Graham Wilson has a provocative piece on the pitfalls of Spiral Dynamics. I liked his general comments about the dodginess of models applied to people and organisations.

There’s usually three clues that they are little more than marketing hype for one consultant or another – a conveniently packaged way of trying to differentiate themselves:

– The first is that effort has gone into visual design – as if nature would have based itself on a model that needed CAD skills.

– Second is that they always have a fixed number of stages, levels steps, or phases of which there are two schools of thought – either keep it few so people can hope to remember them, or make it many so people are impressed by the complexity.

– Thirdly, stick on a TM, (R), or (C) as a little suffix.

I wonder how many Nobel Prize winning theories had “12 steps”, were printed in colour with neatly overlapping pyramids or circles, and had a TM appended to their name? [ed: The answer is none.]

I’m generally wary of these three steps/seven secrets/twelve levels approaches. They feel like after-the-event tidying up of things that emerge in complex ways, a rewriting of history and a set of filters through which to (mis)understand the present.

Hat tip: Dave Snowden

1 thought on “Models

  1. Viv McWaters

    I went and read Graham’s post – he certainly has lots of good points. The tendency for some of these models to attract ‘cults’ is disturbing, but not altogether surprising. I suspect a lot of us are trying to make sense of this messy world we inhabit (real and imagined 😉 and some models provide some clues, insight maybe. The danger, I think, is finding THE model. I don’t think such a thing exists, nor should we look for it. All the models provide a glimpse of reality – and are not reality of themselves. I’m a fan of models – some more useful than others – they give me clues, ideas and rarely clarity. They sometimes help explain the abstract or the obtuse. I tend to also steer clear of ‘the 7 Steps’ etc type models. Just too neat to be realistic. Nice catch (again)!



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