A Talk On Ecosystem Intent With Adam Pearson

In this session, Adam Pearson, Founder of Konnekt, an operating system for self-organizing communities, joins Danielle and me to discuss the use of Spiral Dynamics (SD) in Ecosystem Intent Navigator sessions.

Summary & Key Insights

I took a lot of key insights away from this discussion, not the least of which was that Spiral Dynamics need not be mentioned explicitly while using the tool. While the tool is loosely based on SD, there is quite a learning curve to understand SD and it can be polarizing.

Other key insights included:

  • the purpose quadrant should be facilitated in an experiential way that encourages vulnerability, connection and shared emotion among participants
  • starting with the purpose quadrant first anchors the other quadrant exercises in a “shared purpose”
  • use of the tool is an individual developmental process – it can be facilitated in a way that creates openness to the perspectives that each quadrant represents
  • the relationship between the quadrants (design areas) is as important as individual quadrants themselves
  • Elicit stories from participants to highlight interdependencies between quadrants and create connections between people
  • If each quadrant were a brand, what is it that it is really selling?

Some Highlights 

Ends vs Mean values

We talked a lot about using the tool as a means to achieve an end purpose and the importance of not falling into the trap of distracting people from the end goal by debating the means,


“So if it’s a tool it’s a means value. So, it means it’s a means value if it’s a means to do something else. And where is your …and the tool itself helps people to contextualize their thinking, feeling, doing in a broad, contextualize it in the context of a purpose. And so that’s so I can see that okay, this tool helps people to expand their context, deepen their context, awareness within and between certain areas of focus.”

“People will kill each other and themselves over means values not seeing that they are, that the means value in itself is irrelevant. So, you know the isms and models and you know, people will get into fights and leave companies and sack people just because they have conflict and competition and rivalrous behavior around things, that if you just zoom out a bit, who gives a shit?”

Why Spiral Dynamics need not be explicit in design sessions. (11:48)

Because SD can be viewed as a means to an end and people can get polarized around it as a theory, it could actually inhibit people’s willingness to engage with the tool.  

Adam: “I can think of a bunch of people who would benefit from looking at this tool and if those people, who might otherwise not use it, because they think it is a certain thing, and you communicate it in a way which encourages them to them to use it, you can affect transformation and personal growth through the back door.”

Changes to the tool content and facilitation based on SD (24:47)

Adam: “In general, if you can be relating the quadrants to each other as you are describing them, [ ] you can be touching what is important to different people as you go through and also within each factor [ ], on the tool, if you can have a range of emphases about how you speak about it, so you can tailor it to your specific audience.”

The tool itself is a developmental process (35:48)

Adam: Also, the tool itself is a developmental process tool because so long as people are expanding their openness to quadrants that they don’t intuitively gravitate towards, they will also be learning to empathize more with people in their team and on the platform crew who are themselves those aliens. So you’re modeling collaboration and cooperation across difference(s). 

Use Vignettes/Examples (38:12)

Adam: “If you’ve got vignettes, if you’ve got examples where platform founders have violated or ignored or overemphasized, you know, some parts to the detriment of the whole, then that’s also good.”

Purpose Quadrant – Emotional Experience (44:55)

We talked quite a bit about the purpose quadrant.

Emotional engagement

Adam felt that this quadrant needed to be about people feeling and expressing purpose as emotion.

“You’ve got the scale and impact problem of these [existential risks] being too big for the individual to emotionally and conceptually connect to.” 

“I mean generally it’s safe to assume that people already are feeling the crunch, they’re already feeling systemic impacts even if they’re not thinking systemically yet.”

“If people can feel strongly that they know what they want to move towards then and especially if that can be shared… So, it’s like this is not a conceptual quadrant as far you know… This is about you’ve got to feel, you’ve got to feel it and it’s got to engage instinct, body, emotion and so that you know…the value chain, that’s okay. That’s empirical.  But, this is emotional, spiritual.”

“Just think about okay bringing the people together and getting them to connect with things that are meaningful to them to emotionally experience things that are meaningful to them, to share with each other.”

Experiential (1:20:12)

Adam also felt that the purpose quadrant needed to be converted from a concept exercise to an experiential one. 

Adam: “You have to feel it.  Yeah, so I get people to connect to something that’s greater than them, experientially first. Then that becomes the context within which value chains then serve that purpose. So and then it’s totally cool, so the mind serves the heart essentially and you know that’s eco before ego, so the ego serves the heart’s purpose.” 

“I start with context, contextualize the whole thing and get people to share real shit. And that’s being vulnerable to themselves and to each other. So you’re immediately creating bonding beyond the process. So, and then yeah look at each quadrant, but also look at the interrelationship of the quadrants to each other and to that purpose and that’s already in their bodies because you know they felt it and then when you go back to purpose you can get, you’ve built the the structures that are going to lead to aligned action plans.”

Use elicitation to relate the value of the quadrants to each other

Adam: “If you can use eliciting questions and vignettes and try and get stories from people … Where have they noticed that the people side has impacted the value chain and the other way around?.”

Is this tool listening to me?

Adam: “That process of sharing vignettes and experiences and recounting the emotions that were along with them, that adds, then they own the process more and the tool then becomes familial to them. It then, it becomes a facilitating agent to them.  Okay, this tool is now helping me to… is listening to me now. I  mean, that’s an important thing generally.  Is this tool listening to me? So, you know, built into the process of discussion between the platform members or if this is a, you know, a workshop with lots of different platform founders coming together, for example, which will also cross-pollinate experience and ideas, warnings, positive success etc.

If you can get them to feel positive things towards the tool, then internally they’re going to be more open to new connections both within, both between the the quadrants and between different people in the team, more respect, more empathy, more understanding of the value of different perspectives. etc.

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