubt it!
There are some Yellowish internet organizations, though. Zappos, for example, is highly profitable but also is high in customer service and tries to be very green. Facebook is about being social, preserving the planet, and also making a profit. I’m not saying these organizations are Primarily Yellow, but they have Yellow shoots. The internet is an interesting microcosm of the world; you can almost trace the evolution of the internet up through the Spiral to where we are today.
So I’m watching the internet (and really the web in general, because now it is smart phones in everyone’s hand) to see where society will go next. If we do not evolve and solve our problems by moving forward, we may fall back — probably all the way to Blue. That’s what happened in the early 1900s — We were rule based, became hugely achiever oriented, and then the piper came calling. Being rule based (The Greatest Generation) is what saved us then.
Let’s hope we can evolve forward this time!
Only one problem with your stereotyping of large groups to higher levels.
If you look at more recent work by Kegan and Jennifer Garvey-Berger, you will see two things Graves died before he could identify.
1) lower levels absorb the language and mannerisms of the culture around them as adolescents, but that does not mean they are anywhere near that level. Our media is Orange/Green so our youth look Orange/Green, but most of that is media illusion. Careful analysis of business samples (not slum illiterates) shows the majority of the US Business world is Blue/Orange. However, there is also a huge surge of Purple/Red reaching far beyond adolescence as Blue has died out as a social presence (hence the Tea Party backlash)
2) Many people and most societies live with two levels active.
Yes, the WWI generation had a firm grip on Blue, but a very Orange, individuallly active flavor of Blue. Most of American progress has been fueled by Blue values (not random rules, but core values) and Orange individual initiative.
It is not the millineals that are the Green pull, it’s aging WW2 and baby boomers. Unfortunately both Orange and Green are toxic these days.
Facebook is not yellow, it’s Red/Orange marketed as Purple/Green.
If you want to see something more Yellow, look at the early LinkedIn. It’s now been distorted over the last two years by toxic Orange/Red, but the original concept of a business-only, personal network that didn’t rely on Charisma was probably Yellow.
The Occupy movement may well be another example of toxic, ineffective Green. It certainly has no Orange or Yellow.
Blue is not just about rules, it’s about values, something the US has lost. It’s also about “rule of law”, but you need healthy Orange to keep the laws honest. Our fraud-based economic collapse and prison population should be a clue that Blue is broken and needs to be fixed.
Actually, values (not rules) helped the WW2 generation, but Orange saved them. Fighting two toxic blue rules-based enemies, American Orange was the key factor in the outcome.
Our current corrupt wall street and corrupt congress are what you get if you have Orange without civilizing Blue rules.
Great assessment, BJ. I can see that you tread a bit more carefully with Yellow.
From my own experience I can tell you that Yellow is first a ME phase in Spiral Dynamics (Red-ME, Blue-WE, Orange-ME, Green-WE). As you can imagine, it isn’t the psychotic Red, nor the rapacious Orange, but Yellow is the first reflective stage, where the individual learns about themselves and others through experimentation with psychological manipulation.
Eventually, once a person is comfortable with human nature to the point where they can simulate most any character, such a person will want to move onto Turquoise, where they will now learn about the social relationships that rule us, and how they too can be manipulated.
Sadly, there are no people who qualify as defacto Yellow (present day psychology doesn’t even recognize Spiral Dynamics yet). Also, I can safely guarantee that there are NO Turquoise. I say this because after someone earns Yellow and wants to troubleshoot social infrastructure as Turquoise will want to do, one of the first missions they’ll want to address is the malaise of America. No such initiative(s) exist(s).
Remember that the SD categories are, by necessity, a simplification of reality. Does any one person or any one company, group, or movement fit neatly into one category or even a combination of categories? Even though the fit isn’t perfect, they can be useful if they are predictive. What can you predict with a high degree of confidence about behavior after you assign a person or group/company to orange, green or yellow? If not a lot, then SD is just a convenient way for yellows to imagine that they are more evolved than other people.
I have found that it is useful. In particular, when I am working with clients, if they are rule-based then I know they will more appreciate strict adherence to established practices. If I am working with an orange, then I know that they appreciate out-of-the-box thinking. Working with beige, they need lots of reassurance that they will be treated fairly and taken care of. I also find it useful when listening to the talking heads of the MSM. When someone proposes a green solution to a mostly red problem, it is very unlikely to work and the greens proposing it have no idea why.
There are no set rules, and people do not live in a single meme – even from moment to moment. It is just another tool that can be useful. The real use of it is more artistry than science, I think, and yet – I use it every day though I am no artist in its implementation.