the theory and validation

Learn more about the theory, validation and background of the My Motivation Insights colour profile that is based on Dr C.W. Graves' model of drives.


Drives are an important factor in understanding behaviour, both in ourselves and in those around us. Why does everyone react differently to the same situation? Why is it very difficult to work together with some people and goes it smoothly with others? The answers often lie in a difference in drives. Because of this, the same situation can be interpreted in different ways.  

Gaining insight in drives is an important condition to understand your own behaviour and that of others, and to adjust these where necessary. The My Motivation Insights colour profile is a proven and reliable tool to make drives visible. With these insights you learn to better understand yourself and others around you.

Drives: the theory

The My Motivation Insights colour profile is based on the model of drives formulated by the American psychologist Dr. Clarence W. Graves (1974), after years of research (Graves, C.W. 2005). Graves assumes that people naturally want to react as adequately as possible to certain circumstances, in order to survive or develop further. The behaviour we display in doing so determines how we function. It is the underlying motives that determine how we deal with the circumstances - or change them.
Beck and Cowan (1996) elaborated on Graves' ideas in their book Spiral Dynamics. They distinguish seven different drives, each indicated by its own colour. Each drive has its own unique characteristics that you, as a human being, have natural access to.

Everyone has developed his or her own personal preferences that suit the circumstances in which we grew up. This always involves a combination of the seven motives, a combination that is different for everyone. There is no right or wrong combination, and if circumstances change the drive combinations can change with them. The drive profile is not static. It will develop during your life as you adapt to your environment. Does the environment change? Then there is a good chance that your drives will also change

Validation study

For the validation, we compared the My Motivation Insights questionnaire to the Schwartz Value Survey (SVS; Schwartz, 1992). Several studies, on large samples in many countries, have shown that this questionnaire is valid, i.e. does indeed measure the intended concepts and can be used in all kinds of cultures (Schwartz & Bardi, 2001). Moreover, the SVS is also known to be related to work behaviour, not insignificant for an applied study in organisations (Schwartz, 1999; Smith, Peterson, & Schwartz, 2002).

Personality traits constitute stable personality characteristics that can predict differences in behaviour between individuals in a variety of settings. The five-factor model of personality, commonly referred to as the Big Five, is the most common model, not least because in all kinds of research these five factors repeatedly appear as the dimensions that can describe most differences in personality, including in the context of the organisation in which relationships with various aspects of employee behaviour have been shown (Barrick & Mount, 1991) and with working in teams and of teams as a whole (Barrick et a, 1998l).

During the initial validation process, the process was carried out in cooperation with the University of Amsterdam under the supervision of Dr Verkerk and Prof Willemse. We looked at both the internal consistency (measured by the Cronbach's Alpha) and the correlation of similar items between the My Motivation Insights, SVS and Big Five questionnaires. Cronbach's Alpha was seen to be high enough to use the My Motivation Insights questionnaire to predict the corresponding values (Cronbach's Alpha higher than 0.7). In subsequent studies, the Cronbach’s Alpha is measured on a yearly basis to check the internal validity. Correlation of similar items between the My Motivation Insights, SVS and Big Five questionnaires were seen to be in line with our expectation.

- Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The Big Five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, 1-26.
- Barrick, M. R., Stewart, G. L., Neubert, M. J., & Mount, M. K. (1998). Relating member ability and personality to work-team processes and team effectiveness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 377-391.
- Beck, D. E., & Cowan, C. C. (1996). Spiral Dynamics. Mastering values, leadership, and change. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Business.
- Graves, C.W. (1974). Human nature prepares for a momentous leap. The Futurist, April, 72-85.
- Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theory and empirical tests in 20 countries. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 25) (pp. 1-65). New York: Academic Press.
- Schwartz, S. H. (1999). A theory of cultural values and some implications for work. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 48, 23-47.
- Schwartz, S. H., & Bardi, A. (2001). Value hierarchies across cultures. Taking a similarities perspective. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32, 268-290.
- Smith, P. B., Peterson, M. F., & Schwartz, S. H. (2002). Cultural values, sources of guidance, and their relevance to managerial behaviour. A 47-nation study. Journal of Cross- Cultural Psychology, 33, 188-208.
- Graves, C.W. (2005). The Never Ending Quest: Dr. Clare W. Graves Explores Human Nature. ECLET Publishing.

Our background

My Motivation Insights was developed at Unilever. In 2005 My Motivation Insights went independent and since then we have been working together with independent coaches and trainers and various organisations, including Jumbo supermarkets, Arcadis, BDO, Utrecht University, Hercuton, Movares and Tennet.

Four or more colours = WHAT versus WHY

Colour profiles are often used in processes of personal development. Two important theoretical movements can be distinguished: the ideas of Jung (1875-1961) and the model of Graves (1914-1986), a contemporary of Maslow. Both look at behaviour, with the most important difference that Graves also wants to know why someone exhibits certain behaviour. The context, someone's motivation and the glasses through which someone looks at the world are of influence here.

Jung starts from four characteristics that are plotted on two axes: thinking - feeling and introverted - extroverted. Graves described world views and stated that human nature is not static (to be pigeonholed) but an open system in which people will continue to develop. The perception (the length of the bar) and the order of the different colours determine the nuance. Because of this, many unique combinations are possible.

In short: where Jung describes the preferred behaviour of a person, Graves shows the why of that behaviour. My Motivation Insights works according to Graves' theory. After filling out our questionnaire, someone's drives and motivations, resistances, and energy balance emerge.
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