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.

Marveling at Spiral Dynamics by Tim Morgan

Tim Morgan @TimothyNMorgan (Director of Strategic Foresight at North Texas Foresight Institute) gave this presentation at the  2018 Spring Foresight Event at the University of Houston and I thought it was brilliant!  I begged him to put it in blog form for me to post here. I bet you will love it too!

 

Spiral Dynamics is a theory of emergent values development based on the work of Clare W. Graves. These emergent values levels, called vMemes, have a reputation for being notoriously confusing when first encountered. Don Beck & Christopher Cowan attempted to ease the way for newcomers by describing Grave’s original research using symbolic colors & tags. Beck & Cowan’s kaleidoscopic levels are a bit easier to absorb, but still can seem daunting to beginners.

Can we make it even easier or more accessible so that people can begin to understand Spiral Dynamics?

We can try, via Marvel comic book characters.

TIER 1 LEVELS OF EXISTENCE

The Incredible Hulk: Level of Existence #1, Beige SurvivalSense

hulk

Beige values center on individual survival in a hostile world. No one puts the Fight into Fight-or-Flight like the Incredible Hulk. The Hulk represents human values in its most raw, survivalist form. He can barely speak and has an extremely limited view of the world. His values are completely centered on moment-to-moment action. Anger triggers Hulk’s emergence from Dr. Bruce Banner when survival is at stake.

Hulk – Image sourced from http://www.movies.com/movie-news/comics-on-film-hulk-finally-getting-more-love-from-mcu/23203

 

Guardians of the Galaxy: Level of Existence #2, Purple KinSpirits

GuardiansPurple goes from individual survival to thriving as part of a larger group. The Guardians of the Galaxy typify that transition from individual survival to group purpose. Each Guardian brings their own unique virtues to their tribe-like circle. Together, they go beyond mere individual focus, to thriving kinship in a hostile universe.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Image sourced from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2015381/

The Red Skull: Level of Existence #3 – Red PowerGods

Red Skull

Red wants to break tribal limits to impose their will on the universe. The Red Skull embodies the PowerGod vMeme. He seeks out both mystic and physical power to impose his will on the universe. He creates pecking orders of trusted lieutenants around him. He revels in the destruction of his enemies, and dreams of a never-ending empire created by his own hand. He bridles at containment. His will is to command, and never to be shamed by failure.

Red Skull – Image sourced from https://www.quora.com/Captain-America-creative-franchise-How-did-the-Red-Skull-get-his-red-face

 

Captain America: Level of Existence #4, Blue TruthForce

Captain

Blue has a capital-P Purpose. Captain America is Marvel’s embodiment of Blue’s traditional values: truth, order, and community. He works for the good of society, willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Everyone has their place in the grand scheme of things, and Steve Rogers accepts his: working to defeat chaos and restore order.  Just as Blue values first emerged to contain Red impulsive dominion, Cap emerged in WWII to defeat Hydra and the Red Skull.

Captain America – Image sourced from http://www.wallpapers13.com/avengers-age-of-ultron-captain-america-marvel-poster-hd-desktop-wallpaper-2560×1600/

 

Iron Man & Black Widow: Level of Existence #5 Orange StriveDrive

Iron Man – Image sourced from https://variety.com/2014/film/news/robert-downey-jr-talks-iron-man-4-1201299776/ Black Widow – Image sourced from https://costumewall.com/dress-like-black-widow/

WomanOrange strives for autonomy and achievement. Billionaire genius Tony Stark typifies Orange’s success-oriented, no-nonsense view of the world. Stark’s ultimate achievement is his Iron Man exosuit. Stark constantly pushes the limits of science and technology making each new version more advanced than the last. Orange achievement isn’t always about money or technology. S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Natasha Romanov, code name “Black Widow”, chose a different path. Black Widow masters every challenge through keen observation, focus, and strategy. She is spycraft personified: cool, calculating, pragmatic, preternaturally competent, and precise

Groot: Level of Existence #6, Green HumanBond

rootGreen values reject hierarchies and roles in favor of relationships and empowerment. Groot is the living embodiment of such community-focused nurture and alignment with nature. His plant-like form grows and adapts to the needs of others. He guides his friends towards a spiritual sense of nature and fellowship. He willingly sacrifices himself to save his fellow Guardians, telling them “We are Groot”, only to be reborn again through their care.

Groot – Image sourced from http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/File:Textless_Groot_GOTG_Poster.jpg

 

TIER 2 LEVELS OF EXISTENCE

The Vision and Doctor Strange: Level of Existence #7, Yellow FlexFlow

The Vision – Image sourced from https://media.comicbook.com/2018/07/avengers-infinity-war-vision-mantis-1125066-640×320.jpeg Doctor Strange – Image sourced from http://marvelcinematicdatabase.wikia.com/wiki/Doctor_Strange

America

Yellow breaks past previous levels of existence to a new level of systemic understanding. Yellow values both the analytical and spiritual. It focuses on “I”, but never to the detriment of “We”. It is unlike prior values levels which center on either “I” or “We” values but not both. Two exemplars of Yellow’s integrative “systems-of-systems” perspective are The Vision and Doctor Strange. The Vision is a living robot, born from the fusion of advanced technology and an Infinity Stone. He strives to balance his desires with other’s needs. Yellow emerged differently in Dr. Steven Strange.  Strange was a world-class surgeon, a true man of science and rationality. He went on a transformative journey of discovery after a debilitating accident. That journey ultimately led him to arcane knowledge of a wider universe where science and mysticism are different maps of the larger reality. Both The Vision and Doctor Strange stand apart as powerful individuals who are compelled to gain an ever wider understanding of the universe, simultaneously desiring to keep everyone at every level safe.

Wakanda: Level of Existence #8, Turquoise GlobalView

Wakanda – Image sourced from https://www.slashfilm.com/black-panther-concept-art/

Wakanda

Turquoise senses the world artistically through its interconnected flow. It looks to “We” first, but in ways which empower “I”. The hidden city of Wakanda is the embodiment of this holistic worldview. It blends its separate cultures in ways which preserve each’s uniqueness but gives common voice to all. It does not shirk from sacrifice and looks to sustain all within it.  A Turquoise citizen of Wakanda is one who moves comfortably across all the levels, using each to harmonize the whole. Wakandans go beyond seeing the world via Yellow’s integrated system-of-systems eyes. They know the world as a holistic continuum, an environment of environments. They celebrate both cultural diversity and shared values. Turquoise Wakandans do not see competition between technology and nature but use each to enhance the other in a dynamic balance.

Level of Existence #9 & Beyond

Grave’s theory indicated that new levels of existence would continue to emerge as new life conditions arise beyond the current levels. Some claim emergence of these later levels, even though Yellow and Turquoise are still forming. It is almost impossible to comprehend what new values and patterns of thinking will emerge as we confront life conditions beyond the growing environmental stress and global strife giving rise to Yellow and Turquoise. We can only speculate on later levels. Certainty must wait as the future unfolds new challenges along the infinite spiral of values.

Coda on Imperfect Analogies

The fun pop-culture examples barely scratch the full extent of the Spiral Dynamics theory. They are only an entry-point for understanding this unique model of human values development. Spiral Dynamics is a flexible tool for understanding human behavior and aspects of social change. Enjoy your journey up the spiral. Excelsior!