The Nature of
change meme takes many forms. When someone says, "It is time for
a change," three other questions should follow: From what, to
what? Given the operant systems and context, how? And finally, the one
that should come first, why? Sometimes change activists and their
initiatives are like hammers looking for nails. Agents of change want
to sell their services (for profit or not) and use the tools they have
in hand, appropriate or not.
the other hand, Spiral
Dynamics programs help people determine
the plausibility of change, determine the nature and appropriate kind
of change, and plan strategies
likely to make the process more effective. Many of our students are
engaged in change initiatives of some sort - for individuals,
organizations, and even societies.
change models are the 'dynamic' aspect of the
SD approach which seeks to explain the forces of transformation in
thinking between the nodal spiral levels, as well as the combinations
and transitional sub-systems. The spiral is the train; change is its
engine. The engine is fueled by the interaction of existential
problems recognized in the milieu and neurobiological capacities in
the brain (or collective brain syndicate). When the neurology is
sufficient to address the extant problems, there is a state of
balance, homeostasis. But when either double-helix element shifts with
respect to the other - new problems appear (or are recognized) and new
ways of perceiving and thinking turn on - there is imbalance and a
disturbance. That might lead to a change of the system, though
there is no guarantee since conditions must be met.
Accurate differentiation of the levels
and their sub-phases is a crucial first step in a spiral analysis.
Managing change from DQ/er to dq/ER requires a depth of understanding
beyond the coarse "from Blue to Orange," for example.
Spotting the differences in underlying thinking between exiting
DQ wrapped up in existential jargon and exiting ER preoccupied with
post-modern neo-spiritual lingo takes depth of knowledge about the
underlying Gravesian point of view. When applications grow from
superficial myth or metaphor-level understanding of SD, it's no
surprise when they go awry, nor when they succeed out of sheer good
no matter how sophisticated and elegant the analysis, merely
recognizing differences doesn't mean effective follow-up action.
That's where myth/metaphor color-coded approaches to SD fall short, or
at least vastly under-utilize the potentials of the work. Enter the
dynamics of change with its elements of balance and imbalance,
alignment and incongruence, fit and force. In our NVCC Spiral
we explore these aspects of change in both nodal and transitional forms
and from several angles. One is
from the essential four phases in the basic Gravesian change process - Alpha, Beta,
Gamma, Delta - along with their causes and characteristics, regressive
searches, etc. Another is modified orders
of change ala Bateson. And a third is the directions of change -
horizontal, oblique, and vertical.
Orders of Change
We refer to first and second order change, a construct derived from
Gregory Batesons orders of change. Essentially, as described in the
Change State Indicator, first order change is change within a system
which, itself, remains essentially unchanged. First order transitions
accept the pre-existing premises and adjust within the givens. In
second order change, the system itself comes into question. Basic
premises are brought into question as assumptions and intentions are
subjected to either modification or replacement.
consists of reformations that occur with no change in the
meaning of the context, primarily to restore balance by enhancing and
adjusting existing strategies
involves the creation or change of a context and presents new
images, defines (bounds) new concepts, or intrudes into the space of
one reality to modify representations in another reality
and societal changes
policymaking, root, revolutionary, radical, transformational
learning about the concepts and processes in Level II to form
concepts and values across the range in which the changing/organizing/
synthesizing mechanisms of second order change operate
the existing reality and paradigm(s)
change in knowing about the personality of the world
leads to a holistic (unitary) worldview in which subject/object
becomes aware of connections to larger system(s)
changes in the evolutionary process of the human species
involving simultaneous third order transformations
Directions of Change
three primary directions of change covered in our SD level 1 and
2 seminars are:
horizontal, oblique, and vertical. Dr.
Graves explains these three basic directions of change very succinctly:
can see change as movement up the vertical axis from systems more homogeneous,
less complex, more restricted behaviorally to systems more
heterogeneous, more complex, more free behaviorally. This type of
movement will occur when there is an increase in energy in the system,
when there is dissatisfaction with the present state of being, and
when the insights necessary for propelling man to the next level
occur. Movement of this sort results in marked qualitative changes in
behavior, greater freedom to choose, and increased variability within
the behavioral thema of the next level.
Change can also be seen as movement
horizontally to the ultimate of a particular state. Such change would
take place when there is surplus energy in the system, when dissonance
is present but when no new insights for living have developed. It
results in marked elaboration of the thema of the level and would
ultimately achieve, so to speak, maximum entropy and thus the demise
of those who reached the maximum of horizontal change.
A third way that we can think of
movement is movement on the oblique. Oblique movement would result
when free energy and dissonance were present along with only partial
rather than the necessary insights for vertical movement. Here the
behavior would remain based on the level from whence the oblique
started, but would show subordinate aspects of behavior at the levels
reached by the oblique. Thus, theoretically, if a society or person is
operating at a certain level, we can predict by this conception what
changes in behavior would ensue if certain combinations of releasor
Spiral Dynamics book, those
are further divided into sub-variations: horizontal (fine-tune and
expand out), oblique (stretch-up and stretch-down), and vertical
(break-out, up-shift, and quantum). The direction is linked to
which of the six releasor conditions (potential, solutions,
dissonance, insight, barriers, consolidation/support) are present, and to what
extent in terms of the systems-specific characteristics needed in the from
- to process. Again in the words of Dr. Graves:
is not the rule. Lack of change
is not the rule.
there are no disturbances, no change can appear to be the rule.
there is disturbance, change may be seen to be the rule."
agents and social engineers will do well to consider the conditions
and then to choose the type of change that is appropriate, congruent,
and possible under the circumstances with the systems involved. Those
trying to explain why organizations, individuals, and societies either
do or do not complete a transformational process can benefit from such
a directional analysis, as well as of the expectations and aspirations
versus realities. Those planning to implement change benefit
from recognizing the roles of progression and regression, as well as
homeostasis. And those attempting to fathom why frustration and even
emotional storms occur would do well to assess whether vertical change
was promised but not realized, oblique change was celebrated as if
were something else, or honest horizontal improvements were not
recognized as legitimate and important change, too.
should also note that the presupposition of an evolutionary
developmental track driven by the interaction of the Gravesian
double-helix forces is not the only way to look at change. Our position is that the systems fall into an emergent hierarchy such that
each new level grows from elements of previous systems and then forms
something new - successful living produces new problems that
ultimately require new thinking to solve. It is possible to create a
"psychological map" based on this sequential process, and
that is why the models in Spiral
Dynamics programs can be very useful.
an alternative view is that these levels simply exist in the core
nature of Homo sapiens as a product of our genetic makeup, thus
need not arise in a step-by-step order. As latent coping systems in
the brain, perhaps they just "pop up" in response to
conditions without going through expected precursors, or even without
much shift in external conditions at all. This is not in opposition to
the Gravesian idea that the potentials are pre-existent in the
brain, only that the double-helix interaction (LCs:MCs) might not tell
the whole story.
we find the developmental sequence useful and attractive because it
offers both predictive and retrodictive possibilities, especially on
the social scale, there's no doubt that apparent exceptions can be found,
especially at the individual level. The caution we offer is that
shifts in schema (memes and forms of expression of systems) can cloud
recognition of transformations in thema, the underlying vMemes and
systems, such that a change in content is misconstrued as a change of
container. The swap of doctrinaire religious faith for guru-directed
spirituality isn't much of a stretch, even though the language
differs. Turning self-directed competitiveness from economics to
enlightenment is a turn of what to think about more than a change in
thinking. So before rejecting the developmental sequence too quickly,
we suggest taking a very close look at the thinking beneath the
thoughts, and the causes below the observable symptoms. In our
experience, the Gravesian process, and developmental approaches in
general, offer great explanatory power and apply far more often than
it is important to keep in mind another admonition of Dr.
Graves: "Damn it all, a person has a right to be who he is."
All too often "change" is a directive than a process of
opening possibilities, often with at tacit "or else"
attached. That is often accompanied by a vertical assumption that
"up" is proper direction, thereby ignoring the other
perfectly viable forms. Usually, downward change (back into congruence
and a restoration of a comfortable state, even constructive downward
mobility without disgrace) is dismissed as weakness rather than a
possibility for better coping. So if there is to be change, then facilitating the right
kind of change at the
right time with the right means is essential to making effective use of the
principles taught in NVCC's Spiral
Dynamics training programs.
Bateson, G. (1971/2000). Steps to an ecology of
Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Graves, Clare W. (1965). Man: An Enlarged Conception of His
_____ (1973). "Let Us Bring Humanistic and General Psychology
Together: A Research
to Become." Presentation at the NIMH, Washington, DC.
Watzlawick, P., Weakland, J. H., & Fisch, R. (1974). Change:
Principles of problem formation
and problem resolution. New
York: W.W. Norton & Company.