One of my absolute favourite topics is the theories around Spiral Dynamics and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I was sitting with two colleagues having lunch yesterday and we got onto the topic of the difference between the two theories and how society can fit into to either one of them. We then started to question the sales technique of using (in particular) spiral dynamics to convince people to part with their money and give it to the seller. This got me thinking…. should something as important as understanding human dynamics and behaviour be used to manipulate people into buying – or is it simply “smart selling”?
For those of you who don’t know what Spiral Dynamics is – here is a brief overview…. Spiral dynamics argues that human nature is not fixed… and that humans are able, when forced by life conditions, to adapt to their environment by constructing new, more complex, conceptual models of the world that allow them to handle the new problems. Then each of these models transcends the previous model allowing them to “move up” through the levels within spiral dynamics – and these levels are based on a core value system that is sometimes referred to has vMemes – don’t get thrown by that – just see it as a value system.
So Spiral Dynamics is used to explain where culture, societies, people and even mindsets are situated – and the only way to move up through the 7 levels – or 9 (depending who you listen to, or read about) is to learn new skills and develop your mindset. The levels look like this:
Level 1 – Instinctive – Needs are: food , water, shelter, safety etc – i.e survival
Level 2 – Animistic – Needs are: Social, family, tribe, honour, respect elders, ancestors, spirits i.e lives for past
Level 3 – Egocentric – Needs are: Pschological, power driven, exploitative, priviledge i.e lives for now.
Level 4 – Absolutistic – Needs are: Abstract, purposeful, authoritarian, dualistic, dogmatic i.e lives for future
Level 5 – Materialistic – Needs are: Entreprenuerial, strategic, growth and success. i.e Lives for gain
Level 6 – Humanistic – Needs are: Community, harmony, liverty, equality i.e lives for cause
Level 7 – Systemic – Felxibility, spontaneity, competence, balance i.e lives for Synergy.
Levels 8 and 9 are about targeting the “greater good” and those in these levels are living entirely for others… i.e the Dalai Lama.
So how are people using this as a sales tool? There are people in todays market place that use this theory as a way of selling products and programs… and they do it like this….
They start of by explaining Spiral Dynamics, and they talk about examples – this is a direct quote from something that was said in a room I was in once… “The average australian employee mindset is at level 3 – but if you want to be successful in business you need to be level 5, I can only see and recognise 3 level 5s in the room (this was a room of about 100 people)” this then went on futher when this person was selling from the stage and used “I don’t want to spend my time with the employee mindset or level 3s – I want to spend my time with level 5s” and this where those in the room who are desperate to have successful businesses convince themselves that the only way to get to level 5 is to buy the product or program… almost the “blue pill to level 5 thinking”!
Now I am all for using NLP, human behavioural understanding to ensure that you are able to talk about services or products in a way that you can align with your customers or potential customers… however, I am not sure how ethical it is to utilise something that is a conceptual theory to manipulate a crowd to believe that if they don’t buy something they will never progress or develop… I personally believe that anyone can work their way through the levels as every human can adapt to situations and evolve their own thinking…
I know this is a heavy blog… but would love to know your thoughts…
Should Spiral Dynamics be simplified and reduced to a common sales tool?