Notes From the Field: The Simplicity of Complexity: New Eyes, New Lenses, New Palestine A 2nd Tier Presentation by Don Beck and Elza Maalouf at the World Future Society

Laura Horn

Laura HornAs I sit here, writing and editing this piece for the Integral Leadership Review, I’m also reflecting on the 3.5 decades I’ve lived with and worked within the theory and framework, designed by Clare Graves, to understand individual, organizational and cultural human development. Three and a half decades ago, I didn’t know it would be known as “integral.” (Heck, I didn’t even know it was “spiral dynamics integral” back then. I still referred to “it” as the “Bio-Psycho-Social Double Helix Model of Emergent Adult Development.”) Graves worked quietly, furthering his research and understanding of human development in a model that would make such emergent development understandable. He also encouraged Don Beck to continue and further the research and understanding. Today, there are conferences that bring both experts and seekers together to share, challenge and deepen our understanding of the integral, or 2nd Tier development. (The 1st Biennial Integral Theory in Action Conference: Serving Self, Other, and Kosmos just concluded its forum in Northern California.)

There are also those, like Don Beck and Elza Maalouf, who are not only furthering our understanding of human development, but also applying the understanding to important practical solutions , Integral in Action on the Large Scale. Just as Don applied Spiral Dynamics integral to creating the architecture to end apartheid in South Africa, Don and Elza are now serving the Middle East peace process through the Build Palestine Initiative. The focus is on building—building capacity, building the economy and creating jobs for young Palestinians. It is not always safe, but it is necessary. Just as necessary as the work Don is doing with Roberto Bonilla in Mexico with the Mexican Teachers Union and Economic Consul of the Mexican government. (See Roberto Bonilla’s report in this issue of Integral Leadership Review). And, others in the United States and Europe are paying attention.

At this year’s World Future Society conference, attendees made their way through a maze of turns and stairs to learn how to change the world, or at least the development in the Middle East. As I made my way to the forum, I realized that anyone attending New Eyes, New Lenses, New Palestinewould be making a conscious decision to be at this presentation. When I entered the room, it was standing room only. Initially, I thought I heard a buzz in the room and looked around for an air conditioning vent creating noise, or the quiet chatter of participants. The only speakers were Don (Beck) and Elza (Maalouf), sharing their dialogue in the comfortable way of people who have worked together for a long time and who share a superordinate goal. The buzz was created by the energy and full attention of the participants, leaning forward to hear and to learn about how Spiral Dynamics integral was creating the framework to understand and support a root change in Palestine.

The room held a hundred seats and still more folks arrived to stand in the crowded backspace. They muttered apologies to others standing (“Sorry, I’ve been looking for this room for twenty minutes!”), but everyone remained. Don and Elza introduced Spiral Dynamics integral, SDi for short, for the uninitiated. (For a greater understanding of SDi, please visit: They included the Sherifs’ work including Spectrums on Conflict and Social Norms with the appropriate colors of the Spiral superimposed on the Spectrums. (And, when discussing relationships within Palestine and those with Israel, conflict is too often close to the surface.) The group listened intently, including those “old timers” knowledgeable in SDi, reinforcing previous understanding and highlighting new knowledge. (My “old timer” experience began as a psychology major and student of Clare Graves at Union College in Schenectady, NY in the 1970’s.)

Many of us have seen how different the light looks when viewed as a kaleidoscope—its shifting images as the shards of glass turn in its chamber bring an entirely different perspective on light and the world. Don and Elza used this new symbol, both in hand and on the screen, to capture the very different lenses through which Palestine and Israel see the world and each other.

The “hum” in the room expanded exponentially when the dialogue between Elza and Don shifted to the young Palestinian leaders who want to and are leading their people in a different way. In February, Don and Elza had prepared to meet with 400 young Palestinian leaders. The meeting was to be a working session. Young Palestinian leaders were invited with the suggestion that they bring other young leaders who could truly work to build the foundation for change. There were no public announcements and no guarantee that these leaders would come. At the appointed hour, the building was empty. And then, buses, trucks and cars made their way to the site. The first dozen, then a hundred—at last the 400 that were expected. The vans, buses and trucks continued to arrive. Many had been stopped at checkpoints and detained. But they persisted. When the last bus arrived, there were 700 young Palestinian leaders committed to their people, their country and their development.

As Don and Elza shared the commitment of these young Palestinian leaders to bring peace, development and a new future to their country, the group at the WFS session listened. We heard the story of a young leader who had been jailed, but attended this February meeting in Palestine because he felt this was the only way to bring a future to his country. This Palestinian initiative was a working session and he had developed avalue-systems mapof Israel/Palestine and the West Bank in the colors of the spiral. The Palestinian leaders quickly grasped the colors of the spiral and began to see themselves, as well as the Israelis, in the language of Spiral Dynamics integral. Aha! They could see where they as individuals, a collective, their communities and their country needed to make the shifts and changes for their future. Their energy was high, their commitment higher. Don and Elza shared this through their dialogue, the pictures and their energy. For me, the most potent image was the photograph of the young Palestinian leader presenting the (memetic) map he had created in the colors of the Spiral.

When Don and Elza concluded their presentation and took questions, I was touched by the intensity and high level of the questions. The WFS participants were not only interested, but also knowledgeable. Their questions—including follow up questions—reflected a deep level of commitment. They understood the superordinate goal of understanding the world and employing SDi as a tool to bring understanding and a change force to the issues. They also seemed to grasp the importance that this change could not be achieved unless it was initiated, directed and implemented by these young Palestinian leaders deeply invested in their own country or culture.

In a later dialogue, Elza and Don talked about the young Palestinian leader who created the “spiral map” as one who has emerged into “Red/Yellow.” He has grown up in a culture steeped in the red environment of Gaza, yet has emerged into Yellow, not “in spite of” his life conditions, value systems, world views and existential challenges, but because of them. And, he is one of many in this group of young Palestinian leaders. They are, what I have come to call “2nd Generation 2nd Tier.”

During my previous research on how individuals centered in 2nd tier create/experience meaning in their work and life, I began to hear stories about younger (often the children of my co-researchers/participants) adults who truly seemed to have emerged into 2nd tier, but through different paths than their parents or those participating in the research. The examples appeared to “jive” with observations I had been making about similar young adult individuals in the US and Europe. These young individuals developed in Blue/Orange or Green environments when emerging into Yellow. The young Palestinian leaders have emerged from an environment rooted in Red, yet many are still emerging into 2nd tier adults. (The co-researchers/participants from western cultures in my initial study developed in environments rooted in Red, Blue, Orange and Green.) As a newly appointed research fellow with the Center for Human Emergence—Middle East, Elza and I have discussed including some of these 2nd Generation 2nd Tier young Palestinian leaders in my research of 2nd Generation 2nd Tier young adults from western cultures. This would expand our understanding of this emerging group and provide a more complete worldview understanding of 2nd Generation 2nd Tier individuals. As an organizational research and development consultant and as a professor, my work is focused primarily on the organizational and cultural levels. As a researcher, my interests and research in human emergence have focused on the individual. By understanding individual emergence, I’ve deepened my understanding of organizational and cultural emergence and the contribution that individual emergence offers to both organizational and cultural emergence.

My own personal interest and developing understanding of Spiral Dynamics integral began as a student of Clare Graves. Graves was charismatic, and considered a powerful force at Union College. In an era where the psychology chair identified himself as a “Skinnerian”, Graves was a maverick. He was admired by students since he was in such demand in the business world and published in the Harvard Business Review.Students feared him and I was advised by fellow students to request a change in advisors. I truly did not understand the fear, but carried it with me during my freshman year when I needed to seek Dr. Graves’ signature.

Learning the “Bio-Psycho-Social Double Helix Model of Emergent Adult Development” from Graves shifted my worldview—in fact offered the worldview from which I could understand individuals, cultures and the world. In “Organizational Psychology”, Graves would sometimes reflect on the companies to which he consulted. Many were firmly centered in “D-Q”, what we now understand as the Blue vMeme.

I had been warned that Graves tamed wild stallions with his bare hands. He was tall and intimidating, and one could easily imagine him “breaking” stallions. Whether the myth was true, Graves DID have a farm where horses were a part of the mix, which only made me more curious about this professor who was to have such an impact on my life.

Graves’ office was on the top floor of the ancient psychology department building. Other professors preferred the more spacious 2nd floor offices. I never determined whether Graves took residence in the alcoves because he preferred the quiet and isolation, or if he inhabited the domain because his way of thinking and being was so different from all the other psychology professors. I approached his office door with tremendous trepidation. He was working at his desk surrounded (literally) by towers of research pages, articles to be submitted and student pages.

“Dr. Graves?” I ventured timidly. Graves eyed me over his glasses, “yes?” As I prepared to make my simple request, I looked at Graves, his stacks of papers in this tiny alcove office and the patch of blue sky in the window behind his desk. I interrupted my request to ask why, on this gorgeous day, would he be stuck behind a desk. (I’m sure I imagined him taming or riding stallions at the farm.) Graves boomed, “Well, if you damn students didn’t give us so much work to do, I could be out in this beautiful weather!” I felt as though I had been blasted across the back wall of the hallway. Should I run? Hide? Whether I knew it or not, there was just a bare hint of a grin hiding. Perhaps my subconscious picked up on it. I looked at Graves and stated—with my own grin, “Well, if you damn professors didn’t give us damn students so much damn work, you could be out there enjoying the day!” (Trust me—I was thinking, “Oh damn, what have I done!”)

Dr. Graves dropped his chin and stared—and began a long, loud deep laugh. “What can I do for you, Teri*?” He knew my name! (*childhood name). That initial event led to a wonderful association with this amazing scholar and gentleman. For two years, during and after my Union years, I developed and ran a nonprofit program through two programs for the disabled. Graves knew of the challenges I had faced. The program was developed following the framework of understanding the theory now known as Spiral Dynamics integral. I returned to Union for a year as an administrator and was greeted by Dr. Graves at a faculty/staff luncheon. “Dr. Graves…” I began. “It’s Clare now, Teri,” he announced as he shook my hand and asked about why I left the programs. “I knew you would leave! Don’t stay here too long, either!”

Graves significant research into understanding human development at the individual, organizational and cultural levels framed my worldview for understanding the world long after I left Union College. Friends, in those days, used to jokingly refer to it as my “hip pocket theory” since I often carried one of his articles in my back jeans pocket to share with the uninitiated. I knew I would return to the theory in a more formal capacity and searched for a doctoral program that would allow me the freedom to do the research I wanted to do using the theory.

A young professor working at the University of North Texas in Denton recognized Graves’ brilliance and theory. Dr. Don Beck, whose earlier research focused on Conflict and Social Norms with M. Sherif at the University of Oklahoma, began working with Clare Graves while I was still a student at Union. Don and Clare worked together until Clare’s death. Don saw a fit between his early research and Graves’ research. A key tenet of Graves’ original theory was that emergence and human development are not static and development continues. (This was a key reason why this theory captured my interest.) Clare urged Don to continue the work and the development of the theory and its application in the world.

I continued my ongoing education in Spiral Dynamics integral with Don Beck. When searching for current literature on Graves’ theory, a friend brought materials she had received when attending Don’s presentation at a World Future Society meeting in the 1990s. (She also informed me that I’d been calling the theory by the wrong name all the years I’d been talking with her about it!) I contacted Don, sharing my research plans and my memories and experiences with Clare Graves. That Don not only knew, but had also been a dear friend of Clare Graves, worked with him and valued him, had a lasting impact on me. I eventually asked Don to be on my dissertation committee. He was a critical member of my committee, and was a key reason why my chair embraced the use of Spiral Dynamics integral as the foundational theory in my research. For me, it was also a fitting part of my own “circle of life” in my work and research. Don and Clare spoke at many professional meetings together, when I was still a student at Union, and for many years after. Don and Clare spoke at a WFS meeting in 1983. Don has continued speaking at the WFS since that time.

I thought of this background and frame when one WFS member ended the session with a reflection. He noted that when he first joined the WFS several decades ago, it was truly an organization steeped in the Blue vMeme culture. Over the years, he noted, he watched, felt and participated in the emergence of the organization into the Orange vMeme culture, and now into the culture of the Green vMeme. The participants at the session probably reflected those vMemes, as well as the shift and emergence through all of those vMemes. Elza and Don presented in the language of Yellow, and were universally understood by all.

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Laura Frey Horn, Ed.D. is Senior Research Fellow, Center for Human Emergence—Middle East, Adjunct Professor, University of Virginia, School of Continuing & Professional Studies, and President, Eureka Consulting Services.