Colours on spirals

A week of holidays but no vacation makes a hot bed for sniffles. Through tissues and mugginess we dive into colours on spirals and learn something that can help us connect with our audience better.

It's been a week of holidays. A public holiday on Thursday and another on Monday gave many here in South Africa the excuse to pack up and go on a long weekend out of town. Not us, although this time of year has usually been one for taking a break, this year it was not on the planning horizon. Instead we stayed at home and both came down with colds. That will teach us. We need a break as much as anyone does. The colds say so!

Colours on spirals

Two weeks ago we were reconnected with a fascinating theory of human development called Spiral Dynamics. A new topic to grapple with lightened Matthew’s cold-filled head, giving him something other than a rasping cough and a blocked nose to think about. Chantal had an understanding of the theory from her academic past but was a bit rusty so part of the week was spent trawling through a dogeared book full of yellow highlights to understand better and more.

As so often happens when one is introduced to a new theory we started seeing evidence of it everywhere. And gaps.

“We need more Orange in our organisation,” declared Chantal.

“Whab’s Owange agane?” asked Matthew through a tissue-covered nose.

In simple terms, the orange stage is focused on individualism, personal success, and progress. People in this stage are motivated by achievement and have a strong desire to make a mark in the world. They value material wealth, innovation, and efficiency.

The orange stage embraces competition as a driving force for progress. People in this stage see themselves as players in a game where the goal is to climb the ladder of success, outperforming others and achieving recognition.

In the orange stage, material wealth and possessions are symbols of success and personal achievement. Accumulating wealth is a primary objective for many individuals in this stage.

Matthew said, “We just need to become more Orange, as in us at 5th Place.”

“But we are rubbish at it. Innovation and efficiency? Maybe. Competition, not really. It’s just not who we are. Accumulating wealth is hardly a primary objective of ours but we could do with a bit more of a focus on bringing in the bucks!”


Something new for us, our harvest of Jerusalem Artichokes
No relationship to Jerusalem, nor is it a type of artichoke!

Learning something new

Learning something new and getting a different perspective on individuals, groups and organisations is stimulating and good for brain plasticity. Matthew loves to learn, sometimes simply for the sake of learning. He has an incredibly enquiring mind that takes him on a deep and broad dive into whatever the latest new idea, theory and approach is.

Chantal also loves to learn and, in this instance, was more focused on how we can use what we learn. A values driven theory, we interrogated our new knowledge of Spiral Dynamics in the movies we watched, in the individuals we encountered and in debates about current issues.

“He’s as Red as they come.”

“She’s so Blue, no wonder she gets frustrated working with so many Purples.”

“He is Orange, but his mate is more Blue coming into Orange.”

We only have a surface understanding of the complexities of the theory and appreciate that nobody is their colour, stage, level or quadrant. It was light, harmless and fun. It also gave us more insight into why we are all so different and in some instances so similar (65% of the world’s population is Purple). In the process of surfing the spiral it dawned on us that here was a missing piece for us.

“Is it no wonder we battle to get traction when we are talking “Yellow” to Purples, Reds, Blues and Oranges?” said Chantal as she wacked herself on the forehead, and then quickly blew her nose. “We have literally been talking in a foreign language.”


Practising newly learnt skills, our peer support coaches in the making

Looking through a different lens

In our increasingly diverse yet ever more connected world it is easy to forget that not everyone sees through the same lenses as we do. We may be seeing Yellow but they are seeing Blue or Red or Purple. Matthew often uses this metaphor in our workshops.

“Imagine you are wearing glasses with a red tint, and I am wearing glasses that are blue. We could both look at the same white rose and you would see red, me blue. We could argue that what we see is right and we would both be correct!”

Coming at a problem or an issue from different perspectives and opposing value systems is what fuels confusion, misunderstanding and eventually conflict. Think parents talking to teenagers; Boomers to Gen X to Millennials and Gen Z, right wing to liberal political parties.

It is so obvious: meet people where they are. Talk their language and they will listen and understand. Marketing 101. It is obvious but like anyone caught up in their system, it is hard to see the spiral for the colours.


Didn’t you wish you could hold onto your balloon forever?

Language our work differently

Since early on we have known that we have to language our work differently. We have bounced around trying different tactics, but still have not seen any real traction. Plenty of glazed over eyes, or furrowed brows. Occasionally a nodding head and a desire to know more. We grasped at those. Held them tight, like a balloon string in the hands of a child. Can we keep you forever? You get us.

Getting us is one thing, buying from us is another. The one’s that “get us” are not the ones that need our work. It is back to the copywriting board, so to speak, with our colours and spirals and value systems at hand, to craft communications that our audience will appreciate and comprehend.

There is nothing better than to feel seen, heard and understood. What spaces, places, approaches and people do that for you? And where do you do that for others?

Until next time.

Yours in feeling,
Chantal & Matthew

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About the author

5th Place

5th Place is a dynamic organization that's passionate about emotional fitness. We're the creators of Shape of Emotion, a revolutionary tool that's changing the way we understand and manage our emotions. But we're not just about theory - we're about practical, tangible change.

We offer Emotional Fitness Classes and courses that help individuals, from children to adults, build emotional resilience and well-being. For our younger audience, we've created the Vibarealm, a vibrant universe that encourages a healthier interaction with emotions.

Join us on this journey to emotional fitness and let's make the world a better place together.

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