Book Cover - Book Review: Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change

To be honest, I didn’t understand everything. I’m a software developer with few exposure to change theory, but weirdly enough, you don’t have to fully grasp a book to be profoundly changed by it. I’m grateful to have read Spiral Dynamics.

The two authors preserved the work of Clare W. Graves, who formulated the theory in the first place in the sixties. There are many books about change management, this one is about fostering change at the level of a nation, or civilization. Don Beck, one of the co-author, made more than 36 trips to South Africa to assist Nelson Mandela toward the peaceful creation of a democratic South Africa. This is a highly theoretical book, the culmination of forty years of research and development.

All models are wrong, but this one is definitely useful, and despite the decades elapsed since its definition, Spiral Dynamics is as relevant as ever. We started with the survival instinct (Beige), formed tribes around supernatural beliefs (Purple), we built empires (Red), we adopted religions to differentiate the right and the wrong (Blue), we valued personal achievement in competitive organizations (Orange), we built egalitarian communities (Green), we appreciated difference and uniqueness (Yellow), and we get a global view and holistic approach, until the next upcoming spiral revolution. The spiral follows an alternation between warm and cool colors, representing respectively a focus inward oneself and a focus toward others: I need to distinguish myself to lead evolution, I need others to join me to make evolution happens. All intersubjective entities follow this spiral: local communities, small and large companies, and whole nations, and all wihout exception are struggling somewhere around the spiral.

I deplore the elaborate jargon and rigorous written style employed by the authors, that hinders the accessibility of the book content to a large audience. But in practice, I’m sure that people who need the most this book will be able to digest the content effortlessly. In today economy, where any enterprise is in perpetual change, managers and executives are advised to read this book, like any human being would benefit from even a short exposure to the subject.

About the author

Julien Sobczak works as a software developer for Scaleway, a French cloud provider. He is a passionate reader who likes to see the world differently to measure the extent of his ignorance. His main areas of interest are productivity (doing less and better), human potential, and everything that contributes in being a better person (including a better dad and a better developer).

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