THE WISDOM OF PURPLE – Spiral Dynamics in South Africa: a conversation with Rica Viljoen

“Purple” is the name for the second stage of human psychosocial development in the theory of “Spiral Dynamics”. Purple follows directly after “beige”, the level which is mainly concerned with survival. For us in the western countries these levels seem to be “low”, we have outgrown them and we are happy in our modern and post-modern world.

Happy? Are we really happy with what we have got, with what we have achieved and with all the material things we are able to buy? Probably it is not politically correct to ask these questions, as, per definition, the western world is “superior”, and in this post and conversation we won’t be politically correct, I am sorry! (Actually, I am not!)

When I arrived in South Africa I was struck by the open and shiny eyes which emanated from the black faces, a sensation of joy and aliveness was immediate. On the streets, as soon as some music can be heard, people begin to move, to dance, while doing what they are doing. We white Europeans, standing nearby, feel  a little awkward when we finally move our bodies, too – which lack the grace, mobility and beauty expressed by the blacks. We normally talk about our joy, while they are expressing it directly. So the question remains: who is more happy? Harmoniously moving bodies certainly make humans feel connected to themselves, alive and – happy.

It is about the meaning in life. We saw people, clearly on the survival level, who are extremely creative to get what they need – and they speak from satisfaction when they succeed. In purple, people are embedded in their families, in their tribes. They care for each other, self-organise their way of living and are – happy. Happy with what they have. “Just enough”, they don’t need more.

For us westerners, this is completely weird.  In our societies, people with that sort of mindset are considered primitive or mentally ill. How come that they don’t want to compete, get more and more money, need more and more, and spend their time in the treadmill of success – instead of sitting in the village, observing children play with a self made handball. What is more meaningful? Seems that we westerners, in the green level of development, have a glimpse of the answer which might resonate with purple. But in green, the wisdom of purple is lost and replaced by some romantic ideas of nature and the noble savage.

South Africa is a nation, where we can witness in real time the way of living and thinking of all the levels of development, as well as the process of stepping out of one and entering into the next.

In my conversation with Rica Viljoen you will find first hand information about the situation in the country, about the people and, first of all, about the beauty and wisdom of !purple”, which is openly present but often not recognisable by people who don’t want to see it. “I see you” is the traditional welcome greeting. Who of us can really say that we “see you”?

This conversation was recorded and first published on July 31st, 2019


0:00 Heidi’s intro to South Africa and Integral

1:30 Rica introduces herself. Mandala  Consulting- Junghian organisational practice. Reaities in emerging economies don’t follow our theoretical descriptions. Integral and Spiral Dynamics in her PhD.  Don Beck and Loraine Laubscher worked in South Africa: African philosophy, adaptive intelligence (spiral). How to deal with the life conditions.

4:55 Explanation of the terms used: colors, spiral dynamics, names. “Invictus”. How the peaceful conclusion of Apartheit was established in 1994.

6:40 Crash course in SPIRAL. From Graves to the colors of “Spiral Dynamics”. The appearance of thinking structures (in “purple”), the evolution of the thinking structures and why they were named with colors.

14:40 Heidi: we met at the integral tour: the beauty of purple.

15:30 Rica: Loraine Laubscher: the spiral as “human niches”. In Africa survival is real, purple offers wisdom. Rica talks about her roots and the importance of language which impacts your narrative and logic. Africa speaks metaphorical. To “blue” it seems unorganized. The comparison to other countries. “Coming with big feet”. Systems thinking is present naturally by sharing the stories and being related.

18:50 Beauty of purple: aliveness and self organisation. We have lost these capacities. 

21:20 R: transcend and include in theory. In real life we must reject the previous level. The example of a child in a village. 

23:00 in second tier I need to transcend and include, which normally doesn’t happen in first tier. Turquoise and purple are similar on a different level.

24:00 Heidi asks for Ailene: combines the village life and modern careers. How this can happen.

26:00 Celebrate roots and not destroy them. The situation in South Africa is different from e.g. Ghana. 

27:45 Purple: the importance of children. They embrace study and want to make things better – inside purple.  South Africa is very diverse and therefore more difficult.

30:00 The problem with Europeans is that they have exported their way of THINKING, the framework for life. – 

Rica: “Green wants to fix us”. Purple doesn’t want to be fixed.  Idea that there could be another way of living in that world: we cannot even conceptual that.

32: 40 Dr Nceba Ndwayiba on “Doing Human Differently”  Conference: “doing human better”. Humanity and relatedness is the gift of purple.

34:10 Africa Philosophy Africa spiritual consciousness. Identity and positionality (born into which context, where is HOME for you). Open your eyes and find magic. Even in America: neighbouring in a community of cowboys. Oral stories are not conserved in books as opposed to blue, orange, green. 

37:00 All levels are free from value judgement (good/bad)

38:30 Difference between green and purple communities. 

39:35 Answers in purple (no commercial) “Just enough”. Home is specific piece of land. 

41:10 How is red expressed in SA? – Social uprising, instant gratification. Unhealthy: I take from you what I want now. High red: powerful, immediate response to crisis. 

43:30 Purple accepts blue and orange when they arrive with respect. But the organisations don’t meet them that way, so purple organises around red trade union leaders. Black people in leadership? Promoted black leaders are often blue, not purple. Apartheid was a blue system. African black leaders think in blue and orange way. They don’t connect.

45:50 It is not a question of race. Split is in the thinking systems: the need to knit together a new narrative

47:40 People who enter into different thinking structures need to put their traditional “clothes” on when visiting the family. Otherwise they would be rejected. Challenge: can we embody the wisdom of purple and not reject it?

49:25 How  can their children integrate that? Difference what Don Beck thinks and Loraine Laubscher. Example: Singapore, Hongkong . Purple: use of technology – not for orange reasons. Not obbeying the rules has severe consequences. Difference to green thinking which rejects rules. What is missing in green. Honoring what came before.

54:30 In purple a different way of thinking. RIca talks about Peru, the existence of the holy  art and places, their previous purple tradition is sneaked in. Purple thinks we are loosing our time, different concepts: “I work to live” – “I work to reach something”

58 Heidi has published her insights from the travel to South Africa

59:15 The future of Spiral Dynamics and Integral in SA. PhD Book by Loraine Laubscher. Integral research methodology, Working on beige. Antibodies for diseases are not available – like thinking structures which spread where no antibodies are. Study on red, which is seen as ugly. 

Redo, the work of Claire Graves in SA, certifications in SD.

1:02:30 Interesting for Rica how we see them, referring to my videos and post on SA

1:03:25 Ricas email:  rica@mandalaconsulting.co.za


About Dr. Rica Viljoen

Dr Rica Viljoen is an oganisational design practitioner & specialist consultant who specialises in sustainable organisational transformation, strategy formulation and leadership optimisation.  She is the founder and co-owner of Mandala Consulting Pty Ltd.

With more than 16 years consulting & facilitation experience nationally & internationally her expertise lies in organisational culture changes, cultural integration during mergers and acquisitions and translation of strategy, invarious industries such as mining, banking, financial services, health and transport.  Rica completed her Doctorate in Business Leadership.  The focus and unique contribution of her doctorate is on sustainable organisational transformation through inclusivity. Her thesis was acknowledged as one of the ten most promising contributions internationally to the field of management by the Academy of Management in 2008.

She lectures as a senior lecturer at the Da Vinci Institute for Technology and Innovation and at the leadership department of the University of Johannesburg.  She developed the Benchmark of Engagement (www.beq.co.za) that measures the willingness of individuals to contribute to business strategy and the pre-requisites for sustainable business performance. This instrument is currently  administered  in  19  different countries.  She is accredited to use various psychometric tools and to facilitate Rogerian, humanistic and psycho-analytical evens applying methodologies such as dialoguing, world café methodology, storytelling, strategic conversations and Appreciative Inquiry.  Rica has successfully coached various prominent business leaders in the South African and International business context.
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