The 21st Century version of the Human Condition.
Why are there so many aliens amongst us?

Have you ever felt that the society in which you live and work is alien to you - that the rest of the world just doesn't seem to "get it"? If so, welcome to the 21st Century iteration of the human condition!

Nowhere is this sense of alienation stronger than in the developed Western world, because the broad satisfaction of the absolute basic needs of life has, largely, been achieved. This has allowed different perspectives, beyond day to day survival, to develop widely across society. The sense of alienation is not simply dependent upon inequalities of opportunities, income or race - it works at a level far more fundamental than those surface characteristics.

It works at the level of Individual Values.

What do we mean by "Values"? Perhaps one of the most succinct definitions comes from Shalom Schwartz at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (précis follows).

Our Values are the nest of beliefs and motivators - largely subconscious - that underpin our attitudes to almost everything we encounter. They are tied directly into our emotions, not our rational faculties. They are what so frequently make us choose something or perform an action before we have really thought about the consequences.

Psychologist and moral philosopher, Jonathan Haidt, has a roughly parallel idea with his "elephant and rider" analogy. The elephant parallels our Values. Its intention to veer one way or another significantly precedes its rider's rational decisions and attempts to control its direction. The elephant is more acutely "tuned in" to "signals" (because it responds to the fastest, instinctive brain processes) than its rider (because rational brain processes are ponderous by comparison).

Cultural Dynamics draws on over 30 years of research in the field of Values, including their application to marketing, decision making, policy, organisation, strategy - indeed anything that involves interaction between people.

Chris Rose summarised the essentials of our work in his book "What Makes People Tick? The Three Hidden Worlds of Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers". Here we look at the subject of alienation through that triple lens.

The following maps illustrate how Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers see the rest of society. The colours indicate "indices" - the degree of propensity to feel positive or negative about something. "Normal" is an index of 100. An index of 200 means twice as likely to be positive about the thing. 50 means half as likely to be positive about the thing. The meanings of the words on the map can be explored in the Alphabet section of our website.

Settlers and how they see society

Here is a broad summary of the characteristics of the group that we call Settlers.

• Family and home, and caring for them, tend to be at the centre.

• For those living alone, friends take the place of family.

• Tradition and family structure are important.

• Prefer things to be "normal".

• Naturally conservative (with a small "c").

• Security conscious - wary of crime, violence and terrorism.

• Supportive of tough punishment for criminals.

• Wary of change, especially for its own sake.

• More comfortable with regular and routine situations.

• Concerned about what the future holds.

What this map illustrates is that Settlers see the society in which they live as far too global in its outlook; painfully optimistic about things turning out OK; and obsessed with "image", both personal and material. At the same time, Settlers see society as not paying enough attention to correcting ill-discipline; punishing criminality (even to the extent of corporal, possibly capital punishment); and security, particularly national security.

Prospectors and how they see society

Here is a broad summary of the characteristics of the group that we call Prospectors.

• Success oriented.

• Always want to "be the best" at what they are doing.

• Welcome opportunities to show their abilities.

• Take great pleasure in recognition and reward.

• Look to maximise opportunities.

• Will take opportunities for advancement and professional networking.

• Trend and fashion conscious.

• Like new ideas and new ways.

• Generally optimistic about the future.

This map illustrates that Prospectors see the society in which they live as lacking ambition - basically drifting along without being prepared to put in the effort to better itself. The Prospectors feel that society should show more "Oomph!", smarten itself up physically and mentally, get out there to create and earn wealth. For prospectors, society needs to "man up!" and "grow a pair!", even to the extent of using a bit of coercion to get what it needs.

Pioneers and how they see society

Here is a broad summary of the characteristics of the group that we call Pioneers.

• Trying to put things together and understand the big picture.

• Concerned about the environment, society, world poverty, etc.

• Always looking for new questions and answers.

• Strong internal sense of what is right and what is wrong.

• Strong desire for fairness, justice and equality.

• Self-assured and sense of self-agency.

• Generally positive about change, if it seems worthwhile.

• Cautiously optimistic about the future./p>

This illustrates that Pioneers see the society in which they live as being too focussed on "power", obsessed with the acquisition of material wealth and the "macho image" that comes with visibly displaying it. Pioneers also regard society as way too pessimistic generally - too untrusting of individuals' good intent. At the same time, Pioneers feel that society does not pay enough attention to the broader, global perspective - things like awareness of inequality, poverty and injustice.

Some conclusions


These perspectives illustrate the underpinning of the major political standpoints and arguments we see all around the world. What is particularly interesting is that this shows that politics is not binary, as in left versus right, for example.

Even a left-centre-right picture does not do justice to reality. "Centre" suggests a sort of compromise between the two extremes. What these perspectives show is that there is no natural compromise position.

That suggests that we really do need politicians! And the type of politicians we need are those that are willing to listen to others more than talk inside their bubble. That is, people who work hard to find tenable compromises rather than rely on force majeure to make and implement policy.

In very recent times, this need - and the dire lack of remedial personnel - has been vividly illustrated in the political establishments of the United Kingdom.

Business Leadership

In major businesses around the world, the most unlikely perspective to find at board and senior levels is that of the Settler. There are two principal reasons for this.

First, the majority of urbanised people around the world - those most likely to be part of management of major businesses - have a Prospector perspective.

Second, the nature of the Settler perspective itself mitigates against achieving a senior position - relative pessimism, risk averse, fearful of change, and so on.

So, the Values dynamic at work in major businesses tends to be Prospector versus Pioneer. This dynamic carries the greatest potential for conflict but also, if the right compromises can be reached, the greatest potential for achievement. This why businesses need good leaders with the ability to get everyone on board.

Sadly, particularly for "workers" in the business and sometimes for the general public and tax-payers, the Prospector perspective really wins out. This often leads to a race to maximise every business metric. This is almost always unsustainable and will result in a boom and bust cycle for the business.

The antidote to this, perhaps annoyingly, comes from the Pioneer direction, which leans towards optimising the metrics; challenging them if they cease to have an obvious purpose, and finding new ones when necessary.

This is the dynamic that every good leader will find familiar. Indeed, there are whole libraries of books that talk about exactly this.

Consumer Branding

The world's economy is based on the exchange of goods between suppliers and consumers. Business metrics based on financial processes and economic models have dominated the last 150 years of business thinking, even in disciplines that have been, by nature, antithetical to the practices needed for success under those metrics. One of these practices is the differentiated supply of products to consumers who are very different from each other.

Marketing, as a discipline, was developed in the last century in markets in which satisfying Settler needs was sufficient for success. As the world recovered from the wars and depressions of the first part of the 20th Century populations became more Prospector and success was more problematic as brands that appealed to Prospector orientations became more profitable.

But values changes continued and the small but emerging Pioneer sections of national populations began to look to products/processes and brands to satisfy their particular needs - which are very different from Settlers and Prospectors.

Suppliers of all goods and services need to understand these oft competing opportunities and threats to their current brands to attain or maintain success in the future.

Charity Fundraising

Fundraising within charities is often thought about in terms structural issues like tax structuring for big donors, including the setting up of legacies; or, for smaller donors, financial processes like Direct Debit - all sensible devices for the efficient transfer of funds, similar but different from the industrial model of financial success.

Also, similar to the industrial model of success there is need for charities to differentiate their product/process appeal through the process of branding - appealing to different people with a clear choice between two fairly similar products or processes.

Settlers are attracted to charities that are more mainstream and promise answers, or supply services that are traditional and understandable. Prospectors also like supporting big mainstream campaigns and often don't even see small local charity appeals - unless it directly affects them. Pioneers are more prone to perceive and support charities that are not mainstream, both locally and internationally - and also likely to want to give their time as well as their money.

The challenge and opportunity for all charities is to understand what their appeal to the market is through understanding the values profile of the current market - the players, the positioning of competitors, the nature of solutions - and the values they need to satisfy.

Having identified the forces within the market the charity can then develop values-based strategies to focus their competitive brand appeal to their target values groups.

New product Development

In the rapidly expanding global markets of the 21st Century there are vastly increased opportunities to market products and establish brands on a scale never before possible. Searching out and finding versions of 'new' and 'different' is an established way of creating successful product lines and brands desired by others. "Innovation and disruption" is a mantra that drives business.

So why do over 70% of start-up companies and up to 80% new products fail within three years?

Good ideas for new companies and new products/services are very often the brainchild of an inspired individual or a diligent team, or coordinated teams, within an organization. These people, both the inspired individual and the people on teams, will have their own values and views of the world and will be defining 'new' or 'different' in terms of their own values systems.

In other words, what they think is new, different and desirable by others is often at odds with reality - the values systems of others. This dissonance between assumption and reality is the root cause of many of failures of business start-ups and most new products.

Without a knowledge of other's versions of new/different/desirable, entrepreneurs' work teams will continue to make basic mistakes in planning and development of products and services.

Pioneers will often mistakenly believe that their complex ideas and concepts will be readily accepted by others - which if often not even close to true. Prospectors are good at taking an established business concept or product and adding 'bells and whistles' to create a 'premium' version - something they would love to buy - and end up scratching their heads when it fails. Frequently they will blame others for their failure. Settler thinking often leads to failure when confronted with the mantra 'innovate and disrupt'. The needs be safe and to feel that they belong tend to lead them to be insufficiently different from competitors, resulting in a lack of desirability to almost everyone else with very different values sets.


The way that people perceive and react to signals from their environment are a function of their values systems (the elephant). Understanding this basic factor in human thinking and behaviour is key to understanding many of the seemingly 'irrational' decision that are made by both ourselves and others.

If you would like to know how these insights can help you and your organization please contact us for an initial discussion.

Contact Pat Dade on 0208 744 2548 or email at

Cultural Dynamics Strategy & Marketing Ltd.          email:          tel: +44 (0)208 744 2546