SD in Action

Systems in us, not types of us


“The spiral” isn’t a typological model; it’s a way of thinking. The “types of people” school continues to promote this theory as a way to sort everyone into over-simplified categories and rigid boxes: “3s do this and 6s do that.” Even worse, a few then offer ways to manipulate people based on those false assumptions. Whether maneuvering people for ostensibly positive or negative reasons, that is still not an ecological use because the aspects of human nature this model addresses can change. That is not our approach because it represents false simplicity.

NVCC’s SPIRAL DYNAMICS® programs depict complexes of flowing systems within people as life conditions in their worlds and internal neurobiological systems interact—our approach avoids putting people into pigeonholes or boxes. We describe systems for coping with living, and how those systems interact with their environments.

Dr. Graves often said, “Beware of finding simplicity that is not there.” His “emergent, cyclical, double-helix model of adult biopsychosocial systems development” is far more complex than many presenters suggest. Much attention goes to the superficial categories rather than the engine that drives human nature.

But also, beware of complications that don’t serve the theory. The models are elegant and sometimes others represent them as wrapped in details that contribute little of substance and only add confusion. This is a theory of how people think about things, not a catalog of things they think about, nor a rating scheme for grading human kind.

Some users talk about more complex systems without actually operationalizing the ways of thinking and being with which they identify. Look for “stretch” versions of systems that talk a good game but do not live the worldview – talking the talk without walking the walk. Searching for pinnacles, top-ends and personal bests are common objectives; this model describes differences and appropriateness, not a stairway to an ultimate state of either winner-ness or godliness. It is an open-ended series of levels and sub-levels, each of which represents an appropriate way of being in a particular kind of existence.

Remember that this point of view is really about the streaking comet of human development, not the comet-tails that show up as values or the behavioral traits of the levels of existence. Those things are readily observable evidence; but they are not the essence.

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