Once I realize I’m not alone in my reality, I know I’m part of a crowd. That’s a chaotic experience, and through alignment and acknowledgement I try to build connections with people who surround me. That way at least I can structure my immediate environment. But I’m not the only one who has this need. Therefore I start interactions with many other people to further build a stable reality.
We are herd animals. In the chaotic crowd my identity feels lost, so we get together in structures and groups to join forces. There are many practical reasons why a group is beneficial, such as safety, more efficient food production, better capability to make and use tools and of course the power of sharing thoughts to come to insights that transcend single persons’ notion. Nobody told us how to do so, and the interesting question is: why we join this team, and not another with similar characteristics? The answer is like the choice for a sports club: your preference depends on what you can get there. If you have ambition to play on a certain level, is there an appropriate team for you available? The other way around is also true: the club allows access if you can offer them the quality they need in that team. It’s this exchange of added value that is crucial when you seek people to get along with. We want to create a win-win situation. However, do not mix up “value” with “added value“. Value is a very personal perception; what is valuable to you, is not necessarily so for someone else. Added value however is more like “1+1=3 “: the total is worth more than the sum of distinctive parts. In a factory your labor may seem simple to you and your colleagues, but it is essential to the production process chain and as result you get paid (that’s why you work there). The commercial profit represents the added value, and if the business makes loss, all workers lose their jobs.
There are interesting correlations, depending on the perceived value, as illustrated in the table. The most ideal case is when both sides see value in co-operation, and if both parties share the same ideals this situation ensures success. That’s why organizations invest a lot in branding, and an appealing mission and vision. Unfortunately the Pareto will show that this concerns only 20% of all relations. The remaining 80% is not so successful (the ‘Exploit’) or even in trouble all the time.
The search for groups to join starts when we try to align our perception of reality with others. If acknowledgement is high, we are eager to join, and if benefit is high, we even are willing to sacrifice some of our values. We need others to confirm our identity, but the price for that is the demand to acknowledge the group identity as a higher order. As said before, only in rare cases “win-win” is more than just a compromise. Remember the iceberg model? In business or sports the primary reason for a relation usually is very clear. But in many other situations the reason to stay within a group is something buried deep inside the backpack of values, beliefs and motivations. It is easy to start a relationship, but after a while it becomes difficult to cut the ropes because unconscious drivers manifest themselves. This often happens when segregation goes against the overall flow, like the gay scene experiences, or when people want to leave a religious sect or institution. Being part of a larger entity usually means you lose something of your identity. When you work towards “No relation“, you might encounter one of the toughest ties to break!
When two or more people come together to achieve something, automatically someone will take a leadership role. Or maybe it is better to say that the team gives someone this role either very outspoken (i.e. via appointment) or implicit (through submissive behavior). Even though within the team we try to align our thinking, our thoughts never are exactly the same. The Dutch “poldermodel ” is well-known for endless discussions without adequate decision-making. For an effective and efficient team there’s a need for someone who shows ownership, responsibility and decisive power. It doesn’t matter whether this concerns one overall leader, or some distributed leadership, based on members with specialist knowledge or experience. The bigger the group is, the more important is this role.
Adding a recognized leader to the group establishes the pyramid. I use the model of the pyramid (and not the triangle) because it is a cultivated natural shape that humans always have used. This stable structure appeals to many people in different ways as archetype for hierarchy. Of course you can also think about more abstract triangles; for the explanation that doesn’t matter.
It is also important to understand that membership is not restricted to only one pyramid. As each pyramid has a unique identity, being the topic for which people came together, usually someone is member of many and different groups. Examples of such identities are things like church, sports club, political party, hobby group, employing company and so forth. Sometimes a pyramid combines multiple identities, like a Catholic soccer club. That implies that your membership is not just about added value, but also about the match with the set of key identities of that pyramid. Being member of various pyramids at the same time can bring someone in conflict situations if the values of one pyramid exclude membership of another.
If we talk about the pyramids identity, the members together are the physical embodiment of that identity. The benefit of a pyramid is the collective mind and the consolidated thinking as one entity. Even with internal disagreements, towards the world the group shows up as one entity of which actions and thinking surpass that of each individual member. The collective mind of the pyramid in general shows the same characteristics and deficiencies as ordinary human brains. Not so surprising, if we realize it combines multiple brains just like neural networks form a single brain.
So people come together to align observations, agree on joint interpretations and form a group to set up a more powerful identity. This is pretty much like an evolutionary step, embedded in our genes. Now there’s also something like “span of control “, or the ideal number of elements a leader can supervise. Simply said: a pyramid cannot grow too big without increased instability. “Span of control ” is a critical size from where subgroups start to form. The reason for that is the efficiency limitation for complex groups: with many members it is difficult to stay focused and result oriented. It’s like cells that divide themselves while growing. If you look at how a living being develops from a single cell, you can see the very complex organisms as result from this process.
A growing pyramid can form smaller sub-elements, but can also join other and much bigger pyramids. Compare that with companies: activity growth results in more departments, but occasionally a company enters a joint venture, or engages in strategic acquisitions. During this process the same added value evaluations take place as when individual and team discover each other. Finally, as all these clusters organically find their ways, this leads to order in the chaotic crowd. The more people live together, the more complex this game becomes. But the aim is to create an order, structure, that makes our chances to survive bigger.
The concept of pyramids also leads to themes like team dynamics (about the games in a group) and the continuous development of people and organizations. But the question I still ask myself is: what drives us to behave like that? I can recognize what tricks we use to manage our world through simplification and so forth, but that is just how we deal with things. Not why we do that.
The only constant element in human history (and even before that) I recognize is evolution. I don’t care if the detailed evolutionary model is correct, but the concept that there’s change and development as an everlasting process, indicates a flow we cannot escape from. During the battle between order and chaos the structure complexity increases with every new cycle. Each time chaos wins, the answer is one of more advanced order. The world grows from simple to multi-layered identities with pyramids that try to freeze their future and then fail if their conservative approach prevents adaptation to changes. In our polarized world there is no other option than to continue on this path. The key to understand this process is to understand the role that “value” plays. It certainly is not just money. First of all it is a very personal experience, and secondly it has a time and context dependent character. So there will never be an answer to the question “What is valuable? ” However, the reason for this haziness is that value perception develops.
Some time ago Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was popular. Many disputes and model enhancements later the concept is somewhat abandoned (see variety of theories in the picture). In my view the idea behind motivation models is valid: there is a continuous evolution to next levels, built on certain preconditions. But it’s not about needs, or anything like that. Motivation is about what we see as valuable, and therefore want to secure. We strive for value, whether more, or different, or just because… The hierarchy of needs (and other models) basically are second order representations of value perception development.
As with everything, what is valid for a single person, is also applicable to pyramids in any size or complexity. Communities are just harder to understand for us, and the transparency among people disappears quickly in social statistics. Identity is the prelude to polarization and desired added value controls our choices. There’s never stability because new structures arise on the ruins of past chaos, doomed to collapse later on. It’s interesting to watch the movie “The Forecaster“, about Martin Armstrong and his pi-cycle. Also pyramids strive for value development and are eager to snatch it away from competitors. To be able to do so one needs power, which leads us away from the simple organized crowd to the global theater where statistical numbers and financial figures replace the individual human being.
As soon as “value” becomes the identity driver, “win-win” is an illusion!