Culture / Spiral Dynamics

Spiral dynamics is a framework to understand the evolution of a culture in groups, organizations, or societies. The framework consists of colored vMEMES (value memes) each of which theorize why people think the way they do given their culture. The framework suggests steps to stimulate, motivate, and contribute to the evolution of diverse groups of people and the way to go about change.

Intention: The intention of this exercise is to help you understand your current and ideal culture using the Spiral Dynamics Framework.

Directions: Think about a group/organization you are a part of.  Read the questions below carefully. Complete all four questions to receive your culture map. Then scroll down to help understand your assessment, use probing questions to dig deeper, learn more about Spiral Dynamics, give feedback, and let us know what you learned about yourself and your culture.

This is a complicated theory. It take many years to understand so take your time, look at the FAQ’s, and feel free to ask me any questions in the reply section at the bottom of the page or by emailing me.

Understanding the assessment

The color of each quadrant above represents cultural paradigms lighting up. In the spiral dynamics framework when a culture lights up it is coming to the forefront.

The culture value lighting up in you at your organization. What you strive to be in your perfect organization.
The culture lighting up right now in your organizational environment. What environment you strive to be a part of.
  • Consistency along the vertical axis suggests you are aligned with your culture.
  • Consistency along the horizontal axis suggests you are aligned with your furture self and goals.

Now find the MEME’s in the chart below that correspond to the colors (vMEME’s) that have lit up for you.

Color Characteristics Group implications
First Tier vMEMES
BEIGE Survival 


Satisfy my basic needs. I have minimal impact or control over the environment. My actions are automatic and reflexive. People need their biological needs satisfied. They will work in order to survive.
PURPLE Spiritual 


We bond together for safety. Preserve sacred places and refer to the elders. Custom, rituals and rights of passage are important to us. People gain identity as part of their tribe or work group
RED Egocentric 


There are haves and have-nots.  Respect and reputation are important.  Fight to become powerful at all costs because I am what matters Does not learn through punishment since problems are someone else’s fault. Projects are launched with fanfare but soon fizzle due to lack of cooperation or trust of others to act.


There is a divine plan we are a part of. We must find purpose in the order and stability of the divine.  We will sacrifice the self for deferred rewards. The vision and mission of the company are crucial. There is a right and wrong way to do things in accordance with the system.
ORANGE Strategic 


I seek independence and material abundance.  I love competition and winning because I am confident in myself.  I will learn through experience. People play hardball. They are brash and entrepreneurial.  Other employees are considered underlings or overlords. There are many possible ways to do something but my way is best.


We explore the self and others. Our community shares their resources We believe in the equality and importance of all. Foster consensus building because everyone can speak and contribute.  Self-managed teams reduce the need for supervisors because the people are trustworthy and team oriented.  Give people information so they will be more involved.
Second Tier vMEMES
I accept the inevitability of natural flows and form and experience the fullness of life.  Systems should be open to all. I am part of the world and I am responsible for it. Honor the value of everyone in the organization. There is a respect but not acceptance. Get to the deep dynamics of issues and work on them. If the situation calls people will answer.
TURQUOISE Holistic We are part of the whole that severs the self. There is an inherent good in all living things.  We will network throughout the spiral. We will learn through observation, participation and being. We will bridge the gap of worldviews from a very natural, big picture view.

Each color (vMEME) starting with BEIGE includes, builds upon, and transcends all other vMEME.  For instance a person can only be Strategic (ORANGE)  if their basic survival needs are met (BEIGE).  As we evolve from BEIGE to TURQUOISE our culture becomes more complex and capable of performing more complicated functions.

All stages exist influx in a healthy person and culture. They progressively build upon one another however it is not a linear or hierarchical model.  No one is better the the other because any stage taken to the extreme develops into a weakness.

Probing Questions

  • What are your initial reactions to the map? What impact does this have on you?
  • Take a look at your map. Are the colors consistent, close to one another, or are they scattered across? What are the implications to your overall wellness, in your current group, or for your future?
  • Where are the gaps? What do you they mean to you?
  • If you could develop or transform the group in any what you wished, what three things would you do to align/evolve your and the group’s culture?
  • What was your experience? What did you learn? How will you apply this?


What is culture?

The culture of groups, organizations, families, communities, civilizations, and meetings influence our actions.  Some would say our culture is in our bylaws, handbooks, and laws but these are only artifacts, the tip of cultural iceberg. Culture is an mostly an invisible entity defined by embedded communication patterns, norms, assumptions, and theories regarding the way people should act.

What does the term “lighting up” mean?

People are in different MEME’s depending upon their prevailing life conditions. A MEME will be brighter then others depending upon the circumstances. For instance, during a brainstorming session GREEN may light up. During the latter part of a project under tight deadlines ORANGE may light up.

I have one view of our organization but my coworker’s is different. What does this mean?

This happens often. It is a great way to start a learning conversation. Often, an organization is a mixture of MEMES. A sales team may be BLUE. The design team may exude PURPLE. When the organization as a whole is YELLOW. We also have different views of organizations depending upon the other cultural contexts.

When I take the take the test multiple times I get different results?

It is rare the test produces the same results every time.  Depending upon our focus we get different results. My tests usually gravitate around MEME’s close to one another.  When I see my MEME profiles are very different it is a sign for me to dig deeper.

What could we achieve if we thought of one another as equals and value everyone’s leadership style?

Dr. Clair Graves, creator of the spiral dynamics framework, would describe it as a landmark of culture in other words the Turquoise Value Meme (V-MEME). This is characterized as being the ultimate level of collaboration. This is a jump in collective consciousness that would allow societies to understand and appreciate the self as part of a larger whole that also serves the self. (Beck, 1996)

This does not make sense?

That is not a question. 🙂 George Box said  “All models are wrong some are useful.” This is a complicated model to explain in such few words. Contact me or give me a call for a free consultation to understand this model better or find one that may be more useful.

Moving forward

One law of Spiral Dynamics is much of what we do is influenced by our environment or culture.  Your challenge is to use this knowledge understand how you define your culture and how it defines you.  To shape and define your culture is to shape and define yourself.

If you would like assistance request a free half-hour consultation or free newsletter via the contact form. Just write it in the message body. Please, leave a comment below about how you used this assessment, what did it make possible, or anything else you would like to say.

Leave a Reply