Spiral EU


IEC BannerThe Second Integral European Conference will be taking place this year in Budapest Hungary from May 4-8. Dr. Beck, Elza Maalouf and I were honored to be invited as Keynote Speakers. Dr. Beck will speak about the New Global Divide  on Thursday afternoon. While Elza and I are scheduled to speak on Saturday morning.  Elza will use her Large-Scale Design tools to address the refugee crisis in Europe, and I will be speaking about the future of  EU Economic integration from a Gravesian perspective. There’s nothing better than a presentation on Evolutionary Economics at 9:00 AM to energize the whole day. For a detailed list of speakers, conference schedule and registration, please CLICK HERE.

Spiral EU

Elza’s keynote will be followed by a panel discussion on the refugee issue. There will also be 20-minute side sessions immediately following the panel where these conversations will continue. Elza will speak about the importance  Arab Nationalism and the different contents of Arab Purple-RED.   I will address the issues on the decline of Capitalism and the forces shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The conference will be preceded by a 3-day Spiral Dynamics training from April 30-May 2. It will be led by Dr. Beck, Teddy Hebo Larsen, Elza Maalouf, Bence Ganti and me. This will be the first public training offered in Europe in over a decade and will focus on Organizational Design.  For more information and registration for the SD training, please Click Here.

As Europe faces difficult  challenges, it is assuring to know that the organizers of  this conference have recognized the importance of verticality  as an essential ingredient in designing  robust integral  solutions.


digital econ

The World is Bifurcated and Disrupted

It has been ten years since Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat became an international bestseller. This was a book that cast the widest net on defining what a modern-day globalized economy looked like. Like many of those who read it, I was in awe of how technology, logistics, and management practices can come together to define the future of a world so connected, efficient and small. For the first time, someone made sense out of all the changes that were taking place and framed them in language so new it was welcoming for some, but petrifying for many. The era of globalization was upon us and there was nothing we could have done to stop it.

Of the book’s 469 pages, the most profound theme that stayed with me for all these years was one statement that Friedman made. It was about the endgame of this rapid change: “If your job is quantifiable, it’s outsourceable.” To me, that statement represented the beginning of the end of the American Dream as we knew it.

Friedman’s pioneering approach in explaining the new global complexity, and his bold predictions, earned him much criticism that remains valid till this day. In an effort to dismiss the book’s findings, Nobel Prize laureate, Joseph Stiglitz declared that the world is not only “not flat,” but it was becoming “less flat.” Urban studies theorist Richard Florida declared, “The world in not flat, it’s spiky.” Value systems theorist Don Beck, declared that “The fifth level world might be flat, but the real world remains hierarchical.


With the benefit of hindsight, we can  see how unpredictable technological disruptions can be. Yes, the flattening of the commerce-driven fifth level value system has brought prosperity to many remote parts of the world, while destroying much of the Industrial Age ethos in the West. It has made instant global communications free and possible. The ubiquitous use of cell phones and solar panels have enabled remote parts of the world to by-pass the traditional channels of infrastructure development. Collaboration, peering and sharing have become part and parcel of the information economy.

But, in spite of all that, there are many things that Friedman could not have possibly predicted. The outsourcing phenomenon has matured and has shown that cheap labor in places like China and India was only temporary as these countries moved forward to their next stages of development. First came their sudden rise to the middle class and the need for higher wages. Then stories surfaced about riots, suicides and 16-hour workdays by children in Chinese factories that made our iPhones and iPads. Similar practices came to the surface from places like Bangladesh and Vietnam presenting the most power economic engine – the American consumer – with a moral dilemma. Soon, companies like Apple and clothing giant Gap, Inc. found it necessary to explore alternatives to their business model. In less than a decade, the world became less flat.

Other concepts that Freidman explored have simply fallen by the wayside. Lower production costs and exponential advancements in digital capabilities have rendered the insourcing phenomena obsolete. Offshoring has suffered from the same stigma as outsourcing. The only element left of the last flattener is the tax avoidance strategy that enables corporations to hide revenues offshore. Transparency and government pressure are forcing an end to those practices as well.

So, why have ideas of contemporary thinkers like Thomas Friedman proved to be incomplete only ten years after they defined the brave new world we live in. Today’s world changes at the speed of light and, unless these thinkers can ride on those light particles their insights will only paint a partial picture that lasts for no more than a minute. Never before has technology defined our lives and expression of values as much as it has in the last 2 decades. Today, we face one the greatest disruptions humanity has faced in it history. We are defined not by our character, but by our ability to adapt to the latest gadgets. Entire industries have disappeared due to technological disruption, and a few, more advanced algorithms will soon replace the disruptors themselves.

The classroom has moved to our laptops, and within a few short years we will become autonomous learners. Driverless cars will provide us with cleaner air, productive travel time, and less crowded streets. All these changes will leave behind millions of disrupted workers with obsolescent skills and no one has a plan to retrain them.

Welcome to the age of disruption, a period in human history that very few people can forecast its final outcome. Due to its continued unpredictability, social science defines this phase of change as a paradigm shift. In my work we call this particular phase the decline and entropy phase of an old system, while the emerging system continues to be defined . This is where values  of an old system that have been exhausted reach the point of bifurcation and  toxicity from old formations collapse and a new natural order begins to rise. We’re beginning to see some patterns of that new order.

Jobs that have defined much of the post-modern era that are a quantifiable and digitizeable will continue to disappear, while demand for specialized personal services and unique non mass-produced products will flourish.

The future is both local and global. The supply chain will continue to flatten our world, while new non-digitizeable careers for the middle and working class will increase in popularity and occupy the empty neighborhood shops. As the disruption wanes, human input becomes complementary to that of the machines that make things. Imagine ordering a custom-made suit from your favorite designer online, and getting fitted for it one hour later at your local tailor shop. All the tailoring done by a machine, the final fit decided on by you and your tailor. It is a return to the simplicity of a locally based economy empowered and shaped by the complexity and the distributed intelligence of the digital age. This part we know. Only the passage of time will define the rest of the story.

Graves Final

WE ARE GRAVESIANS, Reflections on 2015

Happy New Year to all who are reading this post and particularly to the members of the online community of the Beck-Graves Facebook page. Whether we’re known as Spiral Dynamics, or SD Integral is irrelevant to the content of what we discuss or to the nature of the work that we do. I created the page for the purpose of promoting the work of my friend and mentor Dr. Don Edward Beck and to preserve the legacy of his friend and mentor Dr. Clare W. Graves. When I added the term integral to the name of the page, I wasn’t pandering to the followers of Integral Theory. I truly believe that Grave’s framework stands on its own as a superior developmental model worthy of advancement. So as many people do this time of year, I spent the holidays reflecting on 2015 and on the interactions that took place on that page and whether or not they facilitated the advancement of knowledge through our framework.

Graves FinalLooking back at 2015, I was amazed at the group’s ability to intelligently articulate subjects ranging from challenges to economic and political systems around the world, to how to deal with the European refugee crisis. But the year wasn’t all roses as I was the recipient of many personal attacks from the people who love us the most, Ken Wilber’s followers. I’m still flabbergasted by the number of unsolicited verbal assaults I received from so called integralists when the discussion turned to the hierarchical nature of our solutions. God help the person who makes the same mistake I made in saying something like “Blue is what’s next for the Middle East.” Apparently practitioners of integral theory, who live privileged lives in places like Newton Massachusetts, and Northern California, think that lower systems are something for them to victimize so they can feel better about being armchair healers. The shear fact that our framework calls on solutions to be stratified in accordance with Levels of Existence, and prevailing Life Conditions has been an unending source of vitriol to our integral colleagues. We must have triggered some unresolved issues worthy of this level of contempt.

Even criticizing President Obama’s blind spots subjected me to many personal attacks from known leaders in the integral community. Imagine a place where exercising my right to hold accountable the man I voted for twice, can trigger such visceral hate. To me that place is far more dangerous to democracy than anything the likes of Donald Trump can ever give us. We all know Trump is a clown who will disappear at the ballot box, but to believe that Obama cannot be challenged as if he’s a God is essentially the definition of dictatorship albeit at a much higher and more dangerous level of existence.

This past year, after being urged to extend an olive branch to our community, many in the integral camp did so by arguing that their work includes “levels”. To me, this has become the Integral movement’s standard statement for pacifying the Beck-Graves framework and wrongfully absorbing it into theirs. To me their claim meant they identify with all levels, especially the First Tier where 95% of the world’s problems come from today. However, instead of continuing to react to these statements, I decided to do some research that will exonerate my integral colleagues and set the record straight. So, during the holidays, I took it upon myself to scan through the papers that were submitted for the 2015 Integral Theory Conference, which I received as a paid attendee.

I was in search for those levels and for references to people, groups and cultures addressed through language that is characteristic of levels differentiation. In some of the documents, I even entered search words that are descriptive of different first tier behaviors, but the results were disappointingly low. Most of the 47 papers, dealt with either spirituality or a specialized segment of psychology that deals with shadow work. Integral practitioners like Mark Gafni submitted a paper about “outrageous love” and how “we are one” and the spiritual ramblings of a sexual predator avoiding having to deal with his own ugly shadow, who was welcomed back to a community that is so evolved, it shelters him from repeated allegations of statutory rape. There was nothing I could find that dealt with social psychology. To be fare, there were few mentions of terms that hint at the existence of first tier like post-modernism, but in passive, dismissive ways.

I still couldn’t figure out why our highly evolved colleagues would be so condescending towards our work. Then it came to me. At the time I created the Beck-Graves FB page, I failed to check on who owns the word Integral. Apparently, it was none other than Ken Wilber filing a trademark application in 30 BC the minute he heard Eudoxus use it. This has to be the only rational explanation that permits so many integralists to be so abusive with such certainty. So on the behalf of Sir Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibnitz, my high school calculus teacher, and all the scientists and mathematicians who wrongfully used the word integral for all these centuries, I apologize for the copyright infringement. Expect that all who continue to use the word to be subjected to the wrath of this dangerous posse that loves us the most.

Meanwhile, I will continue to honor Dr. Beck’s wishes and keep integral as part of the name. Not as a subsumed part of the integral community, but as a result of a complicated court decision in a case brought by Dr. Beck’s past partner that limits his use of Spiral Dynamics in public only to the term Spiral Dynamics integral. As I look to 2016 and beyond, I want to start the journey with the few brave people who understand well the Levels of Existence Theory  and Don Beck’s  Large-Scale Psychology. We want to bring the work of these two geniuses to a permanent home where it can be whole on its own again. Happy 2016.