Values-Forms Pt 2: Circles, Hierarchies, Exchanges, & Systems… by Tim Morgan

My earlier Values-Forms Pt 1 essay showed the similarities between David Ronfeldt’s TIMN Social Forms Evolution framework and Spiral Dynamics emergent values theory. I briefly showed that they can be combined into a powerful new composite values-form tool for understanding organizational social change.

The article left an open question: why are Spiral’s Orange Achievist values the only self-focused vMeme to create a stable social form, namely +M Markets? Figure-1 shows the break in the clean pattern of socially-focused values creating stable social forms. It seems to violate both symmetry and common-sense.

Figure 1

Figure 1 – TIMN forms to Spiral Dynamics values mapping
Another way to phrase the question is, why doesn’t each Spiral vMeme produce a stable social form? One hint is that self-focused Red Egocentric values do create a well-known social form, namely Chiefdoms/Dominions. The problem is that Red Egocentric social forms are not stable over the long term. Their “cult of personality” emphasis on specific individuals as leaders and the pecking order springing from them makes that personalized form of hierarchy unstable past their reign. Dominions lack the long-term abstract positional structure of pure +I/Blue Authoritarian hierarchies (ex. “The King is dead! Long live the King!”)

So why does the next self-focused vMeme, Orange Achievist, create stable +M Market forms? Why would it be stable where a Red Dominion is not?
Social Forms are not the same as Social Structures. TIMN already embodies implicit values within each of its emergent social forms. That is how we matched them up with Spiral vMemes in Pt 1. Each aligns a dominant TIMN form with a current worldview, which in turn neatly match up with four Spiral Dynamics vMemes:

• T Tribes → Mystical worldview → Purple Clannish
• +I Institutions → Traditional worldview → Blue Authoritarian
• +M Markets → Modernist worldview → Orange Achievist
• +N Networks → Postmodernist worldview → Green Communitarian
One approach to reconciling the break in pattern is to separate the implicit values in each TIMN form from its structure. We need to identify the underlying structural communications mode for each dominant form/vMeme. We see are an interesting set of groupings in Table-1:

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Table 1 – Values & Forms Communications Modes

 

Table-1 lays out how Spiral Dynamics values and TIMN forms map to their co-emergent communications technologies. The Emergent Communications Mode column lists my current assessment of how people use the dominant communications tech for each combined values-form. The resulting mode of communication stems from the communications type which that tech facilitates best (one-to-one, one-to-many, etc.) along with the values trying to communicate via that communications type.
Thus Beige & Purple vMemes both want to communicate via one-to-one interactions within Kinship Circles. Red & Blue want to communicate via one-to-many Authoritarian Hierarchies. Orange & Green both want to interact via many-to-many Egalitarian Exchanges. Yellow & Turquoise want to communicate via Interdependent Systems.
The answer to the question of why +M Markets are stable is now clearer. Markets are just a special case of the stable Exchanges social structure. Orange prefers free egalitarian (no familial or hierarchical bias) exchanges of tangible value, while Green privileges free exchanges affinitive (emotional/relational) value.
If this assessment is correct, then Ronfeldt’s +M and +N forms are just two different expressions of the same Exchanges structure. Orange wants tangible strategic exchanges to satisfy its self-focused values, and Green wants relative intangible affinitive exchanges to satisfy its socially-focused values. Both are egalitarian in the sense that they want their partners in the exchange to be unhindered by the values of other vMemes/worldviews. So +M Markets are only considered fair if everyone can participate regardless of family or position. Similarly, +N Networks are only considered fair if everyone gets to establish relational connections based on affinities of social value.
The emergence of +N Network social values exchanges goes a long way to explaining current social conflicts across the world. Affinitive networks with different core worldviews (“conservatives vs liberals”, “nationalists vs internationalists”, “urban vs rural”, etc.) which interact will see the other network as inherently incapable of fair exchange of their cherished affinitive network values.
The most profound implication of this for Spiral Dynamics adherents is that we can pair the Self-focused & Socially-focused vMemes into pairs. Each values pairing matches a complementary social organization structure which it wants to promote to enhance communication of its values. Thus Beige+Purple prefer family-like circles where talking is the primary mode of communication. Red+Blue wants hierarchies where writing establishes authority and truth. Orange+Green wants unencumbered expression of their values via mutual exchanges and resent mightily any interference or restrictions on them. Yellow+Turquoise is just beginning to emerge at this point, but appears to want connected, functioning systems where all values can route to where they are needed or wanted. If someone asks for a digital “Executive Dashboard” they are asking for a Yellow+Turquiose dynamic tool for constantly assessing the health of the overall system.
We can summarize the emergence of these new structured values-forms into a new notation, inspired by Ronfeldt’s extremely insightful and useful TIMN: Circles (C), Hierarchies (H), Exchanges (E), and Systems (S). Instead of Ronfeldt’s TIMN social forms we have CHES structures:
• Familial & Tribal social Circles –> Beige/Purple Kinship-Circles
• Dominance & Institutional social Hierarchies –> Red/Blue Authoritarian-Hierarchies
• Strategic & Affinitive social Exchanges –> Orange/Green Egalitarian-Exchanges
• Interactive & Anticipatory social Ecologies –> Yellow/Turquoise Interdependent-Systems

Each of these structured values-forms can be used to structurally analyse organizational forms, modes of communication, related values, and values-based sources of organizational conflict. The same “+” notation can be used giving us family-like Circles, +H power or position-based Hierarchies, +E egalitarian Exchanges of physical or abstract value, and +S interdependent social systems. It also clearly gives us a key for summarizing the over-arching values held by each emergent pair of Spiral Dynamics vMemes, concisely describing the emergence of each set of values and each related social form for both self and socially focused values:
CHES Structured Values Forms:
• Beige-Purple (existence values) -> Kinship-Circles (Familial Bands & Tribal Circles)
• Red-Blue (positional values) -> Authoritarian-Hierarchies (Dominance Pecking-orders & Institutional Hierarchies)
• Orange-Green (relative values) -> Egalitarian-Exchanges (Competitive Markets & Affinitive Networks)
• Yellow-Turquois (integrative values) -> Interdependent-Systems (Interactive Systems & Adaptive Ecologies)

It is not clear that this formulation is intrinsically better than Ronfeldt’s TIMN framework. Its single most apparent advantage is in reconciling social forms with Spiral Dynamics vMemes in a simple but powerful framework. Practitioners should add both TIMN and CHES to their organizational toolkits.