I’m happy to announce the release of Spiral Dynamics in Action in the US. This long awaited book represents Don Beck’s first major publication since the original Spiral Dynamics took the world by storm in 1996. True to real Second Tier form, it is an intricate collaboration and blending of diverse voices from around the world and around a multitude of subjects ranging from organizational design, change dynamics, macro-economics, politics, and cultural emergence.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have contributed a chapter to the book and will refrain from reviewing it on this page. Instead I will share the following review from Graham Mummery, a brilliant man with deep knowledge of developmental models.
Secular, sacred, scientific by Graham Mummery
In the prefaces to this book, the authors state that the current volume is a sequel to Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change. Having read the earlier work, it is easy to understand this kind of reasoning. “Spiral Dynamics in Action,” though it explains the theories behind the tool, is very much an update on how it has been and continues to be applied. That said, the writing here is good and concise enough for the book to serve as an introduction for the general reader, though the “Mastering Values” volume remains the essential manual to master this “secular, sacred and scientific theory” to slightly paraphrase Dr Don Beck. I might add in some senses Spiral Dynamics might also be seen as an art or a branch of human wisdom. .
Straight away this begs the question as to what is spiral dynamics? It is a tool which comes out of the researches of social psychologist Professor Clare W Graves. Graves is a figure who is perhaps not as well known as perhaps he should be. Some of this may be down to the fact that Graves was not as prolific a writer as say Freud or Jung. His magnum opus, The Never Ending Quest: Dr. Clare W. Graves Explores Human Nature: A Treatise On An Emergent Cyclica, was completed after his death. It is only in this year (2018) that a summary of his work has appeared in the excellent Clare W. Graves: His Life and His Work. Yet Graves and Spiral Dynamics do exert an influence, for example in the work of the monk and spiritual writer Fr Richard Rohr and they are often cited in the works of the integral philosopher Ken Wilber.
Spiral Dynamics though of course does much of its own work. One of the authors of this book, Dr Don Beck, has done much to develop further Graves ideas and apply them in the world. There are chapters in this book exploring both the work of Graves and Beck and their ideas with photographs of both men some that appear in colour on the Kindle app on my tablet (though this feature does not come in colour on my Kindle or in the print edition. The early chapters especially concentrate of the theory of spiral dynamics. There are diagrams also to illustrate this.
The theory itself is a psychological development model with evolutionary aspects that look at various value systems which reflect perceptual styles of thinking and actions and how the interact and sometimes conflict.. Those familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will see certain parallels, though Graves (who knew Maslow and his work) sees some of these things in slightly different ways. One of the principal things Graves also suggests that human consciousness may be on the verge of making what he called a “momentous leap.” This last idea is not solely the province of Graves (readers of Jung, his student Erich Neumann, and of Jean Gebser for example will be acquainted with this possibility) but one of the strengths on show here is how Spiral Dynamics, whilst embracing such possibilities, remains grounded in everyday life as well.
In the chapters after the theoretical ones we see the “in Action” part the title suggests. One area is in South Africa, where Beck did a lot of work in the nineteen nineties with leaders in that country as it moved past the apartheid era. In another chapter taken from Emerge!: The Rise of Functional Democracy and the Future of the Middle East we hear about Beck working with Elza Maalouf in the Middle East trying to bring communities together. There is a chapter on how Spiral Dynamics can be applied to macroeconomics from Said E Dawlabani’s MEMENONICS which also explores another theme that is prominent in this book, namely making organisations more ecologically sustainable. Incidentally, both these other volumes are worth exploring in their own right after the taster here. There are also chapters on other themes that I will suggest readers explore for themselves as well as links to websites and publications with even more of the research referred to here.
All in all this makes for a very rewarding read. Spiral Dynamics has much to contribute to the world. This book elegantly shows what it can do. Highly recommended