SD in Action

Is the Spiral a kind of typology?


Dr. Graves’ theory describes an emergent process, not a set of categories or boxes for people or a series of essential developmental stages locked into chronology. These are systems within the person or group, not types of persons or groups. They’re ways of thinking about a thing, not labels for thinkers.

One of our ongoing problems is that many people look only at the Spiral and ignore the critical Dynamics. When taken alone, the Spiral model does come across like a stair-step of types of people: Blues and Oranges and Greens. Even some of the graphics give the false impression of a layer cake of sharply-delimited levels. Thus, quite a few writers, even some who should know better, use the Spiral model as nothing more than a simplistic 8-color coding system with descriptors for the different categories. That’s probably better than categorizing people into only two classes – friend or foe, for example. And it provides a means for talking about human differences apart from the usual discriminatory markers like age, ethnicity, gender, etc. But it still misses the Gravesian theory, thus the Dynamic aspect, as well as the wave-like nature of the systems.

In theory, the potential for all of these systems lies within everyone with a normal brain—and that’s the vast majority of people. However, all the systems aren’t necessarily awakened because that results from the interaction between the neurobiology of the person or group with existential problems and conditions in the external milieu. Sometimes change might come from a stray neutrino striking someone’s cerebral cortex; but generally, change results from the experience of living, solving problems, and encountering new ones which demand fresh thinking to resolve.

From our perspective, we don’t ask, “How do you deal with this kind of person?” Instead, we seek to understand how to recognize and manage the form of thinking and behavior within the person that s/he exhibits regarding a particular thing, at a particular time, under particular conditions. That is because (a) people can change as conditions change and (b) because these are ways of thinking about a thing, so there can be multiple sub-systems within one human being. Thus, the informed user asks, “How do I manage the Orange (ER) in this person?” rather than “How do you deal with Orange people?” It’s a subtle difference, and one which is critical to moving out of typology and into the flow-state view that we present in our SPIRAL DYNAMICS® programs.

  1. Judas

    That’s a sharp way of thininkg about it.

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