Tim Morgan on Values-Forms Part 1

Tim Morgan continues to explore Values with a Form that reinforces Spiral Dynamics. Enjoy!

Values-Forms Pt 1: David Ronfeldt’s TIMN & Spiral Dynamics

One of the things that weakens confidence in Spiral Dynamics as a psychological emergence theory is the dearth of published scientific studies backing it up. That lack of evidentiary rigor along with the absence of Claire W. Grave’s original research data makes some question its scientific validity.
This is not an overwhelming objection, however. Spiral Dynamics practitioners have been using it in the field successfully for decades. Another confidence builder is when other researchers come up with similar theories and frameworks. The most valuable of these are the ones which take a different approach or perspective but arrive at similar results. David Ronfeldt’s TIMN Framework is one superb example.
Ronfeldt spent over 30 years as a political scientist in the International Studies Group at RAND. He is retired now, but his work ranged from predicting the rise of networked forms of terrorism, to the applications of the concepts of the Noosphere and Noospolitics to international relations. One of Ronfeldt’s accomplishments was the development of his TIMN Social Evolution framework. Most of his work on TIMN can be found on his blog, which he still updates. Ronfeldt arrived at TIMN via observation and analysis. His original paper on TIMN is available online, as well as his video description of TIMN basics.
Briefly, Ronfeldt observed that all social organizing forms appear to be emergent from prior forms, and that those earlier social forms act as a foundation for later social organizing forms (See Figure 1). The progression he observed was:
Tribes: T
Institutions: I→T+I
Markets: M→T+I+M
Networks: N→T+I+M+N

The + notation he uses indicates that there is always an active mix of all the forms in any functioning social system. A +M market never stands alone. It always has T (tribal) and +I (institutional) components required for the +M component to function properly.

figure 1
Figure 1 – Ronfeldt’s TIMN Emergent Social Forms Framework

This evolution of social forms looks eerily like the vMeme emergence progression of Spiral Dynamics. Figure 2 shows TIMN form attributes that map closely to specific Spiral vMemes (sets of values).
Some other similarities between Spiral Dynamics & TIMN:
• Both list a base emergence state: Beige Survival-Sense values (Spiral) and the Tribal form (TIMN)
• Both claim that their labels are attractor-like nodes on an emergent continuum, and that intermediate hybrids exist between nodes
• Both insist that you never evolve away from needing prior forms
• Both claim that their emergence pattern is driven by circumstances: Life-conditions for Spiral and Information technologies for TIMN
• Both state that there is no upper limit to what might emerge as conditions change, and speculate that later levels are possible
• Both state that each can function positively or negatively: Healthy/Unhealthy (Spiral) and Light/Dark (TIMN).
• Both try to create a self-reinforcing environments for themselves. Example: Institutional forms reinforce Institutional values (TIMN), and BLUE Authoritarian values reinforce BLUE Authoritarian social structures (Spiral Dynamics)
• Both follow similar patterns of emergence

figure 2
Figure 2 – TIMN Attributes

The last bullet above is revealing. We can see a clear mapping of each TIMN form with a matching Spiral vMeme: Tribes & kinship-based solidarity (Purple Clannish), Institutions & hierarchical order (Blue Authoritarian), Markets & individual freedom (Orange Achievist), Networks & social equity (Green Communitarian). See Figure 3.

figure 3
Figure 3 – TIMN forms mapped to Spiral Dynamics values

Each TIMN form clearly matches a Spiral vMeme. The TIMN forms match the most influential Spiral vMemes in terms of social organization: Purple (Tribes or Extended Families), Blue (Institutions), Orange (Markets), and most recently Green (Networks). TIMN implicitly points out which of the 8 emergent Spiral worldviews can support long-term stable social orders. Beige cannot create a stable social form since those values are focused individual survival. Red can and does form Chiefdoms or Dominions. Those personality driven intermediate forms usually fall apart when the leader is dies or loses power. Yellow and Turquoise lack the prevalence in society to determine yet if they will create stable social forms from their values. Figure-4 maps each emergence pattern to a preferred worldview (sets of values).

figure 4

Figure 4 – TIMN emergence pattern & preferred worldview for each stable social form.
Note: The Figure 4 Worldview labels are derived from Andy Hine’s book, CONSUMER SHIFT. A Tribal/Mystical worldview is added to match a likely Tribal worldview matching the Spiral Dynamics Purple vMeme, not discussed in his book.

It feels natural to combine the two frameworks into a unified combination. This quadriform of values-forms could then be used to tag and assess the dominant forms interacting in a social order, and simultaneously give a synopsis of the values interplay.
An example: What is the impact on the local values and institutions of small to mid-sized rural towns (dominant T+I values) when their local TV stations (dominant +I form) are purchased by an interstate corporations (dominant +M form), which de-emphasize local news (T+I values) in favor of national news and editorial content (dominant +M values)?
One likely result is that local social cohesiveness will drop because of loss of T+I values reporting. Another is that the towns will likely start to lose their unique T+I identity in favor of national T+I+M identity matching that of the media conglomerate.
Practitioners of Strategic Foresight & Futures Research along with anyone else interested in the interplay of social forms and worldviews should look closely at Ronfeldt’s TIMN. It comes with a convenient tagging system (T, +I, +M, +N), is simple to understand, and maps very well to Spiral Dynamics and conventional worldview descriptions (Mystical, Traditional, Modern, Postmodern). One side benefit is to use it as an introduction to some of the core concepts of Spiral Dynamics in a more simplified form.
Some open questions remain about combining TIMN and Spiral Dynamics. The one which jumps out is that Orange Achievist is the only self-focused vMeme to create stable social forms (+M Markets). The other three are socially-focused and lend themselves to creating a defined social order. This break in the pattern is counter-intuitive. Why would a self-focused vMeme promote a stable social form? That nagging question will be addressed in the next article, Values-Forms Pt 2.
TIMN alone is an enormously useful tool for understanding social organization and change. Combining it with Spiral Dynamics is a natural extension, creating a powerful new composite tool for exploring the interaction of systems of values and social forms.

Author: Terry Collins

Foresight consultant and a lecturer and researcher at the University of Houston in the College of Technology. In the Project Management Department she teaches Leadership and Team Building to graduate students. In the Human Development and Consumer Science Department she teaches Human Ecosystems and Technological Change to undergraduates online. As a researcher she has worked in conjunction with the University of Houston Foresight Department and the Lumina Foundation on Student Needs 2025+. Led and mentored the "Emerging Fellows" blogging group for the Association of Professional Futurists. Has also mentored a group for the Women's Energy Network. Terry has given five presentations at the World Futures Society and two at the regional Project Management conference. She has appeared on “Great Day Houston” and moderated a Futures Panel at the Mensa regional conference. Terry has peer-reviewed publications in Foresight, Futures Quarterly Review, and On the Horizon She has a B.A. in Philosophy & a M.S. in Foresight

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