Colored shelves

Listening to Don Beck’s Spiral Dynamics Integral program. It’s fascinating work.

The core idea behind Spiral Dynamics is the realization that people are at different levels of development (called memes), involving different world views, and that these memes are a response to their life circumstances.

If you’re a hungry family in Pakistan without a home because of the flood, then a US-style self-actualization and entrepreneurial drive is not really relevant.

Or if you’re in a gang-ridden part of Colombia, then the Scandinavian egalitarian, consensus-driven tree-hugging approach isn’t really a good answer to your challenges.

It’s more complicated than that, of course, but you get the drift.

In the last session, Don Beck explains how he likes to come into places and ask them to remove all of their books from the shelves. Then he has them paint the shelves with the colors of the different meme codes. And then the books get placed back on the shelves, according to what meme code they’re relevant for.

It makes perfect sense. It matches my own experience. At certain points in my development, Peter Drucker and HBR was the shit. Now there are other books that seem more relevant.

But rather than argue over which book is right, and which is wrong, painting the shelves different colors allows us to have the conversation about for whom and under which circumstances the various books are relevant.

And it’s not just for books, of course. But visualizing colored shelves with books just works really well.

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