Where it came from

Strategy of the Dolphin

This was a seminal piece of work that Dudley Lynch wrote with Paul Kordis in the 1980s.

He outlines the main models that we use today – the BrainMapm  the Graves spiral vision that underpins all the work and the conflict resolution strategies used by individuals from different world views.

We have different ways of seeing the world that depend on our preferences for the bits of our mind that we like using and on the balance between how far our values favour the individual or the group that we belong to – and how much uncertainty and ambiguity we can tolerate.

These variables motivate people – and these have to be aligned to the people and processes that drive the groups and organisations that we belong to – whether this is a business, a branch of the Women’s Institute or a group of musicians running an informal music session in the pub.

Dudley became very influenced by Graves’ thought and we have recognised that this is the key variable for flexing the language that we use to motivate those we want to work with.

How mature individuals develop – the Graves Spiral

Getting teams to align round a vision is challenging because we don’t all think the same way and because different people have different values. How people relate to the company culture and the amount of attention they get makes a difference. To motivate, we need to understand something about individual psychology and how people react to the Professor Clare Graves was a contemporary of  Maslow who became interested in what happened to people who went past the self-actualisation stage in Maslow’s Hierarchy. He developed an approach known as the Graves Spiral which helps us describe people’s value systems, behaviour and hence what motivates them according to their degree of group vs. individual behaviour on one axis and their ability to tolerate ambiguity in their work situation on the other.   We use Dudley’s approach to this important work because it’s  more accessible to the busy manager and because he integrates it with what we understand about brain function and preferred styles of thinking.

Graves suggested that an individual’s development towards maturity  was towards tolerating more complexity of situations, to viewing  situations in an increasingly long term way and the ability to handle ambiguity. At a certain point in their development the individual becomes able to use ambiguity and create new rules to develop new systems and structures.

However this progress doesn’t take place in a linear way. Individuals meet   crises or changes of circumstances at different times in their lives and this can pop them from being primarily concerned with self to being primarily concerned with the group they are part of. At a different time they may make the transition the other way.

Individuals may not go through the sequence completely or necessarily in order. They will very quickly as children and young people adopt the prevailing norms of their family’s class or cultural domain. In Western societies they are generally levels 4, 5 and 6 although teen culture and gangs may show a lot of clan behaviour.

Whether the individual then moves on depends on what happens to them and how they respond to it. Many of us have the experience of rejecting our parents’ values for the alternative  – from capitalist to socialist or the reverse for instance. What happens after that first major jump depends on what the individual needs to achieve full autonomy of action and whether they are prepared to continue to strive for maturity.

Having issued this caution, what follows is an idealised journey which illustrates the kinds of issues and pressures that move the individual forward, up the spiral.

For instance they may develop from survival needs to being part of a group which delivers security. This is of course one of the main reasons why children and young people join a gang. However belonging to the group can be restrictive and people break free again to be on their own.

In practice they often find that the life of a loner is difficult and chaotic and they will often settle for belonging in a structured organisation like a church or an armed or other service which offers certainty and stability in exchange for a degree of sacrifice in freedom, earning power and personal achievement.

However over time they may find this irksome and they may start to want  power, position and acquisition and display of status objects. They may opt for the more self-centred culture  found in many corporate business cultures which rewards the individual for his performance and tends to see excess team orientation as a bit wet. For people with talent at certain stages of their life this can be very attractive.

However many find that after a period the strain of constantly competing and watching one’s back becomes wearisome and they “retire” and seek to work in a group that focuses on being more inclusive and helping people to develop as a group. “No-one wins until we all win” might be the motto.

A large  group spend their working lives in such groups but for a small proportion the characteristic inefficiency and therapy addiction of these groups become frustrating. Fired by the need to find elegant solutions that work, they strike out on their own to create something that works.

However they are qualitatively different from the previous self-orientated system in that they desire self-expression but not at the EXPENSE of the group. This drives them towards syntheses of left and right brain thinking to create systems that are both results and people focused.

This journey is summarised in the diagram. The colours of the systems are those used by Spiral Dynamics, the most popular “flavour” of the Graves theory. The names for the stages are Dudley Lynch’s. The central arrows illustrate the emotional drivers that move people forward. The emotions on the outside are the characteristic forces that keep people embedded in these systems.

It’s important to recognise that individuals are not exclusively attached to one of these mindsets. It’s more as if these are expressions of value systems that may be adopted. In general, most individuals may have 2, 3 or 4 of these prominent in their make-ups. Often 2 adjacent ones may be in competition. One however will generally be the one most frequently adopted.

It’s also not necessary to go through these stages in strict sequence. Many of the baby boom generation went from “loyalist” to “involver” and then had to spend some time learning how to be compete effectively before they could move on.

This is Graves’s theory in summary. It is on the face of it a complicated theory on which to base our understanding of motivation. The reader may wonder “how does it all come about – what’s the underpinning rationale and evidence?”

Dudley Lynch’s interpretation is that these value systems develop out of the way we see the world – out of our thinking styles and preferences. A big trap we can fall into when thinking about motivation is the assumption that other people are like us and think the same way. The truth is we see the world the way we think. It’s a projection of our preferred thinking style which emerges from our underlying value systems.

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