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!