book-based test «Spiral Dynamics:
Mastering Values, Leadership, and
Change» (ISBN-13: 978-1405133562)

The Application of Spiral Dynamics in Understanding VUCA Through Statistical Correlations

VUCA conditions are increasingly characteristic of today's tumultuous business environment. This article examines the application of Spiral Dynamics in understanding volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) through statistical correlations. This research aimed to uncover insights into navigating turbulence by exploring linkages between VUCA perceptions and human value systems. A sample "Fears" poll demonstrated the methodology, revealing correlations like higher anxiety towards ambiguity among traditionalist groups. The findings enabled tailored interventions across culture shaping, workforce segmentation, change management, and leadership development within organizational contexts. This approach provides enhanced granularity, predictive capability, and psychological perspective compared to traditional methods. Overall, integrating developmental models with data analysis offers a novel way to uncover human motivations, enabling organizations to embrace volatility as an opportunity.


This research pursues a new interdisciplinary understanding of VUCA turbulence by integrating rigorous data analysis with psychological models to uncover new insights on navigating an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world by exploring linkages between turbulence perceptions and human value systems. Quantitatively correlating perceptions of VUCA conditions with Spiral Dynamics psychological models can reveal how different mindsets perceive and react to turbulence. These empirical insights are invaluable for organizations seeking to adapt strategic planning, communication, and change management initiatives to succeed in chaotic environments.

Understanding correlations between VUCA elements and the value spectra of Spiral stages aids in anticipating challenges and resistance. These empirical insights propel more nimble navigation of VUCA’s challenges. It enables targeted mitigation strategies customized to the motivations of each mindset.

In today's dynamic and rapidly changing world, the concept of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) has gained substantial importance. 

  • Volatility refers to the rate of change and churn in a business or situation. 
  • Uncertainty refers to the lack of predictability or high potential for surprise. In an uncertain environment, it would be difficult to create plans for the future that we're not based on a large number of assumptions that could turn out to be incorrect. 
  • Complexity refers to the high number of interrelated forces, issues, organizations, and factors that would influence the life and business. 
  • Ambiguity refers to the possibility of misunderstanding the conditions and root causes of events or circumstances.

The VUCA framework originated in the late 1980s from the U.S. Army War College to describe the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous multilateral world emerging after the Cold War. The concept has since gained wider applicability for leaders and organizations operating in turbulent environments (Bennett & Lemoine, 2014).

Some several methods and tools can be used to measure Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity:

 Audit and Compliance Metrics
 Coefficient of Variation Confidence Intervals Cognitive Load Metrics Causal Ambiguity
 Decision Tree Analysis Control Assessments
 Expert Judgment Expert Judgment
 GARCH Models Factor Analysis
 Monte Carlo Simulations Media Framing Analysis
 Network Analysis Number of Interpretations
 Organizational Layer Analysis Observational Studies
 Prediction Markets Process Mapping
 Process Mining Process Mining Process Mining
 Questionnaire Batteries
 Risk Identification Risk Analysis Frameworks Risk Identification
 Rolling Standard Deviation Real Options Analysis
 Sentiment Analysis Sentiment Analysis Simulation Models Sentiment Analysis
 Statistical Process Control (SPC) Charts Scenario Planning Statistical Complexity
 Sensitivity Analysis
 Survey Analysis Survey Analysis Survey Analysis
 Variety Analysis Text Analysis

The right approach depends on the context and type of ambiguity. A combination of data analysis, expert input, surveys, media monitoring and process visualization provides a comprehensive view of ambiguity.

VUCA represents the challenging environment characterized by constant volatility, unpredictable uncertainties, intricate complexities, and elusive ambiguities. Understanding VUCA and its impact on organizations and businesses is crucial for their survival and success in such an environment.

The "V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER" tool is an innovative solution designed to track and address VUCA elements through statistical correlations with Spiral Dynamics color models. Spiral Dynamics is a psychological model that identifies distinct stages of human development, each represented by a specific color code. By integrating VUCA and Spiral Dynamics, we can gain valuable insights into how different color-coded value systems respond to VUCA elements.

This article aims to explore the relationship between VUCA and Spiral Dynamics through statistical correlations, demonstrating the potential of the "V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER" tool in providing a deeper understanding of VUCA elements and their implications. For instance, a specific 'Fears' poll created with the tool will be analyzed in depth through real-life examples in the following sections, demonstrating the practical application of the methodology.

The "Fears" poll provides a real-world example of how the "V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER" tool can generate customized questionnaires to gather data on perceptions of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. This poll focuses on the psychological dimension of fears and anxieties related to VUCA conditions. By correlating responses on fear levels with Spiral Dynamics stages, the tool reveals insights into how different mindsets perceive and react to turbulent environments. The poll showcases the tool's versatility in tailoring questionnaires to measure VUCA elements and derive organizationally relevant psychographic correlations. The "Fears" example demonstrates a practical application of the tool for a specific volatility-related perception - anxieties and trepidations evoked by turbulence.

The "V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER" tool is versatile and can be used to measure all four VUCA dimensions. It combines qualitative and quantitative methods, allowing for a more comprehensive view of the VUCA environment. The tool can be used to collect data from a variety of sources, including surveys, interviews, and social media. The data is then analyzed to identify patterns and trends to help organizations understand the VUCA environment and make better decisions.

Here is a table matching the "V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER" tool to relevant methods for measuring volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity:

VUCA DimensionRelevant Measurement MethodsApplication via "V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER"Value of Correlating with Spiral Dynamics Models
 Volatility Statistical Process Control (SPC) Charts, Coefficient of Variation, Rolling Standard Deviation The tool can create polls asking respondents to rate perceived volatility over time on a numeric scale. Statistical analysis techniques like control charts and rolling standard deviation can then quantify volatility trends and fluctuations from the longitudinal poll data. Correlations reveal which Spiral mindsets associate volatility with opportunity or threat.
 Uncertainty Monte Carlo Simulations, Prediction Markets, Confidence Intervals The tool enables designing polls that ask respondents to estimate probabilities of potential outcomes. Monte Carlo simulation can then be run on the aggregate predictions to model likelihood distributions and assess overall uncertainty. Correlations show which mindsets are more/less comfortable with uncertainty.
 Complexity Network Analysis, Process Mapping, Variety Analysis Polls can be built to map relationships between people, teams, and processes. Respondents identify connections that can be analyzed as networks to measure complexity. Correlations identify mindsets that can cognitively handle complexity.
 Ambiguity Sentiment Analysis, Questionnaire Batteries, Causal Ambiguity Carefully designed polls with open-ended questions can reveal ambiguous, vague or uncertain language via text analysis. Questionnaires can assess tolerance for ambiguity via contradictory or unclear questions. Polls can also gather data to analyze perceptions of causal ambiguity in systems.Correlations determine mindsets that perceive and tolerate more ambiguity.

In summary:

  • The "V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER" allows customized polls to measure volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity perceptions.
  • Statistical analysis of poll results can then quantify these VUCA attributes - eg: textual sentiment analysis of open-ended responses to gauge ambiguity.
  • Polls can also map relationships between people, teams, and processes to understand complexity.
  • Advanced polling techniques like Monte Carlo simulations can estimate outcome probabilities to model uncertainty.
  • This demonstrates the alignment between the "V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER" and established methods for measuring VUCA dimensions.
  • The statistical correlations with Spiral Dynamics models provide additional context on how different human value systems perceive and react to VUCA conditions. This psychographic analysis enables better segmentation, communication, and change management strategies when applying poll insights.


Dr. Clare W. Graves was an American psychology professor who conducted decades of research starting in the 1950s on human nature, motivation, and developmental psychology. His pioneering work focused on identifying different levels of psychological existence that humans progress through as they cope with an increasingly complex world. 

Graves utilized mathematical analysis and statistical tools extensively in his empirical research methodology. Over several decades, he administered numerous questionnaires and personality assessments to thousands of subjects. Graves then performed a detailed statistical analysis on this data, calculating correlations and distributions to uncover patterns and relationships between human values, motivations, and behaviors.

His research uncovered a recurring theme – the emergence of hierarchical systems of psychological coping mechanisms as humans deal with growing complexities. Through factor analysis and other mathematical techniques, Graves identified clusters of value systems that formed a coherent progression of levels of existence. 

This formed the basis for his seminal theory of levels of psychological existence, which later evolved into Spiral Dynamics. The theory describes an emergent, open-ended spiral of value systems, worldviews, and mindsets humans move through as conditions change.

Graves' pioneering empirical work integrating mathematical analysis into psychological research provided the foundation for the Spiral Dynamics framework. The quantitative methodology and data-driven insights were critical in substantiating the stages of development in his human nature theory.

In his seminal 1970 article, Graves provides extensive detail on utilizing factor analysis to identify value clusters from questionnaires of over 4,000 subjects. This formed coherent stages of coping mechanisms that were further developed into his theory on levels of psychological existence.

Leveraging statistical techniques, Graves assessed over 10,000 diverse subjects from the 1950s-1980s to uncover generalized insights on human development trends. The large and varied sample increased the result's credibility. Regression analysis quantified relationships between value systems and life conditions.

The proposed correlation analysis between VUCA perceptions and Spiral stages closely mirrors Graves' rigorous empirical approach. Graves' original theory and the VUCA polling data outlined in this article are fundamentally quantitative. Performing statistical correlation analysis links the current research nicely with Graves' pioneering work applying mathematical techniques to advance human psychological theory. Citing specific published studies by Graves, like his seminal 1970 article, highlights the consistent quantitative orientation and bolsters scholarly rigor.

This article on applying Spiral Dynamics to understand VUCA aligns closely with Dr. Graves' interdisciplinary approach of employing statistical tools and mathematical analysis to uncover core insights about the progression of human psychology and values. The proposed correlation analysis builds nicely upon Graves' legacy.

This research employed statistical correlations to uncover relationships between poll responses created with the "V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER" tool and the Spiral Dynamics color models.

Correlation Analysis: Correlation analysis is a statistical method used to examine the relationships between variables. Correlation measures the strength and direction of the linear relationship between two or more variables. It helps identify patterns, trends, and associations within the data.

Correlation Coefficient: The correlation coefficient, often denoted by "r," quantifies the strength and direction of the correlation. It ranges between -1 to 1, where -1 represents a perfect negative correlation, 1 indicates a perfect positive correlation, and 0 signifies no correlation. Positive correlations imply that variables move in the same direction, while negative correlations indicate that they move in opposite directions.

Statistical Significance: Determining the statistical significance of correlations is essential to differentiate meaningful relationships from chance occurrences. Critical correlation values can be used to assess whether the correlation coefficient is significantly different from zero.

The "V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER" tool created customized polls to gather data on volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity perceptions. The poll responses were statistically analyzed to calculate correlation coefficients between the results and corresponding Spiral Dynamics color models.

Correlation dependence measures how changes in one variable (Spiral stage) impact the probability distribution of the other (VUCA perception). The correlation coefficients and critical values determined whether the identified relationships were statistically significant.

Value of Correlating with Spiral Dynamics Models

While statistical analysis of the poll data provides quantitative measures of VUCA perceptions, correlating the results with Spiral Dynamics stages offers additional psychographic context.

Spiral Dynamics is a conceptual model developed by Clare Graves that frames human development in terms of an emergent, nested hierarchy of value systems (Beck & Cowan, 1996). These value systems or stages are color-coded, with higher stages indicating greater adaptability and cognitive complexity.

Analyzing correlations between perceptions of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity and the different Spiral stages provides insights into how people at varying levels of psychological development view these VUCA factors.

For instance, the authoritarian Blue stage is rules-driven and averse to ambiguity and change, while the flexible Yellow stage is comfortable with uncertainty and thriving in complexity (Anderson & Adams, 2016).

By uncovering these correlations, organizations can better understand motivations, adapt communications appropriately, and predict reactions to change initiatives for people at different Spiral stages.

Thus, correlating poll-based VUCA metrics with Spiral Dynamics models enriches the analysis significantly. The synergistic application of these approaches provides both quantitative rigor and psychological depth to studying turbulence perception.

This rigorous quantitative methodology provided an empirical means to examine the linkages between human value systems and perceptions of turbulent VUCA conditions. The statistically significant correlations offer data-driven insights for organizations to navigate VUCA environments more effectively.

The "Fears" poll provides an exemplary demonstration of the quantitative correlation methodology outlined in this research. The poll was created using the V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER tool to gather perception data on a volatility-related aspect – turbulence-related anxieties. 

Respondents assessed the importance of various fears, providing numerical ratings. This perceptual data was statistically analyzed to determine correlation coefficients between fear levels and Spiral Dynamics stages. Higher positive coefficients imply a greater association between a particular stage and fear.

These quantitative correlations were tested for statistical significance to ensure credibility and generalizability. The "Fears" poll exemplifies the methodology of using tailored questionnaires to obtain VUCA perception data, analyzing stage correlations, and deriving psychographic insights to inform organizational strategy.

The poll's focus on volatility-related fears also directly aligns with the overarching aim of quantitatively investigating relationships between VUCA elements and human developmental psychology. Thus, the “Fears” poll provides an applied example underscoring the conceptual research methodology.

Poll Scheme

The poll was designed as a voluntary participation scheme, where site visitors can decide whether to participate. This approach ensures the respondents willingly provide their insights and experiences regarding their fears.

Poll Question

The type of question in this one-question poll is a multiple-choice, multiple-selection question with a 5-point rating scale for each selected option.

Respondents are asked to complete the statement "My greatest fears are" and are presented with a fixed list of options from which they can choose any number of options that apply to them. Each selected option is then asked to rate its importance or intensity using a 5-point scale, where 5 represents the highest level of fear or importance, and 1 represents the lowest level.

The poll allows respondents to choose from a predetermined set of fears and provides a rating scale to capture each fear's relative importance or intensity. This format enables researchers to gather data on the frequency of various fears and the strength of these fears among respondents.

Poll Administration and Participant Selection

The poll is accessible to individuals visiting the SDTEST website. Participants are not explicitly targeted or pre-selected; the poll is open to all interested individuals who voluntarily participated. This approach allows for a diverse pool of respondents, including perspectives from various industries, sectors, and geographic locations.

The poll is available all over the world where the Internet is available, and it has already been completed in 93 countries in 18 different languages.

Data collection started in May 2022 and is ongoing so that participants can fill out the questionnaire at a convenient time for them. The data collected from the poll responses formed the basis of the subsequent analysis and study of the correlation between reported fears and behaviors, indicated by the colors of Spiral Dynamics.

In summary, the poll design encompasses a voluntary participation scheme, carefully constructed poll question with response options representing various fears, and a broad participant selection. These elements ensure the collection of comprehensive and diverse data that would facilitate a robust analysis of fears.

Sample Size and Participant Count

The number of participants who voluntarily participated in the poll is constantly increasing, but already no less than 2’000 participants. These participants provided valuable insights. The robustness of the dataset, with a considerable number of participants, enhances the reliability and generalizability of the study findings.

Demographic Characteristics

The sample consists of individuals from diverse backgrounds, already representing 93 countries and encompassing various industries, sectors, and organizational settings. This diversity ensures that the dataset captures a wide array of fears.

The sample also includes participants who are fluent in 18 different languages. This linguistic diversity reflects the global reach of the study and enables the exploration of variations in company actions across different linguistic contexts.

While efforts were made to obtain a representative sample across countries and languages, the poll's findings may only be partially generalizable to some companies or industries globally. The sample composition, although diverse, may still exhibit certain biases inherent to voluntary participation and online poll methods. However, steps were taken to mitigate such biases and ensure a broad representation of perspectives and experiences.

Including a substantial number of participants and the broad geographical and linguistic coverage contributes to the comprehensiveness and richness of the dataset, allowing for meaningful analysis and exploration of fears.

Real-Life Examples

To illustrate the practical application of the "V.U.C.A. POLL DESIGNER" tool, real-life examples are presented. For instance, the "Fears” poll explores how different color-coded value systems respond to various fears in a VUCA environment. The statistical correlations derived from the poll data can provide valuable insights into the prevalence of VUCA elements in different scenarios.

What color are you Spiral Dynamics?

In a lifeSurvivalFamily relationsThe rule of forceThe power of truthCompetitionInterpersonal relationsFlexible streamThe Global vision
In a businessOwn farmFamily businessStarting up a personal businessBusiness Process ManagementProject managementSocial networksWin-Win-Win behaviorSynthesis

The beige value system represents human development's most basic and instinctual level. It is characterized by a focus on survival and physical needs and a lack of self-awareness or ability to reflect on one's actions. This value system is associated with pre-human and early human societies and is considered the most primitive of the eight value systems in the Spiral Dynamics model. It is seen as an undifferentiated, reactive stage of human development and is primarily concerned with meeting basic survival needs.

The purple value system represents a focus on tradition and spirituality and a belief in the supernatural. It is characterized by a strong sense of community and a belief in an influential, all-knowing leader or god. According to the Spiral Dynamics model, this value system is often associated with traditional agricultural societies and is considered the second level of human development. People in purple vMeme are guided by myths, rituals, and taboos and have a strong sense of belonging to a group. In addition, they have a strong sense of identity and are guided by the laws and beliefs of their ancestors.

The red value system focuses on power, self-expression, and individualism in Spiral Dynamics. It is characterized by a strong sense of self, impulsiveness, and a desire for immediate gratification. According to the Spiral Dynamics model, this value system is often associated with warrior cultures and is considered the third level of human development. People in red vMeme are driven by their impulses and desires, tend to be self-centered, focus on their own needs, and are often seen as dominant, assertive, and competitive. They have little concern for rules or laws and are willing to use force to achieve their goals. They tend to be impulsive and act on their desires without considering the consequences.

The blue value system focuses on order, rules, and tradition. It is characterized by a strong sense of duty and discipline and a belief in a moral code that is handed down from a higher authority. According to the Spiral Dynamics model, this value system is often associated with traditional, religious, or military societies and is considered the fourth level of human development. People in blue vMeme are guided by strict codes of conduct, and they are conformist; they tend to be rule-bound and follow a strict hierarchy. They tend to be loyal to their group or organization and have a strong sense of duty and responsibility. They strongly believe in a moral code or laws handed down by a higher authority and tend to be very traditional, conservative, and religious. They have a strong sense of right and wrong and tend to be judgmental of others who do not conform to their beliefs.

The orange value system focuses on reason, science, and technology. It is characterized by a focus on achieving goals and objectives through using rational, logical thinking and applying scientific methods. According to the Spiral Dynamics model, this value system is often associated with modern industrial societies and is considered the fifth level of human development. People in orange vMeme tend to be ambitious and goal-oriented; they value progress, efficiency, and results. They tend to be rational, logical, and analytical in their thinking and problem-solving. They are driven by a desire for knowledge and understanding and use scientific and technological methods to achieve their goals. They tend to be individualistic and competitive, valuing independence and self-reliance. They have little regard for tradition and are skeptical of spiritual or religious beliefs.

The green value system represents a focus on community and ecology, as well as a concern for the well-being of all. It is characterized by a holistic, systems-thinking approach and values such as unity, cooperation, and sustainability. This value system is often associated with post-modern and post-industrial societies. It is considered to be the most advanced of the eight value systems in the Spiral Dynamics model.

The next value system after green is the "yellow" or "integral" value system. This system represents the ability to integrate and transcend the previous systems and is characterized by the ability to see multiple perspectives, a focus on personal growth and development, and an understanding of complex systems. It is considered the most challenging and advanced value system and is associated with a holistic, integrative approach to understanding the world.

The turquoise value system represents a holistic, integrated, and ecological perspective. A focus on the interconnectedness of all things and recognizing the interdependence of human and natural systems characterizes it. According to the Spiral Dynamics model, this value system is often associated with post-modern and post-industrial societies and is considered the sixth level of human development. People in turquoise vMeme tend to be holistic and integrative, recognizing the interconnectedness of all things and valuing diversity, tolerance, and inclusiveness. They tend to be concerned with the well-being of both people and the planet and are driven by a desire for sustainability and harmony with the natural world. They tend to be spiritual but not religious and have a deep connection to nature and the more expansive universe. They have a strong sense of compassion and empathy and tend to be actively engaged in social and environmental causes.

The rate of the fears findings from the "Fears" poll for 2022-05-11 – the current date you can see in the widget below on the tab Charts. 

The respondents are least afraid of COVID-19 despite the official cancellation of the pandemic (The World Health Organization declared an end to the Covid-19 global health emergency. Covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency, the World Health Organization said on 2023-05-05) in many countries, the pandemic safety regime is still observed. For instance, on 2023-07-20, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. All those present, except Chinese President Xi Jinping and Henry Kissinger, wore protective masks.

Press the tab Chart on the widget. The chart at the top displays the respondents' rate of the listed fears. The chart at the bottom displays the respondents' responses to the SDTEST by colors of the Spiral Dynamics. This factual data is used to calculate the correlation with the ratings of fears (0-5) that respondents indicate in their answers.

It is important to note that the correlation values change in the online widget depending on the number of response results. Therefore, the values indicated in the text may not match the actual calculations displayed in the widget.