I was asked an interesting question earlier today:

Spiral Dynamics - Green to Yellow

How do you tell a Green meme person who is closed from yellow / turquoise?

For the sake of simplicity, I've interpreted this to mean "What is the difference between a Green person vs Yellow or Turquoise?"

First, a crash course - What is Spiral Dynamics?

Its a mental model, created and developed in the 1950's & 60's.  I use it daily to understand people's motivations, their fears, their wants & dreams.

The short version is that the model is broken into memes (or levels).  You can't skip a level, you have to pass from one to the next.  Generally you progress through the memes, although I have seen rare occasions where people move backward.

If you want further information, including the sources for research, the Wikipedia entry and this article by Michael Kubler explains the concept in a lot more detail.

First tier & second tier

The first tier is the first 6 levels:  Beige, Purple, Red, Blue, Orange & Green.  These are generally fear motivated - ie protecting a sense of loss, worried about how they will "look" (and be perceived), and have a tendency to be judgmental.  (Why wouldn't you do it my way?  If you just did it my way, you would be so much happier / easier / more ...)

Second tier is Yellow, Turquoise, Coral and beyond.  The second tier understands the bigger picture, understands there are many different ways and that your way might be right for you, it may not be right for others.

What's good about Green meme?

Green are all about community, connection, sharing & equality.  Charities can often be Green.  They serve a higher purpose, helping everyone, liberate the greed & dogma.

Everyone has a say and everyone will be heard.

The downfall of Green

The problem of Green is that they often do not achieve very much.  They can spend a lot of time "doing" but the actual, measurable results (what did you achieve?) can be questioned.

Accountability is a real struggle for those at Green meme.  LOTS of excuses. Lots of fear of embarrassment / self conscious.  Green can be quite slippery to pin down.  What is their opinion?  What do they think should happen?  What do you think will work?  Green don't want to make a bad (or wrong) choice so won't say anything.

Hearing feedback can be a challenge for Green.  It's very easy to bruise their ego, so tread carefully!

Green vs Second Tier

For the sake of simplicity, I am going to merge Yellow & Turquoise.  (Their differences are irrelevant in this context)

Second tier is all about speed and learning.  Is their a better way?  Yellow wants to hear it!  Do you have some feedback for Yellow?  (How can they improve, what did they miss, is there another opportunity?)  Yellow wants to know.  A person at Yellow meme will thank you for your help.

Yellow can see the lower memes and appreciate the benefits and otherwise of each level.  Want a process to be followed (security guard, quality control, project manager)?  Yellow knows to ask Blue.

Want a sales target hit?  Want to get sh*t done?  Yellow asks an Orange.

Want to know how to reach out to the community?  Want to get people involved and join your club / program / product?  Yellow asks a Green.

Meanwhile, Green looks at Yellow and is just confused!  Too busy, too quick, too fast.  Just doesn't understand why Yellow won't slow down.

How do you tell if a person is Green or Yellow?

You need to find a statement or comment the person has said that was incorrect.  It doesn't matter what, and often the more petty or minor the better.

Now, you don't even need to say "you're wrong".  Just make the comment "I don't think that is correct."



What do they say next?

A Green person will argue / fight back.  Someone who is Green is likely to get defensive.  They might fight back (I know I'm right because...) they might come back with a justification.  Regardless, contrast that to Yellow.

If Yellow doesn't understand, they will ask a better question.  They might even tell you that they don't understand.  They will hear you out, understand the point you are trying to make.  They may / may not agree with you.  The key difference is how they respond.

Green are fear based.  They don't want to look bad, they want to save face.
Yellow want to try and understand & learn.

What do you think?  Have I missed anything?  What do you think are the differences between Green & Yellow?