Summary of Spiral Dynamics

Looking for the book?
We have the summary! Get the key insights in just 10 minutes.

Spiral Dynamics book summary


7 Overall

8 Applicability

8 Innovation

5 Style


Management consultants Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan based this 1996 study on potentially game-changing work that professor Clare Graves completed 30 years earlier. The authors describe a series of spirals as the basic construct in the life cycle of a person, organization or nation. All the spirals or levels in this “spiral dynamic” system can be present simultaneously, and they are infinite – they place no limit on human or group development. Anyone who has worked with other people will find that spiral’s levels look familiar and make sense. A less useful book might end by describing the levels and their values or “memes,” but here, the authors supply dozens of examples and a detailed blueprint for putting knowledge of the levels into practice to help people and groups change. While smart and applicable, the book is difficult to parse: It is stylistically flawed, the editing is shaky and the structure is baffling. After reading the introduction and chapter 1, readers should skip to section 3 – a rich, interesting description of each level on the spiral. After this, getAbstract finds, reading chapters 2 to 8 – which cover the actual application of spiral dynamics – will be far more rewarding.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How “spiral dynamics” defines eight levels of human development;
  • How to recognize the main characteristics of each level in yourself, in others and in groups and
  • How to apply this knowledge to facilitate change.

About the Authors

Management and change consultant Don Edward Beck co-founded the National Values Center, where consultant Christopher C. Cowan is director. Cowan implements the Spiral Dynamics framework for organizations worldwide.



A Universal Framework

The “spiral dynamics” (SD) system is a construct for understanding eight interrelated stages or levels of human and cultural maturity. A different color represents each level, or cultural value, and each one has its own priorities, beliefs and worldviews. People, societies and cultures move through these value-system levels based on their “life conditions,” experiences and challenges. When the condition of a person, organization, culture or nation changes, that transition challenges core values and ideas. Problems can arise that people or groups can’t solve in their current systems, so they seek alternatives and progress to higher, more complex levels on the spiral.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

Customers who read this summary also read

More by category