I have been teetering on the brink of discussing this for years; I thought now was the time.

The problem with what I am about to write is, I have quite a low level of confidence in my ability to adequately do justice in a blog, explaining ‘the spiral’ and what it is about.

I won’t know until I begin, so here it is.

Oh. And before I start, I’ll say that this will be more than one blog’s length; this will be an introduction.

Forgive the preamble.

The story began around five years ago when I first me a group of people who were, let’s say, on my wavelength*. They were talking about, in particular something called teal.

Now, I had no idea what they meant, although from the way they described it, the whole thing sounded interesting. This was in the days before I had an idea what teal was (even from a colour perspective). Originally I thought it perhaps the name of a concept – which it was, and also assuming it had some sort of deeper meaning – which is does and it doesn’t.

You see why I have struggled with this?

I’ll go to the teal and work from there (bearing in mind that there is still lots of this that I have yet to understand).

Much of this came from a book written by the Belgian business-thinker Frederick Laloux.


In 2014 he published ‘Reinventing Organisations’ in which he described different organisations or ways of working, collaborating, structuring the collective, which he based on the theory of the Spiral.

See? I haven’t even started and I have tied-myself in knots!

Well, the theory he used was that of Spiral Dynamics.

Spiral Dynamics – originally described by the American Psychology Professor Clare W. Graves in the 1950’s and 60’s and which he called – ‘The Emergent, Cyclical, Double-Helix Model of Adult BioPsychoSocial Systems Development’ was his first attempt to articulate the way that different societies (teams, groups, companies, collectives) function across the world and over time.


I will not give you a description of this now (you’ll have to wait), let’s say that Clare conducted research in an attempt to understand why people behave in certain ways and consequently what makes groups, teams or collectives function differently.

All this at the time was couched in highfalutin academic language.

In the 70’s Graves met Don Beck, a Texan Psychology Professor who joined him and together they translated what was obscure academia into a slightly more straightforward concept, which over time – and, in particular the involvement of the South African Anti-Apartheid movement (you weren’t expecting that were you!), developed into the more straightforward Spiral with its associated colours.

don beck funny.jpeg

I am going to skip the Graves and early Beck work and focus on the colours;

Are you intrigued yet?

Are you still reading?

Well, Beck and Graves, identifying that just as evolution affects all living organisms (presupposing you believe in evolution), physically, the concept here is that humans over millennia, i.e. throughout our history, have been influenced by cultural evolution.

This began back in the day when we were in small family groups, subsisting, hunting, beating-up Neanderthals and enjoying the bounty of Planet Earth before motorways and high-rise buildings.

This was the first tier – level of the spiral; our beginning point you might call it – before this we were probably less organised, maybe like bonobos or some other clever primate.

And so, with increasing sophistication, learning, passing on of cultural traits and information, which are called Memes (different although the same as the inane jpeg’s that are shared on social media), society developed, through stages of increasing sophistication.


After this first level people organised into entities, where you weren’t necessarily directly related to everyone in your group; this might be a tribe;

To save my typing, here is a picture:

spiral-dynamic-image (1).jpg

Using this model – or theory, society has advanced over time through different phases which brings us to the most up to date concepts of shared-decision making, co-creation, collaboration both in teams and across nations, the latter facilitated by social media (when not being used to share cheeky-baby memes).

If anyone who hasn’t heard about this concept before is still with me this far into the writing, congratulations – you are doing better than me!

In my case I had to read and re-read much of the ideas described before they sank-in in any meaningful way.

Now, they kind of make sense in most situations.

I am going to pause here and flip back to teal.

As I said, I met a group of amazing people a few years ago who also seemed both interested in the concepts that matched the name ‘teal’ and, were keen to involve themselves in different ways of working. When I say different all I mean is what I described above – co-creation, collaboration, compassion, caring and shared decision-making. Nothing too outrageous, but, when you translate this to were most of us were at the time, inured in 2010’s British health and social care things start to make more sense.

The past ten years has seen the biggest changes both for the good and the bad in health and social care (as I usually prefer, I’ll call this ‘Care’) – all the way from human genome project, face transplants, over-the-counter Viagra, genomics and gene therapy to long-length of stay, delayed discharges and workforce crises.

The good and the bad you might call it.

Just as with our ancestors lounging around East Africa, society reflected the times and, people operated with the times; East Africa – small family groups into related tribes and in Care, mostly, command and control, top-down, hierarchy.


Now, it might sound and anyone who has read my blogs probably has the idea that I am not that keen on the modern style of leadership; well, yes. Although it has done very well and served society in ways that are beyond what anyone might have imagined when the first pin was created at one of Adam Smith’s factories in The Wealth of Nations, it has taken us from there, through industrialisation to our current state of environmental near-collapse.

And from this, well, it’s not really a mess, more a chaos; the one that says, wear a suit or uniform, turn-up at 8 and clock-off at five, book your leave a year in advance, obey these policies and procedures; we, as a society are trying to find different ways of moving-on;

Another example, is the dominant system (and, I am talking, global here) of democratic politics, where Right-Wing seem to have understood how to garner votes and everyone else is scrabbling around ineffectively speaking words that don’t translate into action.

This is using the same system of control that helped get society to where it is, but can’t take it any further.

As demonstrated by the UK’s Brexit-balagan.


Already I have written more than I like in a blog and I haven’t even started explaining in any detail the spiral, what it represents and what it is about;

I have thrown-in some names and words which, if you are familiar with this stuff, might be reassuring – Laloux, teal, evolution, and, if this is your first time will likely just sound like mumbo-jumbo.

I am going to pause here and continue this – I promise; soon.


*Angela, Jane and Helen were the main protagonists.






Published by rodkersh1948

Trying to understand the world, one emotion at a time.

7 thoughts on “Spiral

  1. Your spiral graphic (the actual spiral, like the Vertigo record label) does my head in as I get dazzle-induced migraines, but that aside I went to look for an explanation of Teal and the different levels and found this, which seems fairly comprehensive for a beginner like myself: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/reinventing-management-pa_b_9387286 (it’ll go through Oath’s annoying page first, unfortunately). It all sounds good and I’m sure some organisations use it well, but the problem is surely how to persuade people whose biological development hasn’t yet progressed that far, to adopt it too? People can only (surely?) do what their current biology allows. I’m thinking, for instance, of people with hidden conditions, ones not yet diagnosed but present, and ones that have been diagnosed but that are in their early stages. How would they pull their (equal) weight in an organisation that works on a Teal level? Bad enough to be overseen by a ‘boss’ but even on the higher level, they’d have to be overseen by a group and then they might well have the indignity of feeling that they are being coddled. Also, isn’t it a fact that some people (like sufferers of the early stages of dementia, as an example, and also people with various kinds of autism) need a set routine that doesn’t waver and a clear identification of their tasks but without too much responsibility for other people?

    The thing that always bothers me about the workplace – any workplace – is that whatever its structure, as soon as you take a person out of their personal environment, they are facing artifice. (Or so it has always seemed to me). But I’m speaking as an individualist who has never liked that environment! So… maybe the stage after Teal is the one to aim for…. what colour would it be? Blue?

    And apropos your insecurity about your blog writing, just treat it as a diary with a few people reading over your shoulder. We are all insecure people in some way – bloggers more so! Also, may I suggest that you forget the number of words or paragraphs and just write?

    (Hopefully, you won’t have got this comment twice – my ‘net connection went down as I posted it!)


    1. Thank you Val and thanks for the reference. I recommend the book it says it better than the Huff article. I think too much energy is focused on the colours and not enough on what they represent – that is what I am trying to achieve! More to come…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel that ‘pulling your weight’ does not apply in the HSA innovative recruitment policy where values are shared and the wellbeing teams are self managing and ‘what matters to you’ applies to people helped and to members of the team.
    Teal is not a concept I yet feel I understand ,although I read the huffpost link.
    The spiral dynamic I think applies to communities and individuals at different stages and in varied time periods.
    I rather like the spiral!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great start. Much more to explore. I’ m looking forward to it. We were using the spirals memes today to help a community organisations deal with complexity and develop its next actions. Maybe worth alerting Claudius to this series. He may not be quite so surprised by the South Africa connection! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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