Learner Papers: How Organizational Archetypes Manifest at Each Level of the Gravesian Value Systems

Jorge Taborga

How Organizational Archetypes Manifest at Each Level of the Gravesian Value Systems

Jorge Taborga


Organizational culture provides the impetus for the behaviors in an organization which work to fulfill its mission or work against it. Schein (2010) stratifies culture into artifacts, values and beliefs, and underlying assumptions. The latter are the deeper and unexamined values that contain the models of behavior resulting from the shared experiences of the organization as it solves problems and which are taught to all its members. According to Jungian organizational depth psychology, as documented by Corlette & Pearson (2003), these underlying assumptions reside in the unconscious of an organization, particularly in the part of the its psyche called “complexes.” These complexes are formed through organizational experiences patterned by the psychic energy of archetypes as they take form through the minds of individuals and collectives.

Dr. Clare Graves spent most of his professional life researching and ultimately developing theories for the value systems that associate different life conditions with the mental capacities that emerge in humans as they solve problems (Lee, 2009). He named his research the Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence Theories (ECLET). His theories have been popularized by Beck & Cowan (1996) in their work of Spiral Dynamics. Cowan & Todorovic (2000) equate the Gravesian value systems to the underlying assumptions inside an organization which are largely responsible for organizational cultures.

This essay explores the connections between archetypes and the value systems of an organization as a way to arrive at a deeper understanding of the emergence of organizational culture. Each archetype is explored as a pattern of behavior at each level of the ECLET value systems. An archetypal correspondence map is articulated for three of the most common Gravesian value systems found in modern and post-modern organizations. This correspondence is validated through a case study of a small consulting company. The case study provides a framework for the analysis on how archetypes are manifested in an organization and how the emerging culture can be interpreted through the lens of value systems.

The correspondence of archetypes to values systems explored here provides an approach to a deeper understanding of the emergence of organizational culture. As presented in this essay, this approach is far from being a repeatable method of cultural assessment and much less for intervention. However, it is a start to further research which has the potential for shining light into the organizational unconscious and in particular into the effects that archetypes have on underlying assumptions (value systems). This new light could emerge as a way to assess organizational culture and to determine interventions that would bring culture into greater alignment with the fulfillment of the organization’s mission.


Organizations are complex entities, both socially and psychologically. There is also a broad biological element given the neurology of the diversity of humans involved. This bio-psycho-social milieu makes each organization unique, yet they all seem to operate following common patterns of behavior. Strategic plans, Management by Objectives (MBOs), career development plans, performance reviews, budgets, project plans, employee meetings and a host of other practices can be found across most enterprises. Teamwork, consensus, entrepreneurship, bureaucracy, power play, gossiping, scapegoating, and back-stabbing are also behaviors that reside in the depths of organizations and either help or hinder their missions, and either uplift the humans in these organizations or oppress them.

Schein (2010) posits that the culture of an organization determines its actions. He defines culture as:

A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. (p. 18)

This definition by Schein corresponds to two concepts that will be used throughout this essay: life conditions and mental capacities. These concepts were introduced by the research of Dr. Clare W. Graves and are documented in the book The Never Ending Quest (Cowan & Todorovic, 2005). Dr. Graves developed what he called Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence Theory (ECLET). In this theory, humans are exposed to a variety of life conditions (Schein’s problems) which give way to mental capacities to solve them (Schein’s basic assumptions). In Graves’ theory, human development can be grouped into value systems that are in agreement with what has “worked well to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members” (Schein, 2010, p. 18). This is the culture or the value systems of individuals in an organization or a much larger social system like a country or a particular ethnicity.

Schein (2010) describes culture in three layers: artifacts, values and beliefs, and underlying assumptions. The artifacts are the physical manifestations that tell how the organization is conducting its affairs. Artifacts would include a company’s P&L, its products and services, its workplaces, the pictures on the walls, the types of cups used for coffee, and the t-shirts sporting a catchy slogan given to employees after a product launch. Artifacts are the focus of cultural archeology. Much can be interpreted from their analysis but only superficial theories can be derived about the behaviors of the humans in the organization.

In contrast, value and beliefs correspond to a deeper level of culture. It is the set of shared learning and experiences by an organization. It started with the leader and then became a shared experience. As values are repeated in solving problems, they take on the flavor of underlying assumptions. These assumptions become the internal, reflective muscle of how individuals inside an organization are not only expected to behave but are perpetuated by every action. Even though organizations have a relatively transient population with each member bringing their own set of underlying assumptions, organizational culture normalizes each into a shared set that defines how the organization responds to the problems it faces every day.

Graves studied underlying assumptions starting in the 1950’s through his death in 1986 (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). He leveraged his students and their lives to capture the data necessary for his research. Graves did not start with a theory about the emergent levels of existence (how individuals cope with problems) rather he let the collected data generate a theory. His research started as he wrestled with questions from his psychology students at Union College in New York on which theory of human psychology was correct. He taught a psychology survey class which introduced students to a variety of theories, from Freud’s to Maslow’s.

Graves’ research was simple in structure. He asked each student to write a short essay describing the mature adult personality in operation. After collecting a large number of these essays (he reportedly ended up with about 40,000 of them in a 30 year span), he started to notice patterns in the essays that corresponded to similar descriptions of life conditions (problems for the mature adult) and mental capacities (how the mature adult is supposed to respond to them). He grouped the similar responses into clusters, which gave way to the 8 value systems in ECELT. This theory was popularized by Beck & Cowan’s book Spiral dynamics: Mastering values, leadership and change (1996). Incidentally, both Beck and Cowan worked with Dr. Graves and have continued his work both in application and teaching.

Corlett & Pearson introduced a framework for the organizational psyche in their book Mapping the Organizational Psyche: A Jungian theory of organizational dynamics and change (2003). This work focuses on the interaction of the organizational unconscious and its conscious components through the structures of the organizational psyche. Corlett & Pearson draw a parallel of the organizational psyche from the human psyche as defined by psychologist Carl Jung. This famed psychologist did not focus his attention on organizations because he believed that the organizations of his time (he died in 1961) did very little to emancipate and support human evolution to a state of wholeness (Corlett & Person, 2003). The authors of Mapping the Organizational Psyche undertook this work in response to the new Jungians who felt the need for the application of Jung’s intricate theories of the psyche to various groupings of humans.

Corlett & Person (2003) state that:

Jungian Organizational Theory shares the belief that the question of meaning—why organization members are willing to invest so much of their creativity and agency in organizations—is bound up by the collectively held values at the heart of an organization’s culture. (p. xiv)

These authors further posit that meaning is deeply connected to the unconscious of an organization, which represents the unseen psychic forces that “bind people to each other and their work” (Corlett & Pearson, 2003, p. xiv). Further, Corlett & Pearson hypothesize that the unconscious is the container for the organization’s behaviors and norms that get transmitted to newcomers. The organizational unconscious is also responsible for the collective dynamics or culture. These theories by Corlett & Person are consistent with Schein’s views of organizational culture.

At the root of the organizational unconscious, Corlett & Pearson identify the organizational archetypes. These authors state that along with several other scholars, they view “that the human inclination to create organizations is the expression of an archetype” (Corlett & Pearson, 2003, p.18). They further explain that archetypes are the templates of organizations and that they are the primary vehicles through which the unconscious speaks to an organization to develop toward wholeness. Corlett & Person introduce twelve organizational archetypes arranged in four Life Forces. The first life force focuses on the development of people through relatedness, how the organization relates to employees and how they relate to each other. The second life force provides the template and psychic energy for obtaining results. Learning is the third life force containing the archetypes on how the organization learns, takes risks, and goes about the creative process. This life force is balanced by a fourth, stabilizing. This latter life force brings the structures, processes and systems into the organization to pattern its efficiencies, manifest its creativity and provide for the needs of its people.

This essay aims to establish a correspondence of the organizational archetypes and the ECLET value systems. Based on the theories of organizational culture of Schein, Graves, and Corlett & Pearson, the unconscious, and thus archetypes, are intricately involved in defining the value systems of an organization that are the foundation for the underlying assumptions: the set of problems and the set of known and valued responses in each organization. A case study is utilized to illustrate how the correspondence of organizational archetypes with the ECLET value systems provides a richer and more actionable understanding of an organization’s culture.

Based on his research on organizational culture, the author believes that much of an organization’s operation is tied to its unconscious and the layer of underlying assumptions. These two important components of the organizational psyche deeply affect the successes and failures of an organization. They also provide the bio-psycho-social container for individuals in organizations and affect their own personal development and happiness. If wholeness is the ultimate goal for individuals and by extension organizations, then a deeper understanding about how organizational archetypes and value systems interplay is warranted. This essay is meant to provide a survey of these topics and open up possibilities for further research.

Corlett and Pearson’s Organizational Archetypes

Organizational Psyche

Corlett & Pearson (2003) model the organizational psyche in two layers: conscious and unconscious. In their conception, the conscious layer is where the ego-driven actions and behaviors of those leading the organization manifest activity and shape its culture. The conscious layer is the world of Schein’s artifacts. The unconscious layer, at the heart of psychologist Carl Jung’s analytical psychology, provides the psychic energy necessary for conscious actions. Figure 1 shows the structures of the organizational conscious and unconscious which parallel what Jung conceived as the architecture of the individual psyche. Corlett & Pearson adapted this model and introduced constructs unique to the psychology of organizations.

Figure 1. Map of the organizational psyche. This picture is an adaptation of the organizational psyche by Corlett & Pearson (2003).

Conscious Organization

Figure 1 shows that the conscious portion of the organization is composed on the Center of Consciousness and the Public Face. The center of consciousness is “analogous to Jung’s concept of the ego” (Corlett & Pearson, 2003, p. 27). It comprises all of the conscious activities performed in an organization, such as planning, managing, coordinating, developing, marketing, testing, implementing and reflecting. The center of consciousness is composed of the collective egos in the organization arranged and empowered by the structures instituted by its leadership. This component of the organizational psyche is intricately connected to the organizational archetypes manifesting its activities in accordance with the archetypes that are active in organization and in their level of maturity.

The center of consciousness also has a predominately masculine or feminine character. This is driven not only by the gender of the constituency inside an organization but by the manifestation of the anima and animus archetypes. Certain organizations, like the army, would operate in an animus (masculine) set of characteristics because of the nature of their mission, regardless of how many females it has enlisted in its ranks. In contrast, most healthcare provider organizations and schools exhibit anima (female) characteristics given its care and nurturing missions. This is also irrespective of employee gender, although actual gender membership significantly influences the masculine vs. feminine attributes of an organization. Corlett & Person (2003) define three signs of masculine/feminine balance in an organization: a) balanced gender by relatively equal numbers, b) level of comfortableness by each gender inside the organization, and c) both females and males are part of the decision-making process.

The public face of the organizational psyche corresponds to Jung’s concept of the persona. The persona is how individuals present themselves to the world and is driven by two sources: “the expectations and demands of society and the social aims and aspirations of individuals” (Stein, 1998, p. 115). The organizational analog provides a filter through which energy flows in and out of the organizational psyche in its connection with the outside world. It is where the brand identity of the organization lives. It transmits the ideal images of itself to the outside world hiding aspects which are deemed “internal” by the organization’s leadership. In the end, the public face of an organization is a set of tradeoffs between what the organization is willing to share and what the world expects from it. Not conscious but still present in the organization’s public face will be artifacts that capture unconscious activity that is not congruent with the public image. For instance, an organization in healthcare may portray itself as caring for the wellbeing of all customers through its products and services yet may have an inadequate medical insurance program for its employees driven by their desire to save money.  In this example, the artifact, the medical insurance program, is incongruent with the desired external image.

Organizational Unconscious

Corlett & Pearson (2003) begin the definition of the unconscious with the collective unconscious. They state that the collective unconscious serves as the foundation for the entire psyche of the organization as it does for its individual analog. It is the container for the neurology that defines us as human beings and “resides in the inherited structure of the brain” (Corlett & Pearson, 2003, p. 14). It contains two types of structures: instincts and archetypes. Instincts are the consistent modes of action common to all humans that do not require cognitive engagement. Instinctual actions just happen without ever being taught (Stein, 1998). Archetypes are psychic patterns that shape human behavior. They can be understood as the controlling patterns in the mind that regulate how we experience life. Archetypes represent our basic responses to organizational life. Quoting Morley Segal, Corlett and & Pearson (2003) state that archetypes are “key contributors to organizational culture, many of them representing the forms or outlines of the basic responses to organizational life” (p. 15). From these definitions, we can see that archetypes are the seed to the responses (mental capacities) to the problems in organizational life (the life conditions).

The organizational unconscious is the unique array of “energies, contents and truths” (Corlette & Pearson, 2003, p. 15) that operate beyond the conscious control of the organization. It is the bridge between the conscious organization and the collective unconscious. It provides the psychodynamic environment for these two forces to interplay. It is composed of the shadow, the participation mystique, the complexes and the organizational archetype.

The shadow comprises the collection of what has been repressed because the organization does not allow it by its rules, procedures or values. Commonly repressed elements of organizational life include feminine characteristics in an animus (male) dominated environment, feeling and intuitive preferences in a rationally dominated institution, and freedom of expression in a tightly controlled hierarchical institution. The shadow of an organization, like its individual counterpart, is its alter ego. It contains both positive and negative energies and subtly affects how the conscious organization goes about its business. The shadow contains features that are contrary to customs and group moral conventions. Stein (1998) states that the shadow contains features that are contrary to customs and moral conventions and that everyone has one. He also posits that the shadow is not experienced directly by the ego because it is part of the unconscious, and that instead, it is projected onto others. In the context of organizations, the shadow’s projections would go to outside entities, like the competition, or would be channeled as projections between internal functions.

The participation mystique is the part of the organizational unconscious that links individual egos to the organization. It provides the attractor that makes an individual want to be part of a given organization. It is the conduit for the organizational archetypes to be expressed by each person in the organization. The participation mystique is a term coined by Jung. Corlett & Pearson use it to describe how an organizational archetype connects to each individual.  In this model of the organizational psyche, multiple archetypes would find expression through a single person.

Organizational complexes are containers of memories, thoughts and feelings experienced as work progresses through the activation of a given archetype. They are in essence the underlying assumptions that form at the unconscious level in the act of doing business. Over time, these complexes uniquely identify an organization and provide the basis for its culture. Values and beliefs are built upon complexes and change over time as the environment (life conditions) provides opportunities to solve new problems (mind capacities). For instance, teamwork and collaboration has evolved to a much higher degree in the last 30 years. This aspect of work life is driven by the Lover archetype that regulates how people work and relate to one another. The degree of collaboration has a lot to do with this archetype. In the last three decades, the teamwork and collaboration complex has evolved across most organizations. With this evolution, the value of collaboration has changed. Teams have evolved from simple work containers to social structures with democratic, dynamic empowerment and demonstrable higher performance.

The organizational archetype roughly corresponds to the archetypal self in individuals. It serves as a significant source of energy for the organization and provides the pattern for how it operates. Individual aspects of the organizational archetype connect to the universal collective unconscious archetypes from which they draw their patterns. Corlett & Pearson (2003) define the organizational archetype as having four dimensions or Life Forces. Each life force contains elemental archetypal energies aligned with a particular aspect of work life.

The life forces are arranged in two pairs of complementary forces that seek balance with one another. The first pair is focused on people and results. The people life force is how an organization relates to its employees and how they relate to each other. The results part of the archetype encompasses how the organization gets things done. The second pair of the life forces is learning and stabilizing. Learning is how an organization gains knowledge, takes risks and moves through the creative process. In turn, stabilizing is concerned with how an organization manages itself in terms of what it provides to its employees and the processes and controls it has in place. In a healthy organization, both life force pairs should be balanced. Figure 2 shows the arrangement of the organizational archetype, the life forces and the individual human faces of the organizational archetypes in each life force.


Figure 2. The organizational archetype and its components. This mandala-like arrangement was adapted from a similar drawing in Corlett & Pearson (2003, p. 18)


Life Forces and the Twelve Human Faces of the Organizational Archetypes

Figure 2 depicts twelve human faces of the organizational archetype. These are individual archetypal energies that produce specific psychic patterns in the organizational unconscious leading to the formation of complexes that ultimately define the organization’s culture. The genesis of these archetypes is the work of Carol Pearson who has performed considerable research in Jungian depth psychology and has been able to synthesize a large collection of archetypal definitions into twelve faces. Her work is documented in a number of her books and articles. In her partnership with John Corlette, Ms. Pearson expanded her twelve archetypes into the faces of the one organizational archetype. These authors jointly introduced the concept of the life forces that was described in the previous section. Table 1 summarizes the characteristics of each human face of the organizational archetype.

Table 1. The twelve faces of the organizational archetype. The definitions for this table come from Corlett & Pearson (2003), and Pearson (1991, 1997).


Human Face Positive Pattern Negative Pattern
Every person (Orphan) Pearson originally called this archetype the Orphan to denote its inherent dependency psychology. The every person version denotes the individual who is part of an organization needing considerable support. Organizations with this archetype have a strong belief in the importance of each individual and tend to single out those who distinguish themselves with their performance and accomplishments. The Orphan has a strong sense of being abandoned. This translates into employees not trusting their leaders and in feeling that everyone is out to get them. Scapegoating is a characteristic of the Orphan.
Lover This archetype is manifested in the level of respect between the company and its employees. It is also established in how people communicate. The Lover archetype is positively expressed through direct communication and emotional honesty. Consensus is a characteristic of the Lover as is passion and engagement. Collaboration and support are found in organizations with a strong Lover archetype. Closeness is another attribute of this archetype. The negative side of the Lover translates into a large number of emotional dramas, over-emphasis on consensus, group-think, and cliquishness.
Jester The Jester archetype brings enjoyment and fun to the work environment. It is manifested in “lightness” in the interaction within the company and its stakeholders. Jester organizations have a good work-life balance, enabling employees to work from home and have flexible time. Also, the Jester brings celebration to the workplace for milestones, personal events and holidays. The negative Jester gives way to dark humor, con artistry, low ethics, and a total disregard for rules, procedures and standards.
Hero This is the most common archetype in western organizations. It brings the energy of working hard to make the world a better place. The Hero translates into vitality, competition, discipline, focus and determination. There is a fair amount of self-sacrifice in the Hero for the betterment of the larger whole. Hero organizations usually have a cause and are able to enlist employees in working for it. These organizations value the actions of the Hero and recognize them with a number of rewards. The negative Hero creates the need for an enemy. This type of Hero can be arrogant, impulsive, obsessive and ruthless. Negative Hero organizations tend to overwork their people and expect ongoing sacrifices. These organizations also tend to be lower in their financial compensation than most.
Revolutionary This archetype provides the counter story to the typically linear direction of the organization. Revolutionaries are troubleshooters and tangential thinkers. They look for the reasons why the glass is half empty. They are change agents looking for continuous improvements. Revolutionary organizations are able to make tough calls such as dealing with non-performers. Negative Revolutionary organizations can be dark places where fear is a regular characteristic. In these organizations people get fired for no apparent reason and employees are also afraid of what may happen to them. Also, the permeating attitude is one of “nothing is good enough.” Change for change sake is another of the negative characteristics of the Revolutionary archetype.
Magician This is the transformative energy inside any enterprise. It is responsible for the “level 2” changes. Innovation, high energy, and flexibility are characteristics of the Magician. Organizations with a highly developed Magician archetype are extremely adaptive and respond easily to changing markets and world conditions. Magicians are systems thinkers and natural change agents The negative Magician archetype is manifested in manipulative energy, lack of follow-through, and working on seemingly innovative tasks that have no purpose. Organizations with a negative Magician archetype start a lot more projects than they finish.
Innocent An organization expressing the Innocent archetype is typically highly hierarchical with centralized power at the top. Management’s role is that of a guardian and the company is seen as the provider of the employees’ wellbeing. Employees trust management and seek guidance in their development. Learning is passive and directed by management. Innocent organizations lack innovation and tend to be involved in simplistic work. The negative side of the Innocent archetype translates into victimization, denial, and resistance to change. The Innocent organization prefers maintaining the status quo.
Explorer (Seeker) Pearson used “Seeker” as the original name of this archetype. It brings the sense of individuality, exploration, risk taking and self-discovery. This archetype is essential to the emancipation of the employees. Without it, growth inside the workplace would be limited. The Seeker takes responsibility for his/her own learning and channels new knowledge into worthwhile endeavors at work. Explorer organizations tend to be flat and democratic, allowing individuals to work at their own rhythm and time. Negative Explorer organizations will conduct activities that are uncoordinated and with little accountability. Minimal to no planning is practiced by these organizations. Also, inadequate records are maintained. These organizations do not pay proper attention to their employees, their needs and problems. Given their loose management structure, there is potential for chaos.
Sage The Sage archetype correlates to Senge’s (2006) learning organization. As learning grows from the Innocent to the Explorer and then the Sage, the organization is accumulating knowledge that is leveraged in practical ways through achieving and demonstrating mastery. Sage organizations establish centers of competency in true practice and not in name only. Systems thinking is a hallmark of Sage organizations. Ongoing reflection, action learning teams and transformative learning practices are also characteristics of Sage organizations. Learning is an integral part of daily work life. The negative Sage organization can be emotionally detached appearing uncaring and inhumane. It may also be disconnected from the needs of the market and work on the wrong things. Over analysis is another strong potential of the negative Sage individual or organization. Ivory towers and intellectual elite can emerge in these organizations. This would limit those who can learn and who can express their ideas freely.
Caregiver The Caregiver is the necessary archetype for an organization to provide for the wellbeing of its employees. This care ranges from basic benefits to personal development. The Caregiver is also manifested by the care of the organization for the community and the social system in which it operates. Harmony, cooperation, and support for each other are characteristics experienced by the employees in Caregiver organizations. Negative Caregiver organizations tend to over work its people, experience burn out, have low mutual respect, and experience high turnover. Compensation is low and people are expected to work long hours. These organizations typically avoid confrontation being overly passive. Delegation is not actively practiced by management.
Creator The Creator archetype expresses innovation and the creative processes in an organization. This archetype provides the counterbalance to the Explorer. It provides the vehicle for the Explorer’s knowledge to turn into something tangible. In the Creator, there are elements of imagination, artistry, and vision. The challenge for this archetype is its disdain for formality, bureaucracy (either real or perceived) and the potential of applying creative energy to non-necessary endeavors. Negative Creator organizations do not adequately support employee creativity. They also have the attitude that nothing is good enough. A natural inattention and frustration with routine and rules exists. In addition, there is almost paranoia about “selling out” to the demands of the market.
Ruler This archetype is about maintaining order and creating harmony out of chaos. It implies a sense of responsibility, balancing and allocation of resources. Either as individuals or organizations, it is manifested as decisions, authority, process, systems, goals, and strategies. The challenge for the Ruler is being fair and non-tyrannical. Decisiveness and direction need balance with methods and unique situations of others. Negative Ruler organizations are hierarchical and bureaucratic. In addition, they tend to be less tolerant of diversity and appreciate people that do as they are told. Power is centered at the top of the organization and lower levels are viewed as lesser. Image is more important than actions. In extreme cases, negative Ruler organizations oppress, cut ethical corners, and are inflexible to change.

The twelve faces of the organizational archetype defined above do not explicitly correlate to gender in form or psychic energy. They can all be manifested in masculine or feminine organizations and in male and female individuals. However, the psychic energy of these archetypes can be colored by the Jung’s anima (female) and animus (male) archetypes. The workplace has been evolving and becoming more gender neutral. However, there are some of the faces of the organizational archetype that would have more of a bias toward one gender than the other. The Caregiver archetype would have an anima/feminine inclination. As an example, there is a higher presence of females in Human Resource department where decisions are made on how employees will be cared for. In contrast, there is a higher male population in management and the Ruler archetype would have an animus/masculine bias.

This essay will continue to examine the twelve faces of the organizational archetype in their correspondence to the ECLET value system (to be introduced in the next section) and in its application as represented in the case study. For the rest of this essay these twelve faces will be referred to as organizational archetypes for simplicity.

The Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence Theory (ECLET)

Gravesian Theory

Dr. Clare Graves developed the Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence Theory (ECLET) from the data he collected from 1952 to 1959 regarding the personality of the mature adult in operation (Lee, 2009). Graves did not have a theory in mind when he started his research. He simply wanted to understand the differences in personalities of mature adults as they relate to their human experience. This inquiry started as a response to questions from his students as they pondered which theory of human psychology was correct (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). His research was simple in structure as it involved having his students write an essay describing the personality of a mature adult in operation. The data collected in the 1950’s included over a thousand essays from students raging 18-61 in age (Lee, 2009, 8).

Dr. Graves used a trained panel to classify the data as it was being collected over the seven-year span. The initial classification yielded two groups: one for individuals whose concept of the mature adult was denying/sacrificing self and the other about expressing self (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). Upon further analysis, the sacrifice-self group was determined to have an external locus of control and aimed to make meaning of life through input from the world, resulting in actions to modify or improve self. In contrast, the express-self group was found to have an internal locus of control, that is, getting direction exclusively from within and focusing actions on changing the world.

As Graves’ research continued, the panel involved in the classification further separated each group into two subgroups yielding four classifications. They determined that the sacrifice-self individuals could a) “deny/sacrifice self for reward later” or b) “deny/sacrifice self now for getting acceptance now” (Lee, 2009, 19). The subgroups associated with the express-self subjects could a) “express self in calculating fashion and at the expense of others,” or b) “express-self as self desires but not at the expense of others” (Lee, 2009, 20). A fifth group emerged later as Graves continued his research belonging to the express-self category. This newly found group also shared an internal locus of control but it focused on expressing self impulsively at any cost. This last group was found in the early 1960s (Lee, 2009, 28).

Through his continued research, Graves realized that the classification of his subjects did not remain static. He followed up with the lives of many of the individuals who participated in the research while at the same time adding more data points (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). Graves determined that individuals changed their idea about what a mature adult should be like. That is when he conceptualized an evolutionary cycle that alternated between expressing self and denying/sacrificing self. He documented this evolutionary pattern as follows:

  • Expressing self impulsively at any cost—changing to
  • Denying/sacrificing self for reward later—changing to
  • Expressing self in calculating fashion and at the expense of others—changing to
  • Denying/sacrificing self now for getting acceptance now—changing to
  • Expressing self as self desires but not at the expense of others

There was a sixth classification that was noted in the transitions as individuals evolved. This group was another deny/sacrifice self that evolved from the last express-self group that focused entirely on existential realities. It is at this point and throughout the 1960’s that Graves developed and matured ECLET. His conclusion was that his classifications represented the amalgamation of unique life conditions and mind capacities that form part of human evolution. The life conditions present the collection of problems that individuals need to solve, while the mind conditions correspond to the problem-solving neurology currently active in each individual. The recorded evolution from one group to the next had to do not only with a change in life conditions (new problems) but a neurological transformation that readied the individual to operate at the new level.

As Graves prepared his first set of essays on ECLET, he added two entry level classifications which preceded the one on express self impulsively. In ECLET Graves theorized that humans evolved from primitive man to contemporary beings not just physically but socially and psychologically through what he ended up with: eight levels of human existence combining life conditions with mind capacities. His first level places early humans in clans dealing with the problems of survival of food and shelter. His eight-value system, albeit embryonic, has humans focused on existential problems since subsistence problems would be fully solved for people at this level. In his theories, Graves posits that the first six levels of human evolution are fixated on issues of subsistence ranging from physiological survival to mastery of materialism. The last two systems, he viewed, function at a higher octave repeating the basic patterns of the first six but operating at a level of beingness no longer preoccupied with subsistence but rather focused on the higher purposes of being human.

Graves utilized a simple notation to refer to the eight value systems in ECLET. He used the letters A – H to represent the life conditions and N – U to denote mind capacities. The pairing of the two letter sequences identifies each of the eight value systems. These are: A-N, B-O, C-P, D-Q, E-R, F-S, G-T and H-U. Using D-Q as an example, this is the sacrifice self for reward later level which has “D” life conditions or problems and “Q” mind capacities to solve them.

Graves conceived that humans evolve from A-N to H-U and beyond. However, he also found in his research that given harsh life condition changes, humans could regress to a lower level. Additionally, humans could enter or exist in an environment that is different from their mind capacities. For instance, humans with “R” mind capacities could be in a system with “D” life conditions. ECLET conceives mind conditions to be nested or accumulative. A person with “R” mind capacities has the neurology to understand and operate in any system raging from A through E. Graves theorized that most humans operate in a combination of a sacrifice and express-self mind conditions. His research showed that a small number of people operate in a single mind condition system. He termed this rare mature adult in operation “nodal.”

According to ECLET, human beings transition from one system to the next when a number of conditions are met which result in a “higher level of neurological direction of behavior” (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). Graves identified six conditions necessary for the transition. The first is the potential in the brain. Unless impaired, the potential for all system exists in the human brain. Second, the individual should have resolved the existential problems in the current system. According to Graves, this resolution releases the psychic energy needed for advancement. Thirdly, a dissonance associated with the breakdown in the solutions at the current level must occur. Graves found that all individuals making a system transition do so after a period of crisis and actual regression. The experienced dissonance results in the biochemical transmutation necessary to alter the neurology needed to solve problems at the next level. It is at this stage of regression where the individual prepares to move forward but could also arrest development or actually regress to a previous level. The fourth condition and the one responsible for stopping the regressive process is insight. This condition involves having insight into the new ways of solving problems. The next condition, the fifth, is overcoming barriers. Relationships and other constraints from the previous system must be overcome. Most relationships ground humans in one system and provide resistance for an individual to move on (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). Consolidation is the sixth and final condition. It involves the practice and affirmation of the new way of solving problems.

Don Beck and Chris Cowan, the authors of Spiral dynamics: Mastering values, leadership, and change (1996) worked with Dr. Graves for a period of 10 years prior to his death in 1986. Both of these social scientists saw the applications of ECLET as a lens to understand and work with organizations. Their book positioned ECLET as a management set of principles and tools. To make Graves’ levels of evolution more accessible to the general public, Cowan devised a color scheme to replace the A-H and N-U letter nomenclature. The colors denote only the “nodal” state of a system and not its life condition/mind capacity pairing. Table 2 provides the key attributes of the eight value system in ECLET.

Table 2. The eight value systems in ECLET. This table adds the color correspondence introduced by Cowan in spiral dynamics. The contents of this table are based on the article “Human nature prepares for a momentous leap” published by The Futurist in 1974 (p. 72-87) and reprinted on Cowan &Todorovic (2008).


Value System

Spiral Dynamics Thinking Motivation Means/End Values Problem of Existence


  1. Beige
Automatic Physiological Purely reactive Maintaining physical stability


Purple Autistic Assurance Traditionalism/safety Achievement of relative safety


Red Egocentric Independence Exploitation/power Living with self-awareness


Blue Absolutistic Peace of mind Sacrifice/salvation Achieving ever-lasting peace of mind


Orange Multiplistic Competency Scientific/materialism Conquering the physical universe


Green Relativistic Affiliation Sociocentry/community Living with all humans


Yellow Systemic Existence Accepting/existence Instilling sustainability in the planet


Turquoise Differential Experience Experiencing/communion Accepting existential dichotomies

Today, spiral dynamics is highly regarded by organizational development professionals and managers in all types of industries. Dr. Beck has applied the principles of ECLET to a large number of organizations ranging from the Dallas Cowboys to the country of South Africa. Chris Cowan made his life mission to preserve the theories of Dr. Graves through his books, articles and seminars. Although much of the original research has been lost by practitioners (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008), the principles of ECLET as reflected in spiral dynamics are in use today to aid in the problem solving at every level of the human evolution.

The Eight Value Systems

This section describes the core attributes of each of the eight ECLET value systems. Table 3 provides a summary of the life conditions and mind capacities associated with each. Through this table the evolution of human life conditions can be appreciated along with each human response to deal with their related complexities. Mind conditions need to solve the problems at each level of the ECLET framework in order to fully evolve (Beck & Cowan, 1996).

Table 3. Life conditions and mind capacities for the ECELT value systems. The contents of this table are adapted from Cowan & Todorovic (2008) and A mini-course in spiral dynamics (2001).

Value System Life Conditions Mind Capacities
Beige (A-N)
  • Natural state
  • Environment provides for all needs
  • Instinctual nature
  • Environment provides for all needs
Purple (B-O)
  • Survival requires others
  • Reciprocity is established
  • Spirits are unexplained phenomena
  • Myths and traditions frame life meaning
  • Curiosity about forces of nature
  • Reliance on wisdom of elders
  • Awareness of causality
  • Denial of self-identify for tribe
  • Fear of spirits and find safety in group
Red (C-P)
  • Hostile and predatory world
  • Survival is uncertain
  • Power and domination are necessary
  • Deceitfulness is needed
  • Extreme emotions are the norm
  • Self fully identified and distinct
  • Polarized allegiances
  • No sense of guilt present but capable of feeling shame
  • Motivated by rewards
  • No fear of death or punishment
  • Capable of pity for others
Blue (D-Q)
  • Ethnocentric world
  • Good vs. evil
  • World of polarities and contrasts
  • Living under a higher power
  • Life as a series of endless struggles
  • Hierarchy based on class
  • Self-control
  • Polarity thinking
  • Capable of abstract thinking
  • Live life linearly and orderly
  • Follow external standards
  • Strong sense of guilt
  • Capable for compassion for others
Orange (E-R)
  • Multiplistic reality (options)
  • Potential to make things better
  • World understood by science
  • Age of interconnectedness through information, networking and social media
  • Hierarchy based on success
  • Belief in own capabilities
  • Ability to follow own desires and goals
  • Work with many options to determine the best one
  • Competitive
  • Measured and quantified reality
  • Entrepreneurship and risk taking
Green (F-S)
  • Mission to undo the results of greed, excess and unmeasured consumption
  • Awareness of diversity
  • Recognize material sufficiency
  • Open and sharing community
  • Resurgence of spiritual and metaphysical realities
  • Empathy for others
  • Relativistic thinking
  • Acceptance and care for others
  • Avoidance of judgment
  • Tolerance for ambiguity
  • Seek peace and harmony
  • Socially and emotionally impactful
Yellow (G-T)
  • Planetary limitations and risk of world collapse due to unaware business and social practices
  • Potential for balanced living through harmonious interplay of all beings
  • Complexity of interconnected parts
  • Long term orientation
  • Ability to deal with paradox, ambiguity and uncertainty
  • Learns equally from information and emotion
  • Free from fear and compulsivity
  • Systems thinking
  • Contextual thinking
Turquoise (H-U)
  • Problems of existence are solved
  • No meaning in hierarchy, success, and conflict
  • Return to natural living where science is in harmony with nature
  • Reverence, humility and fusion with all of life
  • Honor and respect for different levels of human beings
  • Enjoyment of world of context
  • Unconditional cooperation and trust
  • Work to stabilize life preventing any future out of balance states

Beige (A-N)

This is the most fundamental and original system of human existence which dates to the early stages of human evolution (100,000 ago). Beige no longer exists in pure form (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). Even the most basic of clans or tribes have been affected by external civilizations and have evolved to the next levels of existence. A-N is an express-self system although the concept of self is not fully developed. People in the beige system did not have a fully awaken self-identity. Their main focus was survival, motivated by hunger, sleep and other physical needs. These beings did not possess a sense of time, distance, or causality (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). Modern humans can temporarily regress to the beige system during intensely traumatic situations.

Purple (B-O)

The next step in evolution is the purple (B-O) existence level which took place around 50,000 years ago (Beck & Cowan, 1996). This is a sacrifice self-value system. The sacrifice is for the way of the collective as established by its elders. The identity of the individual is purely based on belonging to the tribe. Myths, traditions and customs create meaning for purple. All unexplained phenomena are regarded as part of the spiritual realm. Wisdom and direction come from the elders of the tribe. Members seek protection from this collective. Causality is not yet discovered and sense of time is based on the seasons and their natural markers. This value system introduces dichotomy into the human psyche. With this, the sense of right and wrong arises along with what is taboo and superstition. Purple individuals are animistic assuming the presence of a life force in everything. At the core of all family life the essence the B-O system is still active. “Family oriented” organizations also exhibit B-O characteristics and in some cases expect a purple-type relationship, including the dependence on each other and the leadership. Sports teams, military platoons, survival groups and close-knit families represent this type of ECLET existence level outside actual tribes.

Red (C-P)

This value system is the first to express complete self-identity. The group identity of purple is shed in favor of an egocentric conceptualization. Instant gratification and personal power are the centerpieces of the Red (C-P) system. It first appeared on the planet about 10,000 years ago. C-P individuals have a spontaneous and impulsive expression. They have a sense of being threatened by the environment and others. Consequently, they seek domination as a way to cope with this threat. People in the red system do not feel any guilt in their actions but they experience shame (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). They can be proud, lustful and violent. Might is right and their world is one of the “haves” and “have-nots.” This system is widely present in our planet today even in forms of government where an individual controls power using force to maintain it. It is also a system that all humans go through growing up during the years of teenage independence. As humans mature, the effects of red system are reduced or shut down for the most part. Gangs, sports teams, people at war, and anyone in physical danger can experience the C-P value system in full force.

Blue (D-Q)

This is a sacrifice system for the benefit of some reward in the future. Blue is absolutistic with the conception that there is only one truth. The values in blue result in an ethnocentric worldview. There is a strong sense that those that are different are not living correctly. All of the organized forms of governments and religions are blue systems (Beck & Cowan, 1996). They provide order, operate in a hierarchy and expect members to comply.  The blue system started about 5,000 years ago (Beck & Cowan, 1996). The view of the world in D-Q system is that it is “orderly, predictable and unchanging” (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). There is a sense that what takes place is predestined by some higher power that more often than not is conceived as God. Security in the blue system comes from accepting this faith and direction. Guilt is a primary feeling in D-Q which comes from evolving out of the guiltless red system. Blue is also referred as the “saintly” value system (Cowan & Todorovic, 2005).

Orange (E-R)

The orange system is multiplistic and as such operates under the assumption that there are always options. This is the system that returned Apollo 13 back to Earth safely. Orange dares to ask questions not as defiance but as a way to find the best possible path of many (Cowan & Todorovic, 2005). There is no single truth in orange, just a more correct path. This system is about having the freedom to choose. It favors change and improvement. People in the E-R system do not seek to be right just to be “best in class” at what they do (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). Competition, winning and risk taking are some of the key attributes of orange. The driving force for this system is to control one’s world for personal ends. Orange is the world of science, rational thinking, and efficiencies. Its aim is to master the material world. Success in this system may include manipulation, which is justified as a mechanism for achieving results. In orange, all things are tied to an economic value. Consequently, this system can easily generate ambition, greed and lust. Orange individuals prefer autonomy and independence, and as portrayed in today’s media, pursue abundance and a good life. Most of the innovation of the world has come up from the E-R system that started 1,000 years ago but intensified with the industrial revolution (beck & Cowan, 1996).

Green (F-S)

Like blue, F-S is a sacrifice-self system. However, in this case the sacrifice is for the benefit of being accepted now. Green is a relativistic system with no absolute truth. All humans have their place and diversity is revered. Emotions in green are respected and form the basis for true affection. Empathy is how others are accepted in contrast to red’s pity, blue’s compassion, and orange’s consideration (Cowan & Todorovic, 2005). Empathy in this system is of greater value than logic. People in the green value system can tolerate doubt and ambiguity, and can exhibit a larger sense of curiosity than the others. Social and environmental sustainability are the hallmarks of green. From this notion, green individuals see each other as equals and pursue social and economic justice. Community and unity are pursued in green. Relationships and being liked is more important than compensation and power for these individuals. There is a strong need to be accepted and to do what the group needs and wants. The F-S system has been available for about 150 years (Beck & Cowan, 1996).

Yellow (G-T)

Yellow is a system of self-expression. It is the first system operating in the second tier of existence according to Dr. Graves (Cowan & Todorovic, 2005). Like green, it is relativistic and contextual. Its core relational value is empathy. The yellow system adds the systemic mind capacity to green. Thus, system thinking is a core capability of G-T. Yellow individuals unlike their counterparts in all other systems are not impulsive and have left behind the fear of existence. Both of these attributes make them operate in a truly collaborative manner. They have the certainty that their needs will be met in some form and do not feel the need to compete (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008).

Even though yellow is a self-expression system, it has a considerable amount of affect. The people in this system are warm and approachable. Their self-interest pursuits are bound to not cause any harm to anyone. Yellow individuals require flexibility and operate best in open systems. They profess a deep humility and a reverence for all of life. People in the G-T system do not have fixed values. These emerge from current understanding of their condition. Motivation in yellow is self-generated and learning is mostly through observation and participation is a variety of situations. Leadership in the G-T system applies a similar leadership style to beige where the best fisherman should be the one fishing but at a higher octave. In the yellow system, the leader is the best person to guide others while the conditions and the individual’s situation are aligned. This system first appeared about 60 years ago (Beck & Cowan, 1996).

Turquoise (H-U)

Not much is known about the turquoise value system. In his entire research, Dr. Graves only found 6 individuals that exhibited a different conceptualization of the mature adult in operation than the previous seven systems (Lee, 2009). His turquoise (H-U) system definition evolved from this limited sample. In this value system our current problems of existence are solved and give way to another set of challenges on how humans continue to evolve. There is no timeline on when H-U could be present and its impact felt on our planet. Its availability is predicated on the problems that yellow would create (the new life conditions) to give way to the emergence of the turquoise mind capacities needed to solve these problems. Graves and the students of spiral dynamics speculate that the yellow system would solve the basic problems of existence, a preoccupation with all the other systems prior to yellow. Given life conditions where basic living is no longer an issue, what would the mind capacities need to be? In a simplified way, this would be equivalent to retirement with all needs met, including physical, mental and emotional. In our current conception of life, retired individuals with monetary security do not necessarily have the confidence that their other living needs will be met such as emotional support. H-U makes that possible.

The Modernistic and Post Modernistic Organizational Value Systems

The value systems of organizations are the amalgamation of the value systems of the people in the organization (Beck & Cowan, 1996). Schein (2010) states that culture is set by the leader or the leadership of the organization. In the same vein, organizational value systems are established by their leadership with reinforcing contribution by all members.

Contemporary organizations are mostly D-Q and E-R with some F-S in the mix (Lee, 2009). Traditional and hierarchical organizations would tend to mostly exist in the D-Q system while highly entrepreneurial and democratic organizations like Google would gravitate toward the E-R system. As it will become evident later in this essay by the attributes of F-S, there are not many pure organizations in this system (van Marrewijk, 2004). Organizations like Ikea and Interface Flor operate in an E-R world but bring a lot of F-S through their social and environmental sustainability programs. Their leaders demonstrate solid F-S characteristics and drive the culture of their companies with aspects of this value system. However, they are not pure F-S organizations.

G-T (yellow) organizations do not yet exist in any documented form (van Marrewijk, 2004). However, Lee (2009) forecasted a sizable percentage of individuals having G-T characteristics now forming part of modern organizations. In an interview with Dr. Beck he posits that yellow and turquoise value systems will come together a later time when problems created by the F-S system are fully apparent and require the full thrust of the yellow mind capacities (Roemischer, 2002).

The descriptions in Table 4 correspond to the value systems most applicable to today’s business organizations. Systems that precede D-Q are present in these organizations but are not the dominant value system. For instance, Red (C-P) exists in all organizations but in its pure form would exist in more power-based organizations such as gangs and organized crime.

Table 4. Attributes of the D-Q, E-R and F-S value systems along archetypal life forces. This table uses the Corlett & Pearson (2003) life forces to organize the key attributes of organizations in the blue, orange and green systems. Material for this table comprises of summaries and abstractions from text in Cowan & Todorovic (2005) and Beck & Cowan (1996).

Life Force Blue (D-Q) Orange (E-R) Green (F-S)
People (Organization Structure)
  • Hierarchical org structure
  • Top down leadership
  • Organization is viewed as provider
  • Status/title viewed as very important
  • D-Q employees need strong direction or will act out
  • Networked org structure
  • Strong functional leadership
  • Organization exchanges values with employees
  • Influence/leverage is very important
  • E-R employees need opportunities to demonstrate capabilities
  • Peer org structure
  • Leadership shared
  • Organization viewed as a community
  • Being liked is very important
  • F-S employees need to be part of decision making process
  • Drive for stability
  • Results come from sacrifice and hard work
  • Results benefit the organization
  • Mission, strategies and goals are nested to drive results
  • Drive for change
  • Results come from innovation, risk taking and best choices
  • Results benefit stakeholders, primarily shareholders
  • Mission, strategies, functional goals, MBOs and personal goals are nested to drive results
  • Drive for social justice
  • Results come from group creativity and collective action
  • Results provide social benefits and aim for sustainability
  • Organization’s purpose drives strategies and group goals are nested to achieve socially impactful results
  • Directed by management
  • Incented by some form of consequence
  • Learn from individuals with strong qualifications
  • Risk avoidance
  • Innovation is to be approached with caution
  • Higher knowledge reserved for elite
  • Self-initiated learning
  • Learn best through experimentation (trial and error, and risk taking)
  • Learn from experts
  • Risk taking is encouraged
  • Innovation encouraged and rewarded
  • Knowledge and expertise results in high status
  • Constantly in learning mode (curious mind)
  • Best learn through observation
  • Learn from individuals who demonstrate their understanding of the group’s cause
  • Risks must be accepted by the group
  • Innovation is expected
  • Learning organization
Stabilizing (Managing)
  • Controls and standards in place
  • Strong bureaucracy
  • Repeatable tasks with low creativity
  • Fixed compensation at or below market
  • Decisions made by leaders
  • Room for highly creative work
  • Measurements in place to determine performance
  • Standards and controls to support process efficiency
  • MBO programs
  • Pay for performance at or above market
  • Decisions made by experts supported by leaders
  • Creative process applied to all activities
  • Group dynamically decides what rules and controls to use
  • Compensation is egalitarian and based on what is needed
  • Decisions are made by the group

Analysis of the Organizational Archetypes in Each Value System

This section establishes a correlation of the ECLET value systems with the twelve organizational archetypes. Only the modernistic and post-modernistic value systems are considered (D-Q, E-R and F-S). Each correlation appears in the form of a table showing the behaviors for employees and then the organization as a whole for each individual archetype in the three values systems considered in this study. The correlations in this section come from the author’s own findings on the work of Dr. Graves on ECLET and Dr. Pearson’s organizational archetypes. A part of this research comes from the Spiral Dynamics course offered by Chris Cowan and NatashaTodorovic taken by the author in May of 2011.


In general, the Innocent archetype influences individuals and organizations that are benevolent and operate in a highly hierarchical and centralized structure. An Innocent organization acts as the caring parent and the employees as the well-behaved children. This archetype is more prevalent in the blue value system (D-Q) than orange (E-R) or green (F-S). D-Q lends itself to the organizational parent/child relationship, given that this coping system is based on denying self for a reward later and to obey proper authority (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). This system also seeks to create comfortable spaces and rightful living. The other value systems tend to have more dynamic environments and thus may challenge the Innocent archetype. Table 5 relates the characteristics of the Innocent archetype to each of the value systems being analyzed in this essay.

Table 5. Correlation of the Innocent archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • Highly dependent on the benevolence of the employer
  • Management viewed as higher power
  • Employees seek job stability and security
  • Follow the rules and ask for guidance
  • Almost blind obedience
  • Acceptance of limits and convention
  • Repetitive work
  • Highly structured hierarchical organization
  • Steeped in tradition and convention
  • Hard to change
  • “Don’t fix what ain’t broken” mentality
Orange (E-R)
  • Work hard and do what is expected
  • Lead through “tried and true” paths
  • May follow unrealistic and utopian vision
  • Displays positive and optimistic energy
  • Comfortable place to be
  • Environment is full of hope and optimism
  • Barriers common to organizations are bypassed through positive outlook
  • Stability as route to progress
Green (F-S)
  • Treasures values of organization
  • Teams and company are perceived as nurturing
  • Work in teams which are viewed as extended family
  • Community providing and caring for its members
  • High appreciation for employees
  • Strong sense of harmony and cooperation

Everyday Person (Orphan)

Like the Innocent, the Orphan archetype drives individuals to seek safe organizations that can provide for them. Unlike the Innocent, the Orphan does not believe that the world is safe. Consequently, orphans feel betrayal at every corner, self-sabotage, and ultimately feel powerless. Orphan organizations are those that have experienced what is perceived as some form of betrayal or abandonment. Examples include takeovers, changing market conditions and poor leadership (Pearson, 1997). Unlike the Innocent archetype, the Orphan can easily live in the three value systems being analyzed. The structure and characteristics of D-Q can simply provide the life conditions for both Orphan organizations and individuals to exist. E-R is also a good candidate because of its competitive nature. In the E-R world there are winners and losers.  The losers could feel that the larger E-R system did them wrong and feel victimized. F-S is also capable of experiencing the Orphan. Fighting for a cause for social and environmental integrity could be rejected by the public, authorities and businesses. Lack of vertical system integration (seeing how other value systems see the world) could make an F-S organization or a set of individuals embody the Orphan archetype. Table 6 shows the characteristics of the Orphan archetype in its relationship to the Spiral Dynamics systems.

Table 6. Correlation of the Everyday Person archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • Able to articulate fears and constraints
  • Show compassion for vulnerabilities in others
  • Distrust for management
  • Complaining about standards and rules
  • Linear thinking
  • Organization’s philosophy is a “dog-eat-dog-world”
  • Hierarchical organizational structure
  • Mistrust between management and employees
  • People not sharing in the misery are generally attacked
  • Emphasis on survival
  • Us against them thinking
Orange (E-R)
  • Anticipate problems
  • Act as the “squeaky wheel”
  • Realism and common sense about organization realities
  • Winning in a scarce world
  • Motivated to have financial security
  • Power struggles and turf fights
  • Political structures and gossiping
  • Information is centralized and on “as need to know basis”
  • Emphasis on bottom line
Green (F-S)
  • Empathy for individuals experiencing similar situations
  • Healers of social and economic injustice
  • Disdain for judgment and harming people
  • Organization is self-aware of wounds and acts as “wounded healer” for others
  • Employees encouraged to heal their own wounds
  • Organization acts as teacher of hard lessons on how to survive together
  • Teams empowered to support each other
  • Emphasis on interdependence


The Hero archetype is well entrenched in the workplace culture. Modern organizations have reward and recognition systems that perpetuate the state of employees sacrificing themselves for their benefit. This self-sacrifice is supported by general business culture, the media and our upbringing.  Heroes are disciplined and fight for a just cause (D-Q). They are competitive and strive for victory (E-R). Their plight is for the benefit of the whole. The ideal Hero is selfless and aims to build a better world (F-S).  Table 7 shows the characteristics of the Hero archetype across the value systems.

Table 7. Correlation of the Hero archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • Good soldier
  • Dualistic with an either/or approach to problem solving
  • Identification and elimination of problems
  • Show strong company loyalty
  • Ideological about role in the organization
  • See sacrifice as the price for security and lasting employment
  • Hardworking organization
  • Disciplined
  • Stress loyalty as a cornerstone
  • Value team players
  • Problems treated as obstacles to overcome
  • Competitive drive focused inside
  • Could have silos competing with one another, each with their own heroes
  • Little tolerance for diversity-value sameness
  • Could be limited by inflexibility
Orange (E-R)
  • Courageous, confronting challenges head on
  • Focused and assertive
  • Fight for change questioning status quo
  • Goal is to be the best
  • Risk taking
  • Belief in own competence
  • Focus on winning for self-promotion and benefit of the organization
  • Goal and results oriented
  • Externally competitive
  • Winning tied to financial performance
  • Expects employees to act as a winning team
  • Management model is coaching
  • Rewards correlated to financial results
  • Pride in belonging to organization
  • Strive for best in class products and services
Green (F-S)
  • Search for peace and harmony
  • Represent the organization and for what it stands
  • Strong willingness to act
  • See sacrifice now to obtain benefits for self and others
  • Highly relational organization
  • Shared vision/shared purpose
  • Long decision making process to build consensus
  • Organization focused on undoing the wrongs of greed and selfish consumption
  • Highly accepting or diversity


This archetype brings the characteristics of selflessness and sacrifice for the benefit of others. On the surface it is most aligned with the F-S value system. However, it can be found in Blue (D-Q) and Orange (E-R) as well. The motivation of selflessness is different in each system. In D-Q, the motivator for the Caregiver is to provide for the needs of others in the social system because that is what a benevolent person or organization does. The sacrifice for D-Q is aimed at the longer term. The concept of “reap what you sow” is at play for the D-Q Caregiver. For E-R, the motivation is to empower and to provide what others need to compete and win. The E-R Caregiver understands that without some level of care and encouragement an organization would fail. Caregivers act from their own sense of competitiveness but could be quite generous as long as those receiving benefits are contributing commensurably. In the F-S system, the Caregiver embraces the concept of service. These individuals and organizations provide for the needs of others purely because of their sense of community. Their understanding is that all should have what they need. The F-S Caregiver views that giving is its own reward. All caregivers in the three value systems are subject to being manipulated and “guilted” into giving. Table 8 shows the correspondence between the characteristics of employees and organizations expressing the Caregiver archetype and the value systems.

Table 8. Correlation of the Caregiver archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • Do what needs to be done
  • Clear sense of duty and responsibility
  • Exhibit caring and compassion
  • Show dedication through long hours
  • Loyal to management
  • Managers could be too passive and fail to delegate
  • Propensity to experience burnouts
  • Harmony, cooperation and caring are part of organizational values
  • Employees are expected to sacrifice along with the company for the long term benefits
  • Organization may experience workaholic behaviors, burnout, and high turnover
  • Tendency to low financial compensation and expectation for long work hours-counter to stated values
Orange (E-R)
  • High engagement levels replace sacrifice
  • Expectation for rewards and recognitions correspond to the level of effort applied
  • Management appreciation for contributions
  • Cooperation is a strategy to win
  • High expected level of work resulting in excellent products and services
  • Competitive pay viewed as necessary and fair for expected contribution
  • Management views their role and enablers for their teams
  • Investments in tools and processes are justified to make the work easier
Green (F-S)
  • High degree of collaboration
  • Strong sense of social responsibility
  • Caring extended to inside and outside (world) the organization
  • Care for team members as family
  • Strong empathy for others
  • Could avoid confrontation and end up with “group-think”
  • Camaraderie and mutual respect is high
  • Employees are well taken care of as they are viewed as an integral part of “the family”
  • Organization see its role and contributions in the broader social system


The Explorer archetypes corresponds to what Pearson calls the journey in the development of an individual or organization (Person, 1997). The Explorer’s quest is about identity and purpose. It is through this archetype that individuals connect with their sense of vocation and organizations translate high level vision statements into a sense of purpose in the social systems in which they operate. The Explorer is a journey of discovery primarily involving learning, taking risks, and testing what works. The Explorer is what takes the Innocent to the next level in the Learning life force. The Innocent is content with being directed by the organization while the Explorer needs to find his/her own path. Explorer organizations are not content with just being in business. They must find its purpose and justify who they are to their social system. Apple, Inc. explored its entry into the entertainment market with several products to ultimately come up with the iTunes/iPod/iPhone combination that established a strong purpose for this organization.

The Explorer archetype is stronger in the E-R and F-S systems. Both of these systems leave authority behind and want to explore multiple alternatives. E-R is the multiplistic system and a natural to explore many paths to discover the “right one.” E-R learns by experimentation. Similarly F-S conceptualizes many paths buts its relativistic nature establishes that all paths are relevant. F-S learns vicariously by observation (Cowan & Todorovic, 2005). It observes what works and what does not and it embraces the path that the group prefers without judgment. The Explorer archetype has difficulties in the D-Q system. Learning in D-Q is driven by consequences and even punishment. There has to be a consequence in place for D-Q to learn (Cowan & Todorovic, 2005). For example, all employees need to have 40 hours of annual training or they will lose points in their annual review and get a lesser raise. The D-Q type of self-development borders with how the Innocent archetype learns. Table 9 establishes the correlation between the Explorer archetype and the value systems.

Table 9. Correlation of the Explorer archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • New and improved products
  • Changes to processes and tools
  • Development of new standards
  • Need to be challenged to remain involved
  • Want vocational guidance and career development
  • By definition D-Q organizations need structure and are typically hierarchical. They can have Explorer employees but a pure Explorer organization in the D-Q value system could not be sustainable. It would be a store-front with no real substance behind it.
  • Little planning resulting in uncoordinated efforts
  • Potential for chaos due to minimal systems and inattention to employee needs
Orange (E-R)
  • Achieve independence in thinking outside of “group-think”
  • Integrity even under group pressure
  • Divergent thinking
  • Challenge rules
  • Need feedback on how they are doing in their job
  • Learning through experimentation
  • Organization may be highly decentralized
  • Loose association of equals (e.g. consulting partnership or law firm)
  • Autonomy is a core value
  • Management allows great freedom to employees to explore the individual goals
  • Minimal administrative burdens
  • Flexibility to employees to set their own work schedule and work remotely
Green (F-S)
  • Concerned with issues of meaning
  • Development of team capabilities
  • Establishing relationship of self with the whole
  • Need recognition of uniqueness
  • Learning through acute observation
  • Informal evaluations, typically peer reviews
  • Administrative, managerial and leadership workload is shared or responsibility rotated
  • Egalitarian, allowing all to be equal
  • High organizational cohesion
  • High acceptance of diversity
  • Group oriented problem solving with complete support for appointed lead


The Lover archetype is about how organizations relate to their employees and how employees relate to one another. This is the next level of the People Life Force in the Corlett & Pearson (2003) archetypal model following the Orphan. The Orphan archetype needs to belong to an organization but has this natural sense of abandonment and betrayal. The Lover represents a mature level of relatedness that goes beyond “I-It” in Buber’s (1970) relatedness conceptualization. Instead, it embraces an “I-You” type relationship. Additionally, the Lover archetype provide a level of passion and commitment that brings energy to the organization awakening what Peppers & Briskin (2000) call ‘soul.” It is through this soul that employees find meaning in their work lives and where they honor their relationships. The Lover along with the Explorer archetype provides the emancipatory energies for individuals to find at least part of their personal realization though their work.

The Lover archetype is a natural in the F-S system that is socio-centric (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008). Relationships are at the center of F-S and given its life conditions and mental capacities, the Lover archetype should be highly developed in this system. The E-R system presents a challenge for the Lover archetype. E-R is an individualistic system where relationships are the means to an end. Teams and other structures in E-R are needed by individuals and organizations to compete, deliver products and services, and meet financial objectives. However, E-R organizations can have a high degree of passion and employee commitment. These attributes also come from the Lover archetype. In the D-Q system, which like F-S has an external (social) locus of control (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008), relationships are an important part of the system. D-Q would have more of the “I-It” type of relationships than “I-You” but respect could lay a fundamental layer of relatedness that makes the organization operate cohesively. In D-Q and E-R, norms of conduct and what are acceptable behaviors between employees is necessary to provide guidance and establish punishments (D-Q) and feedback loops (E-R).  Table 10 shows the correlation between the lower archetype and the value systems.

Table 10. Correlation of the Lover archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • Commitment to organization
  • Need guidelines of conduct and employee relations
  • Value quality of relationships
  • Appreciate respect
  • Caring and warm environment
  • Could have silos and turf conflicts
  • People may also avoid confrontation
  • Danger of “group-think”
  • Feelings not expressed or handled could result in gossip
  • Employees are superficially friendly
  • Emphasis on process
Orange (E-R)
  • Passion for job or assignment
  • Interdependent teamwork with defined roles and responsibilities
  • Rules of engagement
  • Engagement contracts for large projects
  • Appreciate diversity in skillsets and contributions
  • Highly energetic environment
  • High rewards for employee passion and commitment
  • Share passion for organizational mission
  • Assertive and honest communication
  • Conflict resolution practiced
  • Consensus is aimed as a way to make decisions but not relied if not reached
  • People/skills development is a priority
Green (F-S)
  • Passion and commitment to group cause or direction
  • Strong connection with team members
  • Importance in relationships and with everyone getting along
  • Expectation that all are committed
  • Emotional engagement
  • High degree of empathy and appreciation of diversity
  • Highly social environment
  • Power-sharing mode of operation
  • Strong consensus decision-making model
  • Honest sharing of feelings as the norm
  • Feelings are valued and shared


The Revolutionary archetype follows the Hero in the Results Life Force. The Hero in an organization is in tune with its needs and sacrifices self to address them. In contrast, the Revolutionary provides the counter story. It brings awareness on what needs to change and applies energy to its discovery and ultimate implementation. In its truest essence, the Revolutionary archetype correlates to change agents. Organizations that embody the Revolutionary archetype are not afraid of making hard calls and have an aggressive stance on non-performing personnel. Also, they are able to deal with non-performing products and services. A negatively inclined Revolutionary organization is a dark place to work where people are afraid of being terminated at a moment’s notice.

Both the D-Q and the E-R systems lend themselves well to house the Revolutionary archetype. A structured D-Q organization can use this archetype to clean house and remain vigilant on what is and what is not working. E-R organizations need the Revolutionary archetype to question their products and services, and their internal processes. The E-R organization actively seeks revolutionaries and encourages them to speak up. The challenge for this archetype is the F-S system. In a system that seeks harmony between its constituents individual revolutionaries would not have a place. However, F-S organizations would have complete groups acting as revolutionaries for internal change or for change in society. In this larger context, F-S organizations are the ones pointing out what is wrong in the world and how to fix it. Table 11 shows the correlation of the Revolutionary archetype with the ECLET value systems.

Table 11. Correlation of the Revolutionary archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • Understand commitment to standards and quality
  • Identify and eliminate waste and unnecessary costs
  • Stoic attitude to do what needs to get done
  • “Lean and mean” organization
  • Eliminates problem employees
  • Strong budget controls and money saving policies
  • Eliminates programs that are not working or meeting expectations
  • Not afraid of making tough calls
  • Ensure standards are clear and expectations are understood
  • May be in a business with little margin for error (e.g. healthcare)
Orange (E-R)
  • Understands commitment to excellence
  • Identify and eliminate barriers and non-performing areas
  • Unwillingness to tolerate inefficiencies
  • Troubleshooting capabilities
  • Tunes team performance
  • Organized around current business model ready to change as model evolves
  • Management encourages employees to speak their minds
  • Frequent and thorough performance reviews for internal programs
Green (F-S)
  • Confidence in speaking up inside the group but never complaining about the group
  • Change viewed as a relative state where emphasis needs to be switched to another state
  • Socially and environmentally aware in terms of what is broken and needs to be addressed in society
  • Consensus-driven change model
  • Some have the mission of undoing the residues of greed and selfish consumption


The Creator archetype resides at the second level of the Stabilizing Life Force. This archetype brings the creative force into action manifesting it into new products and services, and internal improvements. The output of this archetype ranges from creations without much value for the most brilliant and purposeful. The Creator archetype works in tandem with the Explorer. It is the manifested counterpoint to the Explorer’s learning and developmental impetus. Organizations with a significantly active Creator archetype would produce the most innovative and life-changing products and services. Apple and Google are two examples of organizations that have changed the social landscape of information with their creativity.

The Creator archetype lives equally well across the D-Q, E-R and F-S systems. The motivation in each system is what differs. The Creator archetype in D-Q is focused on expanding and improving the products, services and internal systems already in place. There is strong sense of ownership present in the D-Q Creator archetype. The challenge for most D-Q organizations is the creativity applied to sales and marketing. Often these organizations do not achieve maximum potential because they fall short on the creative side of these functions. In contrast, E-R organizations understand sales and marketing and can support their creative archetype better. This archetype is the centerpiece of modern organizations in the E-R system. Most E-R organizations see their “secret sauce,” their creative secret formula as how they win in the marketplace. In the F-S system, organizations and individuals see the process of creation as the reward. Their motivation is to create solutions for others whether their business structure is commercial or non-profit. F-S creativity is viewed as a service for society and not just the organization. Table 12 correlates the Creator archetype and its characteristics to the D-Q, E-R and F-S systems.

Table 12. Correlation of the Creator archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • Require input on value creation to focus creative energy
  • Development of new products and services
  • Enjoyment of work processes
  • Provide equipment and facilities for research and development activities
  • Provide organizational/title distinction for Creators (e.g. CTO, principal engineer)
Orange (E-R)
  • Need creative environment
  • Need freedom and autonomy in the creative process
  • Development of new (and potentially Revolutionary) products and services
  • Enjoy creative corporate culture
  • Strong sales and marketing engagement to match desired creative levels
  • Provide tools and facilities to enable the creative process
  • Provide incentives for the creative process such as rewards for patent filing
  • Class recognition for inventors (e.g. architects)
Green (F-S)
  • See creativity as a group process
  • Creative process has artistic overtones regardless of field
  • Even practical matters require creative energy to be fulfilling
  • Creativity connected to higher purpose
  • Environment / architecture is fundamental to the creative process
  • Connected Interdependence provides the flow for creativity
  • Provides environment conducive to creativity (placed-based leadership principles)
  • Creates the “space” to allow for creativity to emerge
  • Use of dialogue and group design principles to co-create and think together – this is much different than group-think
  • Management is integrated into the creative process


The Sage archetype is the third level of the Learning Life Force. It represents the realization of learning after the journey of the Explorer archetype has been completed. In the organizational context, the Sage archetype translates into global perspectives, objectivity, deep analysis, rationality, planning, and detachment to outcome. The challenge of the Sage archetype is connecting its “wisdom” to the people in the organization. The Sage believes in humanity but may not be in touch with it. Academic organizations are expected to embody the Sage archetype along with any organizations deeply dedicated to learning, particularly deeper subject matters.

The Sage archetype has a home in all three values systems, D-Q, E-R and F-S. The level of humanity will vary, with F-S being the system with the most “heart” from the Sage archetype. The D-Q system Sage would be extremely rational and focused on the knowledge that would make the entire enterprise work well. This would be a highly mechanistic view of applied wisdom. In E-R, wisdom would be highly evolutionary constantly seeking the most advantageous approaches to make the organization perform. D-Q would distinguish their sages by title and position. In E-R, the title would be less important. However, Sages would be well identified and have exclusive power. The F-S value system would relate differently with respect to the Sage archetype. F-S would expect Sages to be integrated into the group and not have any special power. However, they would be highly respected and valued. The Sage archetype in F-S would inherently be humanistic, not just in concept but application. Table 13 shows the correlation of the Sage archetype with the value systems.

Table 13. Correlation of the Sage archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • Analyze situations, problems and results
  • Long range planning with structured strategy nesting
  • Leverage metrics to make sound decisions
  • Provide thoughtful critique
  • Engage in intellectual debates
  • Manage crisis
  • Fair leadership
  • Learning organization in concept and structure – those that want to learn do and the others do not
  • Organization values excellence
  • Planning is a core practice
  • Invested in the development of personnel
  • People are given sufficient time and quiet to do their work
  • Risk of being too analytical and detached
  • Potentially not being in touch with the world and its needs
  • Could over analyze situations
  • Potential for ivory tower
  • Submit employees to constant evaluations
  • Learning may be targeted to the elite
Orange (E-R)
  • Focused on the big picture and on what it would take to win
  • Mid-range planning with a short term performance mindset (e.g. “how we make the quarterly numbers”)
  • Use metrics dashboard to measure operational performance
  • Establish feedback loops
  • Handle complex situations
  • Consider human implications during decision making
  • Learning organization as a means to an end – organization must learn to be competitive
  • Organization values competence and competiveness
  • Planning is a tool and is integrated with the operations
  • Organizational structure follows the business model
  • Career development is part of the culture
  • Use performance measures to drive behavior without human consideration
  • Potential for selected classes as being more important (e.g. Engineering)
  • Comprehensive and well-orchestrated evaluations
Green (F-S)
  • Bring macro perspective (beyond the organization)
  • Apply systems thinking to problem solving
  • Deal/manage complexity
  • Decision making is balanced between rationality and humanism
  • Learning has been integrated into the organization’s DNA
  • Planning is synchronized with the organization’s purpose
  • Organizational structure is congruent with purpose and the “natural” flow of responsibilities
  • Equality is paramount and knowledge is viewed as something that all can attain
  • Continuous learning is practiced at all levels of the organization


The Jester archetype corresponds to the third level of the Relatedness Life Force. Even though it symbolizes lightness and lack of structure, its directive is to seek wholeness by breaking through all restrictions and by dealing with matters that might have been previously ignored or blocked (Pearson, 1997). The Jester is linked with flexibility and being free to connect with a number of options. In an organization, the energy of the Jester brings lightness and fun to the work environment. Organizations like Southwest Airlines bring a sense of fun and joy to their daily activities, not just for the employees but those who come in contact with them. Jester organizations find imaginative ways to solve problems. They are unconventional and creative. Employees embodying the Jester archetype bring a sense of joviality to their activities. The challenge with the Jester is staying centered and focused. There is the possibility of getting carried away by the fun and not accomplish much or not knowing when to tune into a more serious demeanor.

It would be counter for an organization in the D-Q system to have the fully developed Jester characteristics since organizations in this value system seek order and structure and would frown upon individuals stepping out of this norm. E-R is a far more logical system to release the Jester archetype. The competiveness of E-R could be accompanied with the fun and lightness of the Jester. The period of the Internet bubble saw many E-R organizations providing many forms of entertainment and fun environments for their employees. The level of creativity achieved during that time was quite significant. The Internet companies attracted all kinds of individuals, even those that never saw themselves work in high tech organizations. The Jester and the high E-R energy was a powerful combination. With respect to F-S organizations, it is expected that they would be highly receptive of the Jester archetype. Community, love and appreciation are the cornerstones of F-S. Fun and enjoyment could easily complement these attributes. In fact, it would be counterintuitive to find an F-S organization devoid of the Jester archetype. They go hand in hand. Table 14 holds the characteristics of the Jester archetype in the context of the organizational value systems being analyzed in this essay.

Table 14. Correlation of the Jester archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Scheduled events for employee enjoyment
  • See Jester behavior as disruptive
  • Could express a fake sense of enjoyment
  • Organizations that take shortcuts
  • Work is never completed by deadlines
  • Organizations that willingly provide substandard products and services
Orange (E-R)
  • Find creative ways of solving problems
  • View work as play
  • Celebrations of milestones and accomplishments
  • High energy teamwork
  • Act free from convention and tradition
  • Have fun, be creative, and be independent
  • Entrepreneurial workgroups
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Fun and energizing workspaces
  • Management brings high energy and provides unconventional leadership
  • Highly creative organization
  • Values innovation and spontaneity
  • No tolerance for bureaucracy
  • Natural affinity for change
  • Fun place to work
  • May lack documentation and some processes
  • May get lost in the fun
Green (F-S)
  • “Thinking together” activities
  • Fun integrated into everyday work life
  • See matters in new and unconventional ways
  • Break away from limiting rules
  • Family life integrated with work life
  • Fun and joyful integration of space into the work activities
  • Change culture
  • Loose organizational structure
  • Rules are constantly changing to adapt to new conditions
  • Externally, organization appears irreverent and to some degree eccentric
  • May lack accountability


The Magician archetype comes after the Hero and Revolutionary archetypes in the Results Life Force. Its focus is change, in particular, second order change. The Magician is the quintessential change agent. It brings the transformative learning and change to an organization. Large changes would be impossible without the Magician archetype. Organizations that struggle with change by experiencing large costs, delays and failures in their change initiatives have immature Magician archetypes. This archetype provides a multiplicity of options, can easily name the problem, define it and manage its complexity. Individuals expressing the Magician archetype are effective communicators, respectful of others and quite capable of conflict resolution. The downside of the Magician is translated into changes that are not necessary, working employees to exhaustion, manipulation, insisting to be cutting edge, and intolerant of non-intellectuals.

The Magician archetype finds expressions in all three systems, D-Q, E-R and F-S. It expresses creativity and change across all systems but at different degrees. In D-Q, the Magician archetype leverages the existing structures to mediate conflict, create win-win scenarios, inspire others, and assist with transitions. D-Q organizations, even in their rigidity, would outpace their counterparts because of the level of flexibility inherent in the Magician. This archetype is the life force behind E-R and F-S. By definition, E-R is all about the change and transformation needed to compete and win. Adaptability is essential to E-R and the Magician archetype provides the energy for this. F-S is about community and social transformation. The F-S system is in a constant state of change and requires significant flexibility to maintain group cohesion. This would not be possible without the Magician being present. Table 15 shows the attributes of the Magician archetype in each of the three values systems: D-Q, E-R and F-S.

Table 15. Correlation of the Magician archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • Direct communication
  • Respectful of others
  • Work as a vocation
  • Inspiration to others
  • Evolutionary change agent (first order)
  • Charismatic leader
  • Task-specific workgroups
  • Clear mission and goals
  • Management focus
  • May push too hard on a given direction
  • Potential to exhaust employees
  • Creativity may be impractical to society
  • Efficient organization
  • High integrity and respectful of others
Orange (E-R)
  • Win-win problem solving
  • Define multiplicity of options
  • Build and develop teams
  • Work as opportunity to prove and develop self
  • Flexible and adaptable
  • Cope with transitions
  • Revolutionary change agent (second order)
  • Flexible and adaptable
  • Creative
  • Quick to respond to change
  • Share power and responsibilities
  • Clear strategies to win
  • May tend to change for change sake
  • Effective and efficient
  • Rewards innovation
Green (F-S)
  • Involves all in problem solving
  • Brings transformative energy
  • Build and develop workgroups with internal and external constituencies
  • Work as opportunity to transcend self
  • Cope with complex social transitions
  • Transformational change agent
  • Handle great complexity
  • Share leadership and responsibilities
  • Clear purpose
  • Continuously adapted strategies
  • Rewards social creativity
  • Respectful of all facets of life


The Ruler archetype is responsible for the overall oversight in an organization. It corresponds to the third level of the Stabilizing Life Force. One of its main functions is to ensure all members of the organization are utilized to their fullest. The Ruler energy could be benevolent or authoritarian. It could be flexible and enabling or it could be quite controlling. Individuals expressing this archetype would most likely be in management positions all the way to the CEO. This latter individual would be absolute ruler and his/her power be shared in the manner that he/she conceives it would be best to serve the organization. The Ruler archetype provides the stable force in the company and the level of fairness.

The D-Q system is a natural for the Ruler archetype. In fact, D-Q organizations would not operate without this archetype being in place. The flavor of the Ruler archetype in D-Q would be of the authoritarian kind, ranging from controlling to extremely bureaucratic. In the E-R system, the Ruler archetype would translate into the organization’s leadership model. This archetype would not be authoritarian but would be directive. Power in E-R would be shared among the management team and key individual contributors. E-R organizations getting closer to the F-S range would display more egalitarian characteristics and have a higher degree of inclusivity in the decision making process. Fully developed F-S organizations would have a distributed Ruler archetype. It would be anti-F-S to have centralized power of any kind and this archetype would need to be shared among organizations and individuals. In F-S, leadership and the ruler type of responsibilities would be rotated among individuals in the group. The challenge for F-S organizations is that they do not function well in traditional, highly competitive settings where strong Ruler presence is required. Table 16 shows the correspondence of the Ruler archetype characteristics in relation to the organizational value systems.

Table 16. Correlation of the Ruler archetype to the organizational value systems.

Value System Employees Organization
Blue (D-Q)
  • Authoritative force
  • Instill confidence
  • Oversee task completion
  • Keep balance
  • Watch over goals and strategies
  • Set boundaries and standards
  • Drive processes
  • Follow directives
  • Highly structured
  • Hierarchical
  • Power distribution from the top with minimal to no power at the lower levels
  • Leadership goal is efficiency
  • Processes meant to drive efficiencies and reduce costs
Orange (E-R)
  • Set up strategies
  • Drive programs
  • Set benchmarks and targets
  • Oversee strategies
  • Measure performance and drive improvements
  • Oversee changes
  • Ensure resources are available
  • Engage with stated goals and be accountable
  • Less structured
  • Matrix organization with top down structure and cross-functional teams
  • Power is distributed across functions all the way to individual contributors
  • Leadership goal is performance
  • Processes meant to drive performance and help win
Green (F-S)
  • Think of the entire group
  • Collectively provide leadership
  • Rotate oversight responsibilities
  • Adapt to new conditions
  • Flat organization with rotating responsibilities
  • Power distributed among all
  • Leadership goal is service and community wellbeing
  • Processes meant to interconnect and provide a value network

The Twelve Archetypes in the Yellow/G-T Value System

As previously stated, there are no documented organizations that have an established G-T (Yellow) value system. Consequently, an analysis of a G-T organization in reference to its archetypes would be purely theoretical. On the other hand, there is a growing population of individuals that are developing and have developed the G-T value system mind capacities and are working in organizations that have to a certain degree G-T type problems (Beck & Cowan, 1996). However, the most likely scenario is for a G-T individual to be working in D-Q, E-R or F-S organizations where they bring their “T” mind capacities to address challenges (life conditions) of the other systems. A G-T individual has the ability to “pose” as a member of the other system and is able to perform quite well in that environment and solve problems in a “yellow” manner. A challenge for G-T individuals would be to be in value systems where they do not have the ability to operate at the full use of their capacities. G-T individuals would find this situation unattainable and most likely leave. People from the G-T value system are at their best in networked environments that have a strong sense of direction (van Marrewijk, 2004).

In terms of archetypal mapping, a correspondence of the twelve organizational archetypes can be drawn with the G-T value system. Table 17 documents this correspondence.

Table 17. Correlation of the twelve archetypes with the G-T value system.

Archetype G-T Value System Characteristics
Innocent G-T individuals would have matured past the Innocent archetype. People in this value system do not feel dependent from anyone or need anyone’s approval to operate. The need to be protected does not exist in G-T. This is the value system level where fear disappears (Cowan & Todorovic, 2008).
Orphan This is another archetype not in the G-T repertoire. G-T individuals feel connected to everything and part of everything. The Orphan feels disconnected and abandoned. This is opposite to how G-T people feel.
Hero The Hero in G-T is present but it is not self-sacrificing. The G-T yellow acts for the greater good and in doing so is extremely careful in not adversely affecting anyone or anything. The Hero in the G-T system acts swiftly but carefully. He or she is only interested in win-win options.
Caregiver G-T is an internal locus system and thus is self-centered. The Caregiver archetype is not manifested in G-T in the traditional sense. G-T individuals care about others but they have to establish a personal connection. Their care is about working for the entire system and not necessarily anyone individually.
Explorer G-T value system people are natural learners. In fact, they are in a state of constant learning. They learn from anything and everyone (Cowan & Todorovic, 2005). They see their path as one of learning. G-T people are risk takers, innovators, and systemic problem solvers. The Explorer/Seeker is one of the strongest archetypes in the G-T system.
Lover G-T values relationships and people in this value system are very warm individuals. They have a deep understanding of the other colors (systems) and as such, their empathy is genuine. Like F-S, G-T appreciates diversity and aims to have “I-You” relationships with everyone. G-T does not distinguish between titles and roles. To G-T, everyone is important and necessary.
Revolutionary A G-T person knows when to speak up and provide the counter story. However, like their F-S counterparts, they are relativistic and see things in context. This means that something  that may be objectionable to many people, would simply be another possible path or meaning for a G-T Revolutionary archetype. People in this value system understand from the perspective of the whole and would have fewer objections than most. The Revolutionary archetype in G-T takes more the meaning of managing or filling in the white spaces in contrast to just pointing out that there are white spaces.
Creator The creative energy in G-T is strong. Systems thinking is a natural ability of G-T. A group of G-T individuals would solve problems in a fraction of the time compared to the other systems. G-T people feel comfortable tackling problems for which they are not experts. This comes from their systemic perspective and approach. Any type of situation is approached in the same manner by G-T individuals, allowing them to be involved with many situations.
Sage G-T individuals amass knowledge to be applied somewhere. Ivory towers are not their preferred pulpit. G-T people need to be in the middle of the action, preferably hands-on. They are not CEOs but could be behind them providing the roadmap. They are visionaries and they embody what van Marrewijk calls the “Connected Leader” (2004). This type of leader can link various qualities and theories into a coherent approach. To G-T, leadership is no longer about what people do but who people are. This version of the Sage archetype is in line with Bohm’s (2004) and Jaworski’s (1998) view of a leader that has moved into a state of beingness, past the consideration of doing and acting. G-T individuals are completely existential.
Jester Given that G-T people are past the point of fear, they do not take themselves seriously or get entangled in worldly matters. They engage and are passionate about what they do, but are detached of the outcome. Their lifestyle is aligned with the archetype of the Jester. G-T individuals have what they need and maintain their focus on the discovery of their inner self and their path to wholeness.
Magician Along with the Seeker archetype, the Magician runs strong in G-T. These individuals are transformative agents in any environment. The leadership style described in the Sage archetype above allows G-Ts to bring a whole “system” into conversations, problem solving, and value creation. These individuals are natural change leaders and seek the higher purpose of everything the engage in.
Ruler The Ruler archetype is not preferred by G-T. Individuals in this value system recognize the need for all of the positive characteristics of the Ruler archetype. However, their preferred mode of operation is in applied knowledge. They are most at home with the Seeker, Creator, Sage and Magician archetypes. Like in the case of the Hero, the G-T individuals would embody the Ruler archetype only if it allows them to work for the greater good. They do not enjoy the aspect of “ruling.” Hierarchy, titles and roles do not hold intrinsic value for G-Ts. They see these organizational structures simply as containers of energy that may be necessary to achieve a given set of goals. Ruling is seen as a means to an end. This is a key difference between G-T and F-S. The latter value system would very much want to do away with the Ruler archetype. G-Ts sees it as necessary and would aim to optimize it and make benevolent.
Creator The creative energy in G-T is strong. Systems thinking is a natural ability of G-T. A group of G-T individuals would solve problems in a fraction of the time compared to the other systems. G-T people feel comfortable tackling problems for which they are not experts. This comes from their systemic perspective and approach. Any type of situation is approached in the same manner by G-T individuals, allowing them to be involved with many situations.
Sage G-T individuals amass knowledge to be applied somewhere. Ivory towers are not their preferred pulpit. G-T people need to be in the middle of the action, preferably hands-on. They are not CEOs but could be behind them providing the roadmap. They are visionaries and they embody what van Marrewijk calls the “Connected Leader” (2004). This type of leader can link various qualities and theories into a coherent approach. To G-T, leadership is no longer about what people do but who people are. This version of the Sage archetype is in line with Bohm’s (2004) and Jaworski’s (1998) view of a leader that has moved into a state of beingness, past the consideration of doing and acting. G-T individuals are completely existential.
Jester Given that G-T people are past the point of fear, they do not take themselves seriously or get entangled in worldly matters. They engage and are passionate about what they do, but are detached of the outcome. Their lifestyle is aligned with the archetype of the Jester. G-T individuals have what they need and maintain their focus on the discovery of their inner self and their path to wholeness.
Magician Along with the Seeker archetype, the Magician runs strong in G-T. These individuals are transformative agents in any environment. The leadership style described in the Sage archetype above allows G-Ts to bring a whole “system” into conversations, problem solving, and value creation. These individuals are natural change leaders and seek the higher purpose of everything the engage in.
Ruler The Ruler archetype is not preferred by G-T. Individuals in this value system recognize the need for all of the positive characteristics of the Ruler archetype. However, their preferred mode of operation is in applied knowledge. They are most at home with the Seeker, Creator, Sage and Magician archetypes. Like in the case of the Hero, the G-T individuals would embody the Ruler archetype only if it allows them to work for the greater good. They do not enjoy the aspect of “ruling.” Hierarchy, titles and roles do not hold intrinsic value for G-Ts. They see these organizational structures simply as containers of energy that may be necessary to achieve a given set of goals. Ruling is seen as a means to an end. This is a key difference between G-T and F-S. The latter value system would very much want to do away with the Ruler archetype. G-Ts sees it as necessary and would aim to optimize it and make benevolent.

WayThink: a Short Case Study


The author conducted a case study to investigate the organizational archetypes present in an organization and to correlate them to the spiral dynamics value systems. This study was conducted in April of 2011 using a set of questions designed to perform an organizational cultural assessment through individual interviews. A small company in the San Francisco Bay Area volunteered to be the subject of the case study. Eight individuals from this company participated in the interviews, including the CEO.

WayThink, Inc. (not their real name) is a Microsoft technology-focused consulting company that leverages local presence with offshore delivery to provide cost effective solutions. These solution offerings include portals and collaboration, business intelligence (BI), and Web-based and customized application development. The company works with various customers across multiple industries.

At the time of the case study, WayThink had 150 employees. The company was founded in 2007. It is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area with development centers in Hyderabad and Bangalore, India. The majority of the employees are in the India locations, but the larger portion of WayThink’s clients are in the US. The personnel located in the United States include the CEO and the senior management team. The staff in India are the development arm and for the most part includes software engineers and project managers. A small number of consultants are also in the US and engaged at various client sites. Their goal is to provide staff augmentation services and bring additional revenue to WayThink along with a relationship that could expand into the company’s core business.

Appendix A shows the questions that were used in each one-hour interview with a cross section of the organizations at WayThink. Eight individuals participated in the interviews. Their roles appear in Appendix B. The interview questions were open-ended and allowed each participant to provide the level of detail they were comfortable with. The author noted that after the 4th interview, the answers about the company’s archetypes started to converge. WayThink’s stated values were utilized during the interviews as a way to draw out the Gravesian value systems inherent in the various subcultures. Given the company’s locations and focus, it became clear that several subcultures were present, not just across role boundaries but also geo-cultural.


There are three stated values at WayThink: a) people first, b) technology leadership, c) execution excellence. To WayThink, people first means that customers are successful because of the talent and creativity of their people. They value each individual for their unique abilities and provide them an environment to excel. On the other hand, technology leadership means that WayThink is dedicated to growing superior talent in the Microsoft technology. They believe this is imperative for their customer’s success and the company’s growth. Last, execution excellence translates into WayThink delivering value through a set of tools, processes and templates that result in predictable and repeatable global delivery of solutions for their customers.

Analysis of WayThink’s Values through the Archetype Lens

The questions used in the interviews explored each of the twelve organizational archetypes. The analysis that follows is grouped using the Corlett & Pearson Life Forces.

People Life Force

All interviewees used the “family” metaphor to describe the company. This “family” is caring and supportive and provides a home and the security all employees need. Generally, people are treated with respect and respect each other. Conversations are open and frank but not contentious. Ideas are respected regardless of situation and hierarchy in the organization. At WayThink, consensus is the decision-making norm. There is both informal and formal recognition in place via their “Value Awards.” The work environment is positive and supportive. Flexibility to work from home is available and fully exercised. Life-work balance is a key practice at WayThink. This is particularly important since India-based employees need to work late night with their US counterparts and customers encroaching into their personal time. Workmates have fun together and celebrate birthdays and holidays. This is principally true at the Bangalore site. There is a fundamental trust in management. What the author found is limited personal responsibility and accountability for the company results and its development. Also, conflict resolution seems to be lacking. People have difficulty confronting each other. Given WayThink’s great desire to reach consensus, this often times results in “group think.”

From a People Life Force perspective, WayThink has a positive Everyday person (Orphan) archetype. Employees have healthy expectations of what the company should provide. There are no distracting or limiting orphan behaviors. Although some employees translate the “people first” value into an excuse to have more personal time and have expectations for greater salaries and promotions, there is a general appreciation for what the company is providing. The Lover archetype is partially developed in terms of the respect between the company and employees and between each other. Also, there is exploration of each other’s ideas. Mentoring is a strong practice at WayThink, which indicates strong relating between experienced and less experienced employees. The author was able to pick up a fair amount of passion from all interviewees, which is a Lover archetype attribute. What is missing from this archetype is conflict resolution. WayThink does not seem to be able to handle interaction when deep conflict exists and lets senior management deal with the problem. Regarding the Jester archetype, the company appears to be a fun workplace. Employees celebrate all holidays and personal events. The Bangalore office seems to be one with the most Jester-like energy. The author visited this location and was able to evidence this light heartedness in place. Also, the work-life balance practice by the company, including the ability to work from home, indicates a well-developed Jester archetype.

Results Life Force

The Hero is the archetypal model for the best-performing employees. Reward systems are based on the effort aligned with company values. Most projects require heroics to complete—more than anyone would like. The CTO is the model Hero; he saves the day for everyone and he is highly regarded for this. There is no counter culture established although everyone believes that “speaking your mind” is allowed. People can provide opinions, but “group-think” typically sets in. Staffing changes are hard to make, particularly with the established personnel—no hard calls are made. The WayThink CEO would like to have more counter-ideas to increase performance in contrast to the politeness, which is normal to the culture. In addition, everyone would like to have more “magicians,” but there is only one recognized Magician present, the CTO. Efforts have been made to grow the Magician archetype population and its capabilities. However, no Magician archetype is fully present at this company yet. Transformation activities are mainly focused on customer engagement but none internally.

Learning Life Force

At WayThink, people are content and enjoy being part of the company. The work environment is positive, optimistic and supportive. Employees are expected to learn and in turn they expect the company to provide tools and opportunities. There are no set learning requirements, but learning is included in employees’ development plan. This plan calls for each individual to be at least 50% responsible for their own learning activities. However, there is no evidence that strong independent learning is taking place. This is consistent with the Innocent archetype where employees expect to be directed on what to learn and when.

All interviewees stated that the reason for not learning as much at WayThink is the workload. All non-administrative personnel are engaged in customer activities, leaving no room for learning. Again, this is consistent with the Innocent archetype where employees do as they are told. Some individuals have been encouraged to pursue independent development initiatives. This provides a sign of the Explorer archetype, at least in concept. The heavy work schedule and the desire for the company to optimize every resource for revenue generation, leaves little or no time for exploration (Seeker archetype behavior). Paradoxically, this goes against the company value of technical leadership.

At the Sage level of the learning life force, the author found the CEO and CTO displaying attributes of this archetype. These individuals are constantly learning, appear to be systems thinkers, and have strong analytical abilities. The challenge they face is finding the balance between revenue and learning. At present, they are engaged in maximizing dollars per employee. The conundrum the CEO and CTO face is how much more revenue they would be able to make if they were to develop the Explorer archetype and increase the overall initiative and innovation in the company.

Stabilizing Life Force

WayThink provides for the wellbeing of its employees. The company delivers a competitive salary and health benefits, and comfortable workplaces at all of its sites. The workspace is practical and conducive to productivity. Employees see WayThink as a good and generous Caregiver. At this company, people are free to express their individuality and personal values. The view of the company by all interviewees is that WayThink is a caring family. This is demonstrated by care and support for each other. Interviewees provided ample examples demonstrating care between the company and its employees and for each other.

The creative process at WayThink has been evolving from simple staff augmentation engagements to developing their own intellectual property. As their engagements became more complex, the company was able to capitalize and create reusable applications. This creative transition is embryonic but has solid potential. Through it, WayThink is demonstrating growth in the Creator archetype. Ultimately, this type of innovation would create more leveraged revenue streams perhaps allowing the company to make the time for learning.

From a Ruler archetype perspective, WayThink has very few repeatable processes and almost no internal systems. It is operating as a startup even though it has three sites and over 150 employees. Their execution excellence value is at odds with how the company behaves internally.  Although the developers provide creative solutions for their customers, they do so with minimal documentation and very little knowledge sharing. This significantly affects WayThink’s sustainability by making “tribal” knowledge the means for how information is accumulated and used in the organization.

The WayThink Sub-cultures and Their Value Systems

This subsection explores the value systems present at WayThink as expressed by its different subcultures. Schein (2010) states that subcultures emerge as a company matures and establishes differentiation in values. This differentiation can be functional or occupational, geographic, technological, divisional and hierarchical. Through the interviews, the author was able to distinguish value system difference at the geographical and hierarchical subcultures.  Table 18 provides the definition of each of the identified subcultures at WayThink.

Table 18. Definition of the subcultures at WayThink. These subcultures span geographies (US and India, and within India), and hierarchical boundaries (levels of management and employee classification).

Subculture Location Description
Founders US – Bay Area Two of the 4 original founders remain with the company (CEO and CTO). This subculture is the ultimate decision maker. It sets direction for the company and acts as the father figure.
Management US – Bay Area, Hyderabad, Bangalore Leadership subculture. Collaborates well with individual contributors. Viewed as accessible and supportive.
US-based personnel US – Bay Area Smaller team. Not socially connected. This is a task oriented team. They feel responsible for the wellbeing of the rest of the company. This is the face to the customer and where the engagements are generated.
US-employees in staff augmentation roles US – Spread across multiple states Small group of individuals that are assigned to customers but are not integrated into project teams. This is the “outsider” subculture because their focus is to augment customer staff and not practice WayThink’s core mission.
Hyderabad site Hyderabad, India Delivery team. Subculture aligned with local cultural values and modalities. Conservative, collective-oriented, and quiet.
Bangalore site Bangalore, India Delivery team. Subculture aligned with budding metropolitan culture in Bangalore.  Entrepreneurial, more individualistic, more open to outsiders, and livelier.

The author analyzed the value systems of the WayThink subcultures. This analysis is based on the answers provided by the interviewees directly regarding the company values of people first, technology leadership and execution excellence. The provided answers during the interviews stated value coherence (values are practiced as intended) and non-coherence (espoused values are not practiced or they are negatively constellated). From an organizational psyche perspective, the author was looking for the “complexes.” The language of ECLET was used to express them.

Table 19 shows the primary and secondary ECLET value systems for WayThink. Graves (Lee, 2009) posited that most people and organizations straddle two value systems, one with a social center of locus and the other with an individual one. In his research he found very few exceptions of individuals centered on a single value system. Graves named this centered state “nodal.” The primary system for a subculture corresponds to its dominant set of life conditions and life capacities. This value system is for the entire subculture and does not differentiate the mind capacities of each individual. The secondary system is subservient to the first but shows a different set of coping capabilities when life conditions requires them.

Table 19. Mapping of the WayThink subcultures to their primary and secondary ECLET value systems



ECLET Value System


ECLET Value System



Orange (E-R)

Green (F-S)

Founders are completely entrepreneurial with a strong sense of community, teamwork, unity and global success.

Orange (E-R)

Blue (D-Q)

Management team follows US organizational values and has the typical Orange stage values. India management team has a more traditional perspective and a stronger sense of hierarchy.
US-based personnel

Orange (E-R)

Blue (D-Q)

All US-based personnel is consistent with the US model of values and meaning making of typical hi-tech US companies (E-R/D-Q)
US-employees in staff augmentation roles

Blue (D-Q)

Blue (D-Q)

This group is primarily under the direction of the customer and does not have the opportunity to express E-R values. This would be the one “nodal” subculture centered on the D-Q value system.
Hyderabad site

Blue (D-Q)

Orange (E-R)

More traditional site based on local social values (purple-blue stage). Less exposure to orange value system.
Bangalore site

Orange (E-R)

Blue (D-Q)

Subculture based on the emerging value system in this now metropolitan city. Traditions are observed but less than the orange success-driven values.

The Correlation of the Value Systems to the Archetypes

A correlation of the value systems to the twelve archetypes is provided in this section. The identified subcultures are mapped to each archetype and grouped by the life forces defined by Corlett & Pearson (2003).

People Life Force

As previously described, WayThink has a mature Everyday Person archetype, a developing Lover archetype and a strong Jester one. The people life force is the company’s strength. This can be attributed to an influx of mind capacities from the founders who operate in an E-R-F-S capacity. Their entrepreneurship and drive is balanced by a strong sense of community and people wellbeing. They have established complexes (basic assumptions) that give way to respect, integrity, work-life balance, flexibility and collaboration. Table 20 shows the correspondence of the people life force archetypes with each of the subcultures at WayThink connected to their value systems.

Table 20. Correspondence of the WayThink subcultural value systems to the people life force archetypes.

Subculture ECLET Value System Pair Everyday Person (Orphan) Lover Jester

Orange-Green (E-R – F-S)

Founders act as the company community caretakers with a clear entrepreneurial mission. The company has a strong sense of family unity. They model respect for all employees, customers and partners. Form strong bonds with all employees. Open to flexible workplace. Allow people to work at their own pace. Do not actively promote fun in the workplace.

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

Older siblings following parent’s direction and leading by example. Same level of respect as founders. Less relational. Drive “group-think.” Exhibit high degree of passion. Receptive to flexibility. India management support fun and enjoyment at work.
US-based personnel

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

Same as above Same as above Accept flexibility but not enough social integration for fun/enjoyable activities.
US-employees in staff augmentation roles

Blue-Blue (D-Q – D-Q)

Community members seeking Everyday Person (Orphan) structure Less integrated into culture. Need to adapt to customer’s culture and values. Disconnected from daily activities of the company and thus not connected to this archetype.
Hyderabad site

Blue-Orange (D-Q – E-R)

Same as above with a shade of independence Respectful members of community. Strong bonds along local cultural lines. Work within flexibility parameters. Some level of fun and enjoyment but within local community.
Bangalore site

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

Seeking independence from parental controls but work well within boundaries Strong bonds with all members. Open to external cultures. Friendly and warm toward others. Well adapted to flexibility. Most active sub-culture in having fun and enjoying others. Open to outsiders and have them join in.

Results Life Force

WayThink has been in operation for four years. It has experienced growth year to year, accumulating repeat customers and larger and more important ones. Personnel have grown from a few to over 150. WayThink’s ability to achieve results is clear. Their results model has been structured around the Hero archetype. Each person in the company is expected to sacrifice self to keep the company going. The formula has been to get customers, work hard, earn money through engagements and hope for repeat business.

The CEO in particular is worried about the simple revenue formula used by the company as their market differentiation is solely based on their reputation of working hard. He and a few of the WayThink leaders sense that they have to provide more transformative and purposeful solutions and for that they need to transform themselves. The challenge for the company is the underdeveloped Revolutionary and Magician archetypes. All interviewees in the case study acknowledged the lack of counter ideas (Revolutionary) and a slim number of magicians (primarily just the CTO) to work on highly complex problems requiring more developed life conditions.

Most of the subcultures at WayThink exhibit strong E-R values. Only the staff augmentation personnel and the Hyderabad site show a stronger D-Q than E-R. This makes the company competitive in their field but limited by the lack of the Revolutionary and Magician archetypes. Table 21 describes the state of each archetype in the results life forces for the subcultures identified at WayThink.

Table 21. Correspondence of the WayThink subcultural value systems to the results life force archetypes.

Subculture ECLET Value System Pair Hero Revolutionary Magician

Orange-Green (E-R – F-S)

Archetype well developed and consistent with both ECLET pairs This subculture embodies the only fully manifested Revolutionary archetype The Magician archetype is only manifested with this subculture.

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

Archetype well developed and consistent with both ECLET stages Mostly blue Revolutionary archetype Concept of archetype exists with a few individuals developing it
US-based personnel

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

E-R value system is less developed than above subcultures Archetype is mostly D-Q but to a lesser degree than management Stronger sense for archetype but not developed
US-employees in staff augmentation roles

Blue-Blue (D-Q – D-Q)

Archetype consistent with nodal D-Q value system No signs of this archetype No signs of this archetype
Hyderabad site

Blue-Orange (D-Q – E-R)

Archetype mostly D-Q with emerging E-R Archetype not detected Concept of archetype exists but no one is developing it
Bangalore site

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

Developing E-R archetype from mostly D-Q values Emerging archetype but not strong enough to make significant difference Concept of archetype exists with a few individuals developing it

Learning Life Force

As previously analyzed for the archetypes in the learning life force, WayThink is concentrated on the Innocent archetype. Its main underlying assumption that the “company is still a startup and must work hard to stay in business” limits it from taking steps to allow the Explorer archetype develop. The absence of opportunities in becoming a learning organization goes against one of the company goals: technology leadership.

In looking at the value systems for each subculture, the D-Q presence in most groups presents the life conditions that the company must be the one presenting the opportunities for learning. Even though the practice of including learning as part of development plan is present, its reality is shadowed by the need to keep everyone engaged. At present, WayThink learns from its engagements but does not take further steps to accumulate and leverage this knowledge in a systemic way. The company’s Explorer and Sage archetypes are immature. An option they have is to increase the E-R value system in their management team and in the technical leadership of the company. This would potentially create energy about self-learning and exploration. Table 22 shows the correlation of the learning archetypes to the subculture value systems.

Table 22. Correspondence of the WayThink subcultural value systems to the learning life force archetypes.

Subculture ECLET Value System Pair Innocent Explorer (Seeker) Sage

Orange-Green (E-R – F-S)

Archetype consistent with entrepreneurial E-R and egalitarian F-S Fully manifested to seek specialization, market opportunities and recognition Well developed within this subculture. Wisdom focused on benefit of the whole.

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

Balanced expectations between company and individual Subculture with greatest desire to develop deep expertise Individual wisdom not integrated into the company yet
US-based personnel

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

Accepting of company’s limitations and grateful for what is provided Same as above Same as above but to a lesser degree
US-employees in staff augmentation roles

Blue-Blue (D-Q – D-Q)

Deeply rely on company support. Do not enjoy benefits of being “inside.” Archetype development limited to challenges provided by customer Archetype not required for job function
Hyderabad site

Blue-Orange (D-Q – E-R)

Higher reliance on company for wellbeing and direction. Archetype development constrained by job assignments Technical wisdom as an objective but systems not in place
Bangalore site

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

Reliance on company but higher entrepreneurial spirit Greater desire to gain deeper expertise. Need time and management support to develop. Same as above

Stabilizing Life Force

WayThink has a strong Caregiver archetype and limited development in its Creator and Ruler archetypes. These limitations present a challenge in this organization primarily around creativity. The creativity archetype complements exploration, and as noted in the previous section, that is also an archetype that is underdeveloped.

The author theorizes that a driver for this limited Explorer/Creator archetype is the lack of a company purpose. As stated in the summary about WayThink, this company has well-articulated values and a caring culture. However, its current purpose is to stay in business and do well for their customers. This is not a purpose that is of primary importance to the social system they operate in. Long term success and longevity seem to be associated with purpose that is intrinsic to the wellbeing of a social system. For example, IBM started with the purpose of automating computational tasks that would enable humans do what they could not do before. This overarching purpose has made IBM a household name and a revered worldwide business. WayThink does not have a purpose that goes beyond staying in business by “doing a job.”

There is nothing inherently limiting about WayThink’s value systems as it relates to purpose. There is enough E-R in the management team that would allow them to respond to any purpose set by the CEO and his trusted leaders. He and the CTO have F-S mind capacities that would allow them to connect to the needs of the social system they operate in and translate them into a strong and overarching purpose. The WayThink CEO engaged the author after an initial report of the case study was provided to him. His first question to the author about the case study findings was the company’s lack of socially impactful purpose. This reflective question shows that the CEO is able to connect with this concept and may result in a positive change.

As noted, the Ruler archetype at WayThink is limited. The processes of the company are embryonic and there is not enough energy behind institutionalizing them. Consequently, the company has limited systems and metrics. This situation is counter to the E-R energy where systems and measurements are the norm. However, as expressed earlier in this document, the immature Creator archetype in the E-R system would avoid processes and focus on just doing the work. This behavior is further cemented by the strong D-Q value system of the delivery team in India which unless directed would not naturally embark on systemic behavior. Incidentally, WayThink’s third value, execution excellence, is predicated in a strong Ruler archetype of the E-R kind. The E-R value system is present in the company but the archetype is underdeveloped. Table 23 shows the correspondence of the stabilizing life force archetypes with the value systems for each subculture at WayThink.

Table 23. Correspondence of the WayThink subcultural value systems to the stabilizing life force archetypes.

Subculture ECLET Value System Pair Caregiver Creator Ruler

Orange-Green (E-R – F-S)

Role of main provider and Caregiver. Believe in community and team. Drive market specialization in alignment with E-R values. No view into social system. Desire and drive for processes and systems. Actions have not caught up with desires yet. Lack process roadmap.

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

Next in the chain of provider. Caregiver role is more structured. Focused on solution delivery. Less time for entrepreneurial and creative activities. Main control figure in company. Struggle with lack of processes and systems.
US-based personnel

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

Balance expectation of needs vs. what company can afford. Emerging creative force for company. Expose to customer & market needs. Recognize need for processes and systems. Improvise some to get by.
US-employees in staff augmentation roles

Blue-Blue (D-Q – D-Q)

Need company to provide every necessity. Exposed to effects from customer company. Task level creativity under direction of customer project / IT need Subject to controls from customer company
Hyderabad site

Blue-Orange (D-Q – E-R)

Expect needs provided by company. Content with what is available. Creative activities limited to technical and project contribution. Follow rules and expectations from management. Cannot address process needs alone.
Bangalore site

Orange-Blue (E-R – D-Q)

Same as above Same as above with larger entrepreneurial influence due to local culture Same as above

Conclusions and Further Research

Organizations like WayThink have a degree of awareness about what makes them successful and what limits them. No organization wants to fail, yet many of the behaviors in a company go unexamined because they are taken for granted as part of the culture. Schein (2010) states that these underlying assumptions are responsible for the fabric of culture and comprise the shared experiences as organizations learn how to deal with problems.

Carl Jung spent most of his life researching and mapping the human psyche. He believed that most of the responses to life conditions came from the depths of the unconscious (Stein, 1998). Until recently, the organizational unconscious was not explored. From all of the available literature, Corlett & Pearson (2003) take on a depth psychology approach to the organizational psyche and postulate a model, based on Jung’s, that explains how an organization behaves and deals with problems. However, these authors do not look deeper into the formation of underlying assumptions or as they referred in their mapping of the organizational psyche: complexes.

This research connects the work from Dr. Graves on the Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence Theory (ECLET) with the organizational unconscious. ECLET provides a framework for contextualizing human behavior, and as applied here, inside organizations. This framework stratifies values systems that connect life conditions with mind capacities. Organizations by the nature of their business have a given set of life conditions that are global for all organizations in a given social system. The mind capacities are the values that each individual “brings to the table” and by association with others form the collective mind capacities for the organization.

Graves defined ECLET as a bio-psycho-social framework. The value systems in this framework are the equivalent of Schein’s underlying assumptions and Corlette & Pearson’s organizational complexes. Beck & Cowan (1996) refer to these value systems as the fabric of culture and organizational life.

Understanding the organizational unconscious and in particular the operation of archetypes partially solves the unknowns of the source of culture inside an organization. The contextualization of the ECLET framework further clarifies how archetype-driven complexes form in different value systems. The Hero in the blue (D-Q) system acts differently than the Hero in the orange (E-R) system. They both originate from the psychic energy of the Hero archetype yet they constellate differently based on the life conditions present and the mind capacities of individuals.

This essay provides an introduction to organizational depth psychology and spiral dynamics as a means to understand how culture is formed and how it unconsciously affects the behaviors of an organization. The WayThink case study gives a glimpse of what is possible to uncover using these theories. Much has not been addressed and can be the source for ongoing research. For one, there are no extensive case studies related to organizational archetypes. In contrast, spiral dynamics, because of its popularity, has wide-ranging fieldwork, a practice community, training and ongoing research. However, spiral dynamics does not focus on the sources of behavior as organizational depth psychology does.

The author considers that further research is warranted to validate the integration of organizational depth psychology with ECLET in order to yield assessment and intervention methods that can be replicated and useful in the understanding of organizational culture and its change. The objective of the research should be to device assessments and interventions that go at the heart of organizational culture to help with its evolution from limiting behaviors to ones that serve the organization’s purpose.


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Appendix A

The following are the questions used during the WayThink case study interviews. Not all questions were asked to all participants. About half of the interviewees were asked the questions related to purpose and values and the other half were asked the ones on organizational archetypes.


  1. Please state your relationship with the company. How long have you been with WayThink and in what roles?
  2. What is the scope of your current role


  1. What is the purpose of WayThink?
  2. How does this purpose fit in the broader context of the industry? How about in the broader context of society?
  3. How are employees aligned with this purpose? What efforts are made to bring awareness to this purpose for all employees?


  1. Define the people first company value. How is this value practiced? What practices and behaviors counter this value? What do employees understand or not understand about this value?
  2. Define the technology leadership company value. How is this value practiced? What practices and behaviors counter this value? What do employees understand or not understand about this value?
  3. Define the execution excellence company value. How is this value practiced? What practices and behaviors counter this value? What do employees understand or not understand about this value?
  4. Are any of these values not congruent with the company’s purpose?
  5. Are the company values communicated and practiced? Are there any that are not and why not?
  6. What are the underlying assumptions at WayThink? Underlying assumptions are the unspoken and unquestioned values that drive behavior and are passed along to all new members.

Organizational Archetypes – People

  1. What metaphor would you use to describe the relationship between the company and its employees?
  2. How does management relate to its stakeholders: customers, employees and partners?
  3. Using a metaphor again, please describe the relationship between employees. Are there differences between the US and India, and between the sites in India?
  4. Does a sense of community exist in this organization? What actions support that community nature? What actions inhibit it?
  5. If the company was giving out academy awards for teamwork, what would the top 3 categories be? Would you have an easy time finding nominees?

Organizational Archetypes – Results

  1. In the context of WayThink, what does “winning the game” mean?
  2. Is the word “sacrifice” in your corporate lexicon and if so, what does it mean?
  3. Are counterculture actions allowed at WayThink and if so, why and when are they appropriate?
  4. Is there a hero at WayThink? Please describe this person. Is there an anti-hero that could also be effective?
  5. When you think of individuals in your organization that can transform what you do, do you think of them as magicians? What “powers” do they possess that make them magicians?

Organizational Archetypes – Learning

  1. How does the company as a whole learn?
  2. Are employees responsible for their own learning? Are they aware of this? How is this awareness instilled?
  3. Are employees encouraged to take risks? Are they rewarded for this? Has anyone been punished for having taken a big risk?
  4. Do you have one or more “sage” in your organization? What would make a person a sage? How is this person regarded?
  5. Is wisdom a goal for anyone or any one organization?

Organizational Archetypes – Stabilizing

  1. What does the company provide for the wellbeing of the employees? Is this enough? Is there something missing?
  2. What gets measured at WayThink? What is not measured that you believe should be measured?
  3. What systems are in place that work well? What systems are missing?
  4. Would you describe the organizational structure as hierarchical, divisional, cross-functional, or something else?
  5. What would be the ideal organizational structure for WayThink and why?

Appendix B

The following table shows the roles of the individuals that participated in the WayThink case study along with their location and value system subculture. Names are not provided for anonymity. The order of the roles in the table reflects the sequence of the interviews. Interview duration ranged from 1-2 hours. India interviews were conducted over the telephone and the ones in San Francisco Bay Area took place in person

About the Author

Jorge Taborga

Jorge Taborga  is the Vice President of Manufacturing, Quality and IT at Omnicell, Inc.  He has an extensive background in change leadership, product development, management consulting, process reengineering and information technology.  His 29 year work experience includes companies like ROLM Systems, IBM, Quantum, Bay Networks, 3Com, and UTStarcom.  Jorge also delivered organizational development and management consulting services to a number of companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and China.  He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Organizational Systems at Saybrook University.