What motivates people 2

The Graves Spiral – your values – how you see the world.

Not everyone sees the world the way you do. Dudley Lynch, lead author of “Strategy of the Dolphin” for instance says “We don’t see the world the way it is – we see it the way we think”. This is important, particularly as the human brain is a tool for taking 2 and 2 and making 5.

We must accept that the human nervous system didn’t evolve under evolutionary pressure to solve logical problems. Its purpose is to get us out of trouble fast. So it’s always trying to save processing power by making snap decisions and it’s always going to over-react to novelty and things that move fast. It constantly tries to make patterns to explain what it sees. Usually these patterns are nonsense which why superstition persists in an allegedly evidence based, scientific society.

In business, you need to be able to attract, engage and motivate 2 classes of people with your visions – customers who might want what you have to offer and staff who have to deliver. If we express our ideas to them in language that reflects the way they see the world, we’re more likely to get a result. So the challenge becomes how to flex your message to suit different people while staying authentic.


The Mindmaker6 ® tool is based on the Graves Spiral which looks at the evolution of value systems, in people, organisations and societies. Values are either mainly self (i.e. results) focused or group (relationships) focused. As individuals or organisations develop they move between these focuses. As they develop they are capable of including more complexity. Eventually they become aware of the choices they can make and can adopt different values for different purposes. They become able to integrate systems thinking with people skills – a critical skill in today’s networked world.

Organisational types and the Graves Spiral

So the Graves Spiral tries to explain different people have different value systems. Graves tells us that people are either self (ie results) orientated or they are group (relationships) orientated. At the same time, those who are prefer thought to instinct are able to use more bandwidth and handle more ambiguity. Graves believed that people and societies were moved from one focus to the next in a developing spiral depending on what happened to them.

There are other versions of Graves’ ideas in the world – mainly the 2 flavours of Spiral Dynamics. However it has always seen to us that Dudley Lynch’s interpretation is best suited to the practical world. We have to manage our relationships quickly in a rapidly changing world. We don’t have the luxury of 2 years to train. We need to be able to learn and apply immediately the most powerful models we can find to build and stabilise the relationships we need to build the world of the 21st Century. Generation Y seem to know instinctively that their relationships ARE their only resources in a world choking on the old transactional ways of doing business.

There is a good overlap between The BrainMap ® and Graves models. We can map the behaviour of different types of people and indeed organisations  in this way. These values systems are mindsets that we become accustomed to using. Like The Brainmap, we will have one predominant centre of gravity but are likely to have a couple of othe centres that we use regularly -in fact it delivers a spectrum of values systems that we can use proactively. Spiral dynamics assigns colours to these mindsets while Dudley gives them names. They can be understood using these labels.

  • Kinspersons – Purple – Gangs
  • Loners – Red – Small Businesses
  • Loyalists – Blue – Public Sector, Army, Church
  • Achievers – Orange – Big Business
  • Involvers – Green – Voluntary and Education sectors
  • Choice Seekers aka dolphins – Yellow – Knowledge Businesses

Dolphins incidentally value their freedom and elegant use of resources. They are the gifted amateurs and early adopters that we find in our research projects.

Understanding this is important for writing effective copy for organisations in the public or voluntary sectors that respond to different imperatives to the commercial sector,

Motivation and Behaviour

The traditional salesman sees customers as motivated by fear, greed or fashion, In the business to business world, fear is usually the stronger motivator, However in the consumer world it’s more complex. Individuals ARE motivated by altruism. And they are also strongly motivated by dissatisfaction with their existing situation.

We want you to understand how your audience thinks and feels and then telling your story in the language that they would use to describe it to themselves. Otherwise you end up only being able to sell to people like you – and there’s a limited supply of those. To make your way in the world you need to understand where other people are coming from – what motivates them and how you need to communicate with them. This is what the MindMaker6 tool is all about – it unpacks and makes workable the Graves Spiral for those doing the world’s work.

This diagram shows us the basis of communication to these different mindsets. It’s really important to understand this stuff – if you talk to people in language that makes sense to them you’re more likely to get the results you want.

The right brain systems – purple, blue and green are defenders and care for the group. The left brain systems, red, orange and yellow take the initiative and are self orientated.

Let me tell you an illustrative story. I once had a job in a public sector organisation after about 15 years of being Managing Director of a 10 man company. I was always getting into trouble for using the wrong language and focusing on the wrong issues. You see – it seemed natural to me that the most important thing was to get the results I was tasked with. However I had no feeling for the sheer political complexity of the organisation and what was considered appropriate in terms of maintaining the cohesion of the group. After about 18 months of pain which I somehow survived by being too competent to fire I eventually developed a quite unexpected flair for organisational politics and achieved some good things that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t learned to play the game.

Mind you I still get caught out. I got into trouble for referring to man-days in a recent bid where consultant days would be considered gender neutral. I also got told off for referring to market research as research – because research on people trips out a whole dimension of ethical considerations.

It’s all nonsense of course – but it just demonstrates how important it is to understand these value systems particularly if you are a business person operating in an involver society like you find in the health service.

As a rule of thumb – don’t use “me” language with “we” people or they’ll resent you and try to cut you down to size. And don’t use “we” language with “me” people or they’ll see you as weak and try and take you out. And above all don’t try to use charm on accountants.

So I hope that’s given you some insight into why this material is so powerful and such an essential part of the toolkit of the 21st Century business person.

To find out more have a look at the MindMaker6 tool – which allows you to see where you fit on the spiral – or more accurately – which value systems you regularly use.

You can buy it here for £20 + £1.50 delivery.

Order MindMaker6 here

2 thoughts on “What motivates people

  1. Reply Linh Vanduser Sep 3,2010 1:14 pm

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  2. Reply Cleopatra Nov 19,2012 6:11 am

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