7. Values, Human Motivation, and Social Change

The motivation the seven values give to us as individuals is multiplied in its power in larger and larger groups. The four primary values are just that, very powerful to sustain human existence without the need for conscious and intentional decision-making. The three secondary values, however, are similarly present but operate much like breathing, they are volitional. The three secondary values are always present but operate more in the background of our lives and our thinking. Acting on them is a choice, both for individuals and for organizations, and groups of individuals. And, as we all have witnessed from public situations, they are unfortunately rarely included in the projected branding of their organization’s image. Yet, they can be applied in the meta-messages of their marketing and advertising strategies.

The more primitive motivators, the four primary values, continue to be the values of choice to justify separation from others, whether as individuals, groups, or whole nations. The four primary values tend to work as motivators for exclusion and separation, and for motivating the “insiders” of the group. The typical separating words include “but, however, or, them, they,” or forms of “us or them,” “us but not them,” and other phrases that typify thinking at the survival level of existence.

The more socialized and evolved three secondary values can be identified in operation when you hear connecting words as “us, we, and, together” and similar words of inclusion.

Innate Human Values and Value-Interpretations Produce a Hierarchy of Needs

The path of reasoning that began with values as underlying all decisions has led us to the seven values as the motivators for all human decision-making. The desired results they provide serve the foundation for our lists of needs with some lists having a higher priority to fulfill than others, which gives us hierarchies of needs. Dr. Abraham Maslow had much to say about needs and hierarchies of needs.

Dr. Maslow stated that as basic human needs are fulfilled more evolved needs become apparent to form a hierarchy of needs. What Dr. Maslow did not tell us was that as we are able to fulfill or satisfy our needs, the innate seven values motivate us to interpret them in new ways that empower us to develop new needs and new hierarchies of needs. Our hierarchy of needs evolve as our interpretations of our innate values evolve — we are still using the same value system as our ancestors did tens of thousands of years ago, but we interpret them in new ways.

What we define as social change is the collective movement of vast numbers of people who are striving to satisfy their evolving hierarchies of needs — their personal interpretations of the values that have sustained our species. As individuals satisfy their hierarchies of needs, they create social change through their “demand” for new avenues and new means to fulfill their evolving interpretations of the seven values. Perceptive marketers strive to be in touch and in tune with the “demand” of the public to assess any changes in the market for the potential of new services and products. While individual interpretations of the four primary values of social sustainability may vary wildly from one person to the next, vast numbers of people provide slow-moving, ongoing trends that stabilize the movement of a society over time.

Social instability occurs when large numbers of people sense that their ability to satisfy their needs is being threatened; and occurs rapidly and violently when they simultaneously sense that their ability is imminently threatened and there is no hope of preventing the threat.

The Original Cause of Social Change

Primary to understanding the evolution of societies, democracies, politics, and economies, for example, is to understand the “original cause” of social change that is everywhere around us. Causes for the incessant social, political, and economic changes that erupted in the 1800s and 1900s are the same causes that push social change today — fueled by our individual yearning for a better quality of life by growing into our innate potential that gives us the possibility to enjoy an improving quality of life equally as anyone else would or could. Those values, today as then, are always waiting for opportunities to come into expression.

As for political change, as large numbers of the public sense that their current political processes do not support an improving quality of life for them, and do not promote the individual to grow into their potential, or support them to do both, those large numbers of people become less and less satisfied with the status quo. In a democracy, citizens are used to exercising their right of self-determination in all things that affect them, including their government.

Assumptions of Social, Political, and Economic Stability

The phrase from above, “…vast numbers of people provide slow-moving, ongoing trends that stabilize the movement of a society over time.” has a Catch-22 involved in it. 4 The catch is that large numbers of people who hold similar beliefs about a given situation tend to be self-reinforcing even when circumstances indicate otherwise. Then when a crucial situation develops that upends those beliefs the result is usually followed by great social, political, and economic turmoil. The cause of that turmoil is from the assumption by those large numbers of people that the safe and stable situation they have enjoyed will continue the same course into the future.

“Everything is fine.” 5 It is not surprising that most people in mature democracies assume that “everything is fine.” “Everything is fine” is assumed in the almost invisible slow creep of social change by most people who are easily distracted by the immediate events in their personal lives. Yet in only five decades, the macro-scale of social change in the United States has been immense. Its only evidence is how uncomfortable citizens feel with “the way things are” in Washington, D.C. and in other nations, and in their state and provincial capitals. When large numbers of the public wake up to see that everything is NOT FINE, then social, political, and economic panic can cause rapid, large scale disruptions.

Validating assumptions is not impossible to do, but it takes personal courage to do so because of what the process will reveal. The process involves the examining the results that could exist IF the assumptions are wrong. In a situation as in 1929 before the crash of the stock market and the beginning of the Great Depression, it was assumed by millions of investors that the rise of the stock market would continue. The awakening of that assumption after October 29, 1929 raised many questions as, “What caused the crash of the stock market?”

It is particularly instructive to then examine the RESULTS of the immense trauma caused by the crash, both to individual lives, families, communities, the larger society, and to all nations around the world.

Working backwards from results follows this path:


Using the logic-sequence above, disappointing results tell us that our expectations were not accurate, and the same could be said of our beliefs and assumptions, and interpreted values. To discover the cause that resulted in disappointing results, we would need to work through this sequence to discover the problem. Most people are easily capable of working the sequence until they get to “interpreted values.” There, we will need to list all of the values we can identify that supported our beliefs and expectations. Once we have that list, we would then compare those interpreted values against the seven innate values. 6

4  catch-22 noun 1. a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. [Wikipedia]
5  Bohm, David 2004 On Dialogue: 68.
This process of validation is covered far more thoroughly in the author’s paper, The Design Team Process.