HomeBlogTexas Ranger
Why Millenials are better than "us"
Millenials are attributed with many traits, not all of which are flattering. Clare Graves' Spiral Model provides a useful model to learn from them, understand them better, work with them better and coach them better.

Clare W. Graves' Theory of human Development

About 65 years ago Clare Graves developed his theory The Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence Theory on how societies and individuals advance. He described eight levels.

"Graves Spiral"

Each level denotes typical values, motivational and psychological factors:
Level one is defined by instincts and the struggle for survival.
Level two tries to mitigate the struggle by searching for security, e.g. in tribal structures.
Level three acquires individual power within the tribe as a "strong" leader and the others have to follow.
Level four realizes that the community is key for sustainable growth, e.g. a principality or nation.
Level five fosters individual winners and losers within the context of a pluralistic community/society.
Level six has learned that predatory capitalism destroys the economy and society. It strives for equal chances and access to ressources.
Level seven wants independence, self-determination, self-expression and wants the same for others.
Level eight finally has a holistic and embracing view of the world: Everyting they do interacts with others on a social, political, economic and spiritual scale.

The different advances of societies as a whole, of single groups and individuals create tensions. The holistic level seems far away today, but we see many signs of level seven - but more on that later.


One of Grave's assumption was that external conditions and interactions influence internal mental and neurological structures. This was disputed at his time but in recent years, advances in neuro-sciences and epigenetics have proven the neuroplasticity of our brain. Our interactions with our environment really do determine our brain structure. So graves predicted the rise of level 7 after the millenium. Unfortunately, the cycle is not only upward as we can see from recent politcal developments: The re-rise of nationalism, chauvinism and right-wing-populism.


Let's be honest: Those negative phenomena don't come from nothing. They simply resonate with our personal imprints, values, mindsets and behaviours. Resonance causes amplification. Where do our mindesets come from? We have been trained this way: Study to get a job, be more successful than others, get better scores, learn what others tell you to, get the bigger slice of the pie or others will. Our business-world is determined by war-like structures (military ranks in companies) and Sun Tzu is taught at business-schools. Many companies brainwash their employees to think like soldiers. Our "tribe" (company, product, service) is better than others (level 2), the boss (or the board) knows what to do (level 3), we have "kill-sheets" (= competitive analysis) and individuals count less than the company's goals (level 4). Employees spend far more time at work than with families and friends, physcological problems are on the rise, and the prescription rate of dope for children (Methylphenidate aka Ritalin) has doubled in the last ten years. As a consequence, dumbing-down is hurting our economies: It gets harder to find responsible, skilled, motivated, and self-organizing employees. My generation (40+ ) and the ones before have lead the global economy to near-doomsday several times, most recently in 2008.

A new Hope: Millenials

But there is hope. Many millenials tend toward Graves' level 7: They like to share ideas, time and material goods. They appreciate sharing economy models, crowd-sourcing and open source. They realize the value of a true purpose (not just a PR-washed slogan), personal growth, self-efficacy & self-determination. Albeit with respect and empathy for others and without regressing to level 3 ("I rule") or 5 ("In order to grow, I must win"). Organizations are starting to follow those ideas. They experiment with agile and self-organizing structures and modern workplace-concepts because they have realized that young, talented people won't join an old fashioned company. Innovation and disruption do not come from age-old processes and mindsets.

Digitalization and the ongoing 4th Industrial Revolution

Actually, the level 7 mindset is a good fit for where the 4th industrial Revolution is taking us. No matter which studies and futurologists one might ask, one thing is for sure: Every job-profile will be massively influenced, either by replacing (parts of) it or by requiring different skills. Everything that can be automated, will be automated. What will be left? Not what we learned at school but social intelligence, independence, abstraction, cross-domain-thinking, cross-silo-work, innovation, flexibiltity, constant self-education and thinking like an entrepreneur. Even if millenials don't have all of those skills by now, their mindsets point to the right direction and we'd better learn from them and learn how to support them.