The origin


The Model’s Origins. The model of 9 Levels is based on the insights of Professor Clare W. Graves and more than two decades of research. Dr. Clare W. Graves (1914 – 1986) was a Professor for Psychology at the Union College in New York (USA). His work was targeted not only on research: he also worked for many years as a consultant in companies, clinics and educational institutes. The original impulse for his research was provided by a student who asked Graves about which one of the many theoreticians (Maslow, Freud, Jung, Rogers, Watson etc.) had the right of it after all. Upon asking his students to write a report describing the adult human being, he found that the descriptions were very different but contained recurring elements and systems. This brought him to the different development levels of human existence. A central task of his research was understanding these development levels of the human being.

He started developing his theory in the 1950s. Christopher Cowan and Don Beck first published the model under the name Spiral Dynamics. Graves published his model in a Harvard Business Review article titled “Deterioration of Work Standards” in 1966. In this article, he called his model the “Levels of Human Behaviour”. Later, Graves called his model/theory the “Emergent, cyclical double-helix model of adult biopsychosocial systems development”. This model describes the differences in human development in a highly complex and multi-perspective manner. Graves’ theory is an open model of value development. In different perspectives, it describes how people, systems and organisations see the world based on their biopsychosocial system.

He combined four different scientific disciplines in his theory and research:

  • Biology and neurobiology
  • Psychology and the theory of personality types
  • Sociology and anthropology
  • System theory

The first book on this basic model of the Graves value system that was written in German was published by Rainer Krumm (founder and manager of the 9 Levels Institute), in cooperation with Martina Bär and Hartmut Wiehle, in the Gabler Verlag in 2007. Under the title of “Unternehmen verstehen, gestalten, verändern – das Graves value-System in der Praxis”, it laid the foundations for this basic theory in the German-speaking area. In the meantime, many books have been published on the different application options. They always refer to the basic model by Graves. The Graves value system is a value model that maps how individual or entire systems (departments, companies, organisations) think and act. It thus is a useful instrument for everyone working in or with organisations or teams and who wants to better understand them. Further development of this model into the 9 Levels of Value Systems was the logical consequence, by combining this theoretic model with a valid scientific analysis tool. The long experience with the model in consulting and coaching practice was contributed to this development. The claim is combining the basic theory with the current research insights and references to the business world. The 9 Levels are a simplification of Graves’ theory, making them useful in a model for the development of people, groups and organisations. The model of 9 Levels helps to better understand people, groups and organisations as well as their actions and reactions. The 9 Levels and the theory of value systems represent the dynamics responsible for development of individuals, groups and organisations. The value systems – also often referred to as psychological DNA – express manners of thinking, creeds, internal conditions and organisational principles. The 9 Levels make them measurable and therefore also changeable.