Why is the book called The Turquoise Brick Road?
The title of this book is an obvious reference to Lyman Frank Baum’s well-known 1900 tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
As is often the case, there are different possible interpretations for The Yellow Brick Road, the name that the journalist and author chose for the path on which Dorothy and her companions travel. Baum died in 1919 so we will never know. I believe there are not just one, but two or more hypotheses. That L. Frank Baum became a member of the Theosophical Society, years before the book came out, shows that he was a broadminded thinker. The Society functions as a bridge between East and West to this day, emphasizing the commonality of human culture. [P – 0] The mission of the organisation founded in 1875 is to ‘serve humanity by cultivating an ever-deepening understanding and realisation of the ageless wisdom, spiritual self-transformation, and the unity of all life’. [P – 1]. One of my all-time personal heroes, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891), was one of the founders. With people like her steering the organisation, it is easy to anticipate how broadminded and progressive members might have been.
It would be simplistic to believe L. Frank Baum was writing children’s novels without any deeper meaning or reference.
Back to the title…”There were several roads nearby, but it did not take Dorothy long to find the one paved with yellow bricks. Within a short time, she was walking briskly toward the Emerald City, her silver shoes tinkling merrily on the hard, yellow road-bed.” [P – 2]
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED – 3rd edition, 2018) defines the American English phrase ‘yellow brick road’ as denoting ‘a course of action or series of events viewed as a path to a particular (especially positive or desired) outcome or goal.’ [P – 3]
Given the story and symbolism behind Dorothy’s companions, one can easily consider the bright, golden road as a modern representation of the much older spiritual philosophy, known in Buddhism and Kabbalah as The Golden Path. This ‘represents the path of the Soul from Egoism to Enlightenment.’ [P – 4]
As you will read, Clare W. Graves’ framework breaks down into eight levels, with the first six making up one tier – this is where humanity operates currently. Egoism and fear are the primary driving forces in this Human (Doing) World 1.0. About 100 years ago, humans reached the 7th (yellow) level of consciousness, which is the beginning of tier two. In this Human (Being) World 2.0, love and holism reign supreme.
The title of this book could have been The Yellow Brick Road, to reflect the importance, for us as a species, of reaching the yellow level and tier two. However, it is at the 8th (turquoise) level that we truly become one with the planet and recognise we are part of something bigger – hence the title. This will become clear when you read about Hortense, my beloved character in the eighth story. The other two contenders were Our Ways and All Our Journeys.
If you wish to dig deeper into the philosophical premise of this title, you are welcome to read this article by Ricky Mathieson [P – 5] or the book Spiritual Journey along the Yellow Brick Road’. Tier two does not guarantee enlightenment, but it is clearly the right direction. Just like Dorothy, we all set out on a journey in life, but who we are or what we are meant to be easily distracts and misguides us along the way. The framework I am bringing to life in this book is not mine, but it can help us reach a world where life can be more regenerative, which would give us more time to figure out evolution and the meaning of life. As Isaac Newton wrote in his 1675 letter, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ In my opinion, the tallest of them all is Clare W. Graves.
I believe he developed one of the most mission-critical frameworks for humanity. While only a tool, it can enable us to find our way, just like a map, and possibly fulfil our destiny.
It is an extensive and insightful piece of work by a dedicated man to whom I owe a great personal debt for many exciting discussions and, hopefully, for helping me find my personal turquoise brick road. Make the framework part of your life map today, and find your way.
[P – 2] Lyman Frank Baum (1994). The Wizard of Oz. Bristol: Paragon, Cop.
[P – 6] Darren John Main (2000). Spiritual Journeys along the Yellow Brick Road. San Francisco, Ca.: Sur.
Why isn’t this the book you wanted to write?
Ironically, this is not the book I had planned to write. The initial story was about a young professional who explores the world and, in so doing, understands that people, companies, markets, and societies operate at eight different universal levels. Next, she gains insight into the seven essential parts of a business, and how they relate to and depend on one another. By sheer curiosity, she combines the two logics to better understand what businesses look like at these different levels, and how they differ. This is also where she comes across sixth level agile development and imagines what it would look like as a business operating logic .
At this point, faith enters the picture and she inherits a struggling 80-person company. She sees this both as a challenge and an opportunity to transform the company into an agile one. She rises to the challenge. With a clear picture in mind, she starts by understanding the seven parts of the organisation, at which level each one is, and develops a plan on how to align, coordinate and grow each of the seven areas to a sixth level of maturity. Her personal journey, as well as that of her key players and the ups and downs they face, help explain how we are all part of this world and how companies need to grow if they want to transform and stay in business.
This book explores the eight levels that would have been covered in the first chapter of my original book. I am still interested in writing that book, but will only do so if I find 1–2 people to co-create it with. Are you interested? Please feel free to get in touch.
What is the framework the book is based on good for?
The Graves Value System framework is a map that ensures we are all on the same page and can share insights as we navigate human development. The model: focuses on values that motivate individuals and groups, or that they strive for;
- aptly explains the value of diversity, providing a base from which to develop the necessary levels of tolerance, understanding and appreciation for a more harmonious world;
- provides a common ground for people from all walks of life to come together and have more informed discussions, by offering a language and colourful logic that can accelerate the exchange of ideas and decisions;
- helps to avoid potential areas of misunderstanding and conflict;
- explains the development stages that all people go through as they progress;
- provides a series of questions that reveal what values motivate individuals;
- defines the toolkit needed to thrive in a volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous (VUCA) world;
- makes existing development models more accessible while also stress-testing them;
- can withstand the test of time through its open approach;
- provides a common foundation for different disciplines, such as neuroscience, psychology, and business, and a shared reference map.
What is the framework not meant for?
While Graves’s analysis of human development, and of the stages of change and transformation required to reach enlightenment, was truly profound and sophisticated, the framework he developed was not intended to provide a definitive bible for life. Bearing this in mind, we should not expect the Graves Value System to:
1. define people and systems themselves;
2. capture and explain the psychological depth of individual human beings;
3. be perfectly accurate, because life is neither simple nor monochromatic, but rather colourful with all of its complexities; or
4. provide answers to questions about life and the universe.
As poet Rainer Maria Rilke once said ‘It’s the questions that move us, not the answers.’
How can we use this pandemic to our advantage?
Living in harmony with each other and our planet – just a dream?
I truly believe we can make this a reality. In many ways Covid-19 is just a catalyst. As pastor Charles Swindoll once said: “Life is what happens to you and how you react to it.” We, as a so called developed society, can use the current crisis to focus on finding greater purpose. Many of you in my network are already involved in projects and movements to foster a higher level of compassion and equity, to live and work more closely with communities, to restructure organisations into flatter, people-oriented entities, and to take care of nature. This is very encouraging and we need more of this.
There is a growing desire for moving towards the 6th (green) level which is about:
1. Moving away from:
3rd level (red) capitalism and it’s endless greed
4th level (blue) mass-consumption and waste
5th level (orange) performance-driven maximization of profits by exploiting human and natural resources
2. Moving towards to:
6th level (green) living which is more about integrating professional and personal purpose, meaningful relationships, stronger communities and our connection to mother earth
We will only tackle 21st century challenges by coming together and moving forward as one. The Turquoise Brick Road demonstrates possible ways forward through a proven framework and engaging stories, imparting the value of diversity and providing a base from which to develop the necessary tools for a more harmonious world.
When the author is asked “What colour are you?”
I used to answer this question simply. I don’t anymore.
Our problem is that the Western schooling system has conditioned us to think in simplistic ‘right–wrong, better–worse’ terms. Thus we always want to be ranked as high as possible – an instinctive desire that improves our likelihood of survival.
To your question: one cannot be a colour! We desire certain colours/stages but the world/society, rather than us, determines what is suitable. Many people believe – as in the American Dream – in the illusion of pure self-determination, but that is a myth, especially in the lower stages and Tier 1. The system is usually stronger than the individual.
Back to the heart of your question – I am definitely an individualist and therefore more likely to desire and aspire to the individualistic stages. I thought I might be slightly biased so I asked my lady the question, and she answered as follows:
- Your drive and impulses are 3rd (Red) stage. You are a doer. You also get quite aggressive when someone is openly, unfairly attacking someone else or littering. You sometimes take action with little idea of what will happen. You (literally) like to poke fires.
- Your business acumen is 5th (Orange) stage. You are performance driven and can’t do without continuous improvement; hardly anything is static with you. You love KPIs, maybe not for their own sake but for the clarity they provide.
- When you can afford it (we are self-employed), your passion is 7th (Yellow) level. Maybe not exclusively in an intellectual way, but one that will give everything a try (see Clare W. Graves). You keep saying that the amount of knowledge in this world is not the challenge, but rather integrating it and making sense of it all.
- Your heart is 8th (Turquoise) layer. You love everything natural and strongly advocate the imperative that humankind should put nature before itself and live as one with the universe, a living being. After all, your main objective for writing the book was to show the world that there is a stage of human consciousness where we can live in harmony with one another and Mother Earth. You know we won’t reach that stage in our lifetime, but that hasn’t stopped you investing over a year of your life and quite a bit of our money, without any guarantee of recuperating the direct cost. At some point you just said “Let’s do it!”
At present, I am also grieving following my mum’s passing. I went back ‘home’ and returned to a 2nd (Purple) world. Here, I am also experiencing quite a lot of good 2nd stage Purple by preparing local dishes my mum used to cook. Walking around the fields where she used to take me as a boy, where we foraged mushrooms, the traditional songs she used to love and so much more. Even in London I have a shelf with ‘Purple’ foods that I raid on a bad day or when I feel shell-shocked.
I understand enough not to want to be a colour anymore. It is important to me to live up to the healthy sides of each level and be able to switch into the one most appropriate to the situation at hand. Even if that means getting out my labelling machine or Swiss project management files to put things in order.
Here is to all the colours.
How can this framework be useful in job hunting or hiring?
Most people get shortlisted for their skills and fired because of a cultural mismatch.
The Graves Value System is a value-based framework that works for individuals as well as organisations. For starters, you can use it not only to get a job, but also to ensure that the company culture fits. In short, you should follow the following three steps:
1. Gain further insight into your personal values and motivations
2. Identify how these relate to the colleagues in the prospective team and organisation
3. Emphasise similarities and manage possible contrasts: manage expectations all around.
A company may also be going through a transformation. Too often have we seen how people hire outdated skill-sets and motivational drivers.
This is illustrated in the following business example/video, which not only shows that hiring is only one part of the equation, but also that you sometimes need to hire for cultural mis-match.
In that situation, great care should be taken to integrate newcomers and manage the expectations of ‘veterans’.
How does this framework relate to one’s personal career development?
We all have preferences as far as working environments are concerned. Too often, people hold on to their jobs after the company culture has been transformed. It is important to be clear what works best for yourself. For example, a doer with a dynamic, solution-oriented, ad-hoc approach might have been instrumental in a startup success, but s/he might not thrive in a 100-people scaleup.
They then have two choices:
A. Moving on and finding an organisation that fits; or
B. Staying, adapting one’s style and growing with the company.
A. Moving on: There shouldn’t be anything wrong with leaving a company that has changed beyond recognition. Holding on to the ‘good old days’ only leads to frustration and slows down the progress of the often necessary organisational change.
B. Adapting: For those who decide to grow with the company, here is an example of a client we coached into maturity over a period of eight years.
We met her as a doer: typical 3rd (Red) stage Programmer. She was reactive, often impatient, a firefighter who frustrated her boss through a lack of documentation. Her mantra was “Who cares what was wrong. What matters is it’s working now!”
He was interested in her development and she was ambitious. She completed a six-month training course to become a 4th (Blue) Stage Project Manager. With this job, the level of complication increased so much that she understood she needed to get organised and document. She was very busy, didn’t miss the programming, and she often said “Fail to plan, plan to fail”.
When a management consulting firm acquired her company, she realised she needed to up her game. She started training in performance management, cost-benefit thinking and customer engagement. Within a year, she had become a 5th (Orange) stage Consultant who was truly driven by measurable goals, client opportunities, and worked across the entire organisation when needed. She was a goal-getter and usually said “Give me a realistic target and I will move mountains if necessary.” Two years later, she was one of the youngest team leaders but soon realised she wanted to be more operational, and she missed the programming.
She consciously left the management consulting firm to work for an agile software development company. She was clear that her employer wouldn’t change its style in the foreseeable future. Part of the deal with the new team was to take her through a SCRUM and other more people-oriented qualifications. She started sharing responsibilities with her colleagues and wore different ‘hats’. Her title changed to 6th (Green) stage Agile Coach. She enjoyed being self-determined, a strategic and tactical professional with much less ego than she needed at the previous firm. She now loves to say “Come, let’s play.”
Life is a journey. For everyone’s happiness, make sure you understand where you are in your life and where you would like to be.
The beginnings: How this all began…
As so often it was a long journey and in this case it took a bit longer than necessary. After a break from the corporate world I got into cross-cultural management. I had already used my studies to gain more insight into this topic I had so much first-hand experience in. We worked with up to 21 cultural models to differentiate between cultural groups and help people collaborate more effectively.
- In 2005 I bought two books on the framework, on the recommendation of a mentor. I couldn’t get into them as they were too spiritual to my liking. Besides I had just completed my MBA and was busy setting up a new business.
- In 2007 a client worked with Spiral Dynamics, which gave me further exposure to the model. I struggled at first to imagine how individuals, companies, markets and societies could fit into a single overview. Neither did the model explain everything, but it was more comprehensive than any other I had come across before. That was groundbreaking insight and I was shocked that hardly anyone had heard of this tool.
- In 2010 I took on a NED role in a company in Munich, which was heavily into Graves. There I met Hartmut Wiehle who had just published a book in which he applied the framework to organisational development. Over a few glasses of wine, we came up with the idea of combining the most relevant Graves’ levels with the 7S model.
- Kerstin then helped us develop the Pathfinder assessments. We went through a great learning curve as we identified 100 business drivers over the years, always having to specify what life looks like at individual stages. The most important aspect was to circumscribe definitions to fit each stage rather than have them apply across the board.
Why did Rhys, Kerstin and Craig make this leap?
I didn’t intend to write a book at all but simply couldn’t find anything accessible out there. My initial idea consisted in producing a workbook with two to four pages per stage, which meant 16–32 pages overall.
- Some people seem obsessed with the higher stages and Tier 2, which I find quite irritating. Rather, I believe we need to be more self-critical and appreciate every stage for what it has to offer. As outlined in the book, it is far more important to embody the healthy, constructive side of any stage than to reach the level at which you imagine yourself.
- The Pathfinder is our Intellectual Property but the tool is based on two models that are publicly available. I was keen to share my new learning with others, so we made the Pathfinder Method open source and encouraged people to try it out for themselves.
- In our consultancy, training and coaching work, we have always sought to give our clients the tools to carry on by themselves. Indeed we want to empower people, not make them dependent on us.
- A difficulty we came across is that the model is relatively simple but has an incredible amount of depth. As a result, providing enough information without overloading people was quite a challenge.
- Also in recent years, I have become more worried about our habitat and the kind of planet our children will inherit from us. I want my 13-year-old daughter Thalia to enjoy nature as much as I did as a child and still do today. I don’t want her to raise her children under a glass dome or have to work out an escape to Mars.
- This pandemic has generated many individual tragedies. However, from a global perspective, I believe something like this was needed to wake us up from our capitalistic, all-consuming, relentless dream that is slowly turning into a nightmare.
The framework clearly shows that there is a masterplan and a universal way forward. None of us will experience a Tier 2 world, one where life is driven by love and holism, if we don’t manoeuvre ourselves out of a Tier 1 world led by ego and fear.
An analogy: How does the author see the framework?
Imagine being an explorer during the Middle Ages. You would have heard about different countries, seas, mountains, rivers, but would have no idea how they relate to each other. Remember the famous explorer who wanted to go to India and ended up somewhere else?
The Graves’ map enables us to orientate ourselves. I don’t think it provides new insight as such, but it helps me make sense of all my experiences and relationships, of what works in harmony and what doesn’t.
In so doing, the map creates a shared reality; a much needed commodity in today’s world. It enables us to understand where on the 8 levels we feel most comfortable, and raises our awareness of what is important to others. It also allows us to check levels of authenticity and develop appreciation, thereby bringing us closer together.
I don’t think the framework is particularly sexy, but its true value lies in what you can do with it and where it can take you.
Our mission: Why we will not give up promoting this framework
Our mission is not to peddle the book but to provide easy access to the framework. The Turquoise Brick Road describes each of the 8 stages in the form of a story, with a typical main character working in an organisation, operating in a market and living in a society typical of that stage.
From the 6th (Green) stage onward, I had to solicit my imagination quite a bit to describe what working and living in these worlds might look like. I tried to be as detailed as possible. That doesn’t mean I claim to be right but I wanted to present specific examples to encourage and enable informed discussions, which may help us find answers that are closer to the truth.
The point of all this is to boost self-awareness, mutual understanding, tolerance and appreciation. As the system is usually stronger than the individual, we need to create healthy spaces for people to grow and develop. This will hopefully lead to more collaboration and more effective co-creation, thus moving us towards an inclusive and compassionate society.
I do believe that our children will inherit a habitat that will at some point go into serious distress. Some of us might even witness that daunting time. At that point, humankind will have to find a way out of this self-inflicted mess – I am truly convinced that the GVS will prove to be one of the mission-critical tools.
Our appeal: Where we need your help!
As Margaret Mead once said, “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.”
To be of real help, this framework needs to find its way into the mainstream. If you can think of anything or anyone that could help us or other players in the field, then please let us know.
We want to begin by engaging with thought leaders, businesses, think tanks, and business and economics students to enable them to:
- integrate/align current knowledge
- build on the existing know-how (incl. Spiral Dynamics and Integral Work)
- develop strategies and applications towards more harmony, sustainability and regeneration.
We are targeting 3 main groups, which include individuals and their related organisations:
1. Changemakers, futurists, policymakers / Respective associations, think tanks
To use the framework in the context of preparing ourselves.
2. College graduates, university and business school students, young professionals / Colleges, universities, business schools
To equip future generations with a powerful framework to build upon.
3. Gravesian & SDi and Integral communities
To bring all the communities together, showcase their development work, and leverage the power of all players – 1+1 = 3.
How does the framework apply to Western economies?
Said E. Dawlabani is an expert in macro-economic developments and how predictable they are in the long run if one uses the Graves Value System or Spiral Dynamics. He is the author of ‘MEMEnomics: The Next Generation Economic System’. During the book launch of ‘The Turquoise Brick Road’ Said shared some of his insight.
Said uses Graves’ framework to tackle topics such as economics, finance and the lifecycles of economies.
His work illustrates how the American economy clearly follows Graves’ development stages:
3rd (Red) stage: The Fiefdoms of Power Cycle
This era lasted from the end of the US Civil War to WWII when a few men built the entire US economy. Those were the values of the human ego in raw form, exemplified through the warrior archetype, egocentrism, heroism, and feudalism.
4th (Blue) stage: Patriotic Prosperity Cycle
This happened from the mid1930s to the late 1970s. It was a time of righteous living, law and order, the one true way, and substantial regulation.
This era built the physical and institutional infrastructure of the US. It spread the middle class ethos and the manufacturing and industrial age values throughout the US. Many of those institutions are still with us today and have become the templates on which other world economies were built.
5th (Orange) stage: Only Money Matters Cycle
This period started with President Reagan in the early 1980s and slowed down sometime during the last ten years.
This is the time of strategic and data-driven enterprises (e.g. Amazon, Google), personal advancement, resource manipulation and performance maximisation. Said pointed out how the financial innovation expression of this particular cycle falls outside the normal economic emergence cycles, because money decoupled from its historic relationship to human productive output. With data to back his claims, he argues that the 2008 bank bailout extended the toxic expression phase of this profit-driven value system.
6th (Green) stage: Democratisation of Information & Resources Cycle
The United States entered the embryonic phase of this MEMEnomic era in the 1990s. The Internet represents the systemic entry into this value system. The US transitioned into the growth phase of this cycle following the financial crisis of 2008. Its overarching purpose is to eliminate hierarchy and achieve equal distribution of information, knowledge and resources. This thinking holds egalitarianism, equality and community in high regard, aspirations that were amplified by the current pandemic.
In line with Clare W. Graves’ viewpoint, world economies now face 3 possible scenarios:
1. We fall back into a ‘3rd stage world’ where nations and economies fight over resources; strong and fearless leaders motivate the masses to fight for what is or could be theirs. The driving forces are ego and fear and history keeps repeating itself;
2. We get stuck in a world reminiscent of dystopian social science fiction novel ‘1984’ by George Orwell. A world where everything and everyone is controlled and we all eventually end up in a matrix.
3. We consciously progress as a species on this planet; leading economies evolve into the 6th (Green) stage, others follow their path, and they all come together at some point in the distant future. This scenario allows us to realise our potential. With our positive contribution future generations have the opportunity to build a world where the driving factors are love and holism.
Our children’s future and that of humankind is in our hands.