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Spiral Dynamics, Spiral Webs, and Evolving Business

Posted Sep 14 2008 3:42pm


On Thursday I attended "The New New Internet, Web 2.0 for Business" hosted by Potomac Executive Biz. This one-day conference focused on the rapidly changing nature of consumers' interaction with the Internet, and how business and government need to adapt to this morphing landscape. As more and more people utilize blogging, wiki-ing, RSS, Twitter, social media, podcasting, video blogging and other instant modes of communicating information, there is an increasing expectation that enterprise and government will provide transparent, up-to-the-minute information. There has been reluctance on the part of business and government to adopt many of these new technologies, partly because of heavy beauracracy and partly due to concern over security and control.

At the conference, I attended a seminar entitled "Spiral Web-The Future of Web Society" presented by Michael Smith of TeraTech, which gave me a glimpse of a fascinating idea. Spiral Web is Smith's conceptual model (based on the Spiral Dynamics theory of human biopsychosocial development) which is designed to describe and predict the evolution of web societies. Both models consist of a series of colored tiers representing different levels of increasing integration and complexity. In the Spiral Web model, the first tier is the stand-alone PC. The subsequent tiers represent the increasing vastness and complexity of the interactive nature of the web (from BBS to services like AOL to blogging, Wikipedia, Facebook and beyond).

In the Spiral Dynamics model, the first several tiers (the majority of the model) represent individual survival, followed by group and societal survival: Purple is tribal safety, Red us raw power, Blue is eternal salvation, Orange is individual success, and Green is the need to be accepted. The highest two tiers (Yellow and Turquoise) are integrative, holistic and incorporate feeling with knowledge. They are distinguished by the values of flexibility, responsibility, spontaneity, holons, intuitive thinking, and global networks.

After discussing how the Spiral Web model describes the Internet's evolution up until now, Smith touched briefly on what the model means in terms of where the Internet is heading. He feels that the next level will be more holistic, and will constitute applications and sites designed to benefit business, individuals and the planet (the Triple Bottom Line). When asked if he could give an example of this, he said that he was not aware that anything like that yet exists.

I tried to think of examples, feeling that there must at least be some nascent examples out there, but couldn't come up with anything specific. In discussing this with a friend yesterday, she referred me to "The Hughtrain" by Hugh MacLeod. MacLeod presents a straightforward, no holds barred call-to-action for businesses to evolve to the next level if they want to maintain the trust of and engagement with their customers. In his manifesto, MacLeod posits: "I believe we are living in the beginning of a new global spiritual awakening. It is not religion. It's everything and everyone around us...The spiritual implications are staggering. It's no longer enough for people to believe that your product does what it says on the label. They want to believe in you and what you do. And they'll go elsewhere if they don't."

Given the Spiral Web model's prediction of how the next tier of web entities will manifest, along with MacLeod's observations of the changing consumer landscape, companies that are early adapters in implementing the concepts of integration, holism, and intuition are likely to lead the way, while those companies that fail to evolve are likely to become extinct.

For more information on Spiral Dynamics, check out the interactive resources at What Is Enlightenment?

Spiral Dynamic model image copyright What Is Enlightenment?

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