So this world we build with our brain does not only house all people, but also has many pyramid constellations in various nested forms. What applies to the interaction between two humans is also valid for the dynamics between two pyramids. How a pyramid embeds in a larger construction is not different from how a person takes part in pyramid life. It is all about identity and perceived value. When somebody is able to look beyond the pyramids he is part of, he gets a bigger picture of this world.
“Scope” defines the sphere of my personal life. Our scope shows the range we have under control and where we are effective in what we do. Our observations usually are right when things are within our scope. Scope is different for everybody, even when people belong to the same team. How far your scope reaches, depends on education, schooling and experience, but also on personal qualities like open mindset and change tolerance. As our scope is not limited by the boundaries of structures, we can use it to glue pyramids together, or we can decide to change membership based on new information we received from elsewhere. In general, people do not pay that much attention to their scope. To most of us, self-evidently it’s the comfort zone environment we live in. Even stronger: many people think they know the entire world, but in fact only notice their own limited scope. Because within your scope, life is manageable and more or less under control, there are not too many strange or unexplained things. Living within their scope usually pleases people, and that’s how the masses are kept quiet by the mighty few who govern the world. Just make sure each and everyone has a scope that satisfies, and most people will not ask for more. By stimulating limited scope expansion, it feels like we have no limits at all. The media offer us informative programs, such as books, documentaries and movies with suspense and hidden messages, and discussion fora satisfy our curiosity. Everyone has his or her own scope, and (unlike the crystal globes shown in the picture) these overlap each other continuously. In the overlap, that’s where we get in touch with each other and communicate, work together. But we also have a private sphere, almost like a physical shell around us, with no public overlap at all, where we allow only very few people.
Even though our scope feels infinite, in the real world it is a limitation. “Scope” behaves a bit like a light source, or a distant star. We know that at close distance the light intensity is very high, but the farther away, the weaker the light is. Not sure if this inverse square law also holds for our brain, but the general idea is valid. My scope starts with my brain at the center, and gradually fades as my senses and conceptual thinking become less effective. Details begin to escape my mind. Being confronted with completely new situations or information my brain must change its scope, and that takes time as we always seek consistency with what we knew beforehand. Misunderstandings and conflicts occur in the outer regions of our scope where information uncertainty is high. Through training and experience one can expand the scope. But it’s also possible to create a larger controlled area by combining scopes of multiple people. Based on trust, I can make use of someone else’s experience and knowledge. That is what happens in a pyramid construction. We’re not all the same, just like a soccer team cannot have just defenders or spearheads. Diversity always makes a team stronger.
But regardless of how we organize ourselves, at a certain moment things start getting obscure. Our scope cannot be expanded endlessly. Once we feel we’re looking through fog or clouds, we’re at the point where our scope is gone. When we leave the well-known personal sphere behind, we discover that the world is not that transparent at all…. That’s where the concept of “levels” comes up!
In a way, we all want to influence things.
When we try to align our opinions with others, we try to make them see what we think. In another situation we want to persuade them to share their knowledge with us, so we can better fill in our blueprint of the world. Sometimes even doing nothing has influence on others. Each person wants to have some influence on the surroundings without being formal leader. The same holds for teams within a larger structure: as team you want to secure your goals. Usually influence is easy within your own scope, and more difficult in the overlap area with others. By working together in teams we can overcome that to a certain extent, but we soon notice the limits of our scope. Those limits are what I call “levels“. On my level and in my extended scope, I can influence things. Even though I expect more behind the level above (or below) me, it is very difficult to penetrate there for a brief and enlightening moment. It’s like a curtain between your reality and another one where different rules and habits exist: you notice something is there, but you can’t look behind it.
Where my personal capacity causes a “scope” limitation, nested pyramid structures define the “level ” boundaries. “Span of control” is about the ideal size of a successfully lead team and determines a leadership hierarchy within a (sub)pyramid. Levels span multiple pyramids and are about twice as big as the span of control hierarchy. Scope has a horizontal character, hierarchy levels have a vertical orientation. We are all used to these concepts, but do we understand them and (more important) do we also use them? Both have something to do with information exchange by people or pyramids. But information always relates to a context, defined by common perceptions, attitudes, language, interests and so forth. When we expand our scope, we mostly can stay the same person: we just add knowledge and experience. If you want to change your level, you have to change yourself too. Afterwards, you are not the same person anymore, and you have lost the deep connection with the previous level. Your scope changes dramatically by acting on other levels. Can people from different levels still communicate with each other? Yes, of course, but both sides will feel the different background, and most of the time the communication is using hackneyed phrases. Look at the politician who visits a neighborhood to meet his voters. You hear him say all the things you already know, and you realize he’s been told to do so. Meanwhile you can see him think how to avoid public mistakes, get information that can help him with his next debate, and not lose too much time… His mind is somewhere else…. On a different level.
Levels are always there: between parents and children and between bosses and employees. It is the mechanism to protect hierarchies and make sure big pyramids with many sub-units inside keep their stable structure. For that reason it is the natural cause of bureaucracy. And last but not least it’s the enabler for a self-thinking pyramid model: the organism.
“Span of control ” is about the ideal size of a successfully lead team. A growing group automatically splits up in teams that meet that size. That is how a nested structure of pyramids inside pyramids grows. Next to that we let pyramids align with other structures, and gradually what started as an answer to my personal need turns into huge structures that include complete crowds. As complexity increases by introducing hierarchical levels, more and more single persons have less influence on the overall behavior of the pyramid.
Another interesting thing happens: let’s assume all (sub)pyramids are working towards the primary goals of the overall organization. To keep complexity under control, new units arise for secondary support tasks, gluing all pyramid activities together (the gap-filling circles in the drawing). In the beginning it concerns just a few people, but soon complete groups are active. And after a while, when we see there are multiple similar support task groups scattered over the entire pyramid structure, we think it’s more efficient to combine them. That’s when companies start talking about overhead reduction. But in reality, these supporting functions get more and more power and will make sure their reason for existence is inescapable. They will issue rules and regulations for goals that surpass the primary ones of the (sub)pyramids. When that happens, the collective thinking takes over individual decision power. We sacrifice freedom to act in favor of safety of the total structure, and somehow people all accept that. Nobody knows exactly anymore why we have certain rules and habits, but we all know we have to comply. That is the phase that the well-structured pyramid organisations become organisms with a life of its own.
Typical for an organism is that it seems there is a higher power, but there’s not a single person at the top to give that power a face. Rules and regulations govern the organism, often imposed by instances in the area around. Everywhere people play a role in such an organic structure, but no-one has own identity anymore: all follow directives that others have created and of which it isn’t clear why they exist. We have become cells in the organs of a living being that protects itself from any threat, either inside or outside. Just like a body grows, develops, and finally dies, these organisms go through similar cycles. Organisms have all characteristics from human behavior, just on a different scale. That is not so strange, as it is us who embody the pyramids, and it’s our projection that make organisms behave like a super-human. The most important characteristic is that organisms do not allow deviant identities on any level, and have values that are only loosely linked to needs of individual people.
Organisms tend to go directions that we recognize only afterwards. Nevertheless we all try to influence this direction. The result of all exercised influencing forces (see red arrow examples in picture) is what finally counts. As they say “There is more than one way to skin a cat”, and that’s what makes our momentary influence a bit unpredictable when steering on detailed level. It’s not only the order in which we do things, it is much more chaotic! An organism is like a thermodynamic system with lots of arbitrary influences that behaves in a way each element does not understand or maybe not even aims at. We therefore feel we have no control over the direction, choices made, and so forth. But nevertheless it is still us who do something. And if enough people create a synergetic motion, we can drive the organism. The only uncertainty we will always have is this: do we act because WE want it, or because the SYSTEM made us do this? Big numbers are not easy to deal with, in particular when variety is huge!
We already noticed how we shift our personal values and partly sacrifice them when we join a pyramid. The more complex this unit is, the less will remain from your own identity and values. That is, for instance, one of the reasons why people keep work and private life separated. It’s a bit culture dependant whether a company value complements your personal set (in Asia this is more common than in Europe). Even if it does, it’s still possible to recognize the identity and basic values of the larger pyramid organization. We call it “Brand”, or “Vision and Mission” and we adhere to company strategies and tactics to align our behavior. Other examples are our religion or political ideology.
What happens when this set of pyramids slowly turns into an organic system? When more organisms populate our reality? Can we expect a new value, just like we had before, but valid for the entire world?
I think we tried to enforce that (and still do so, if I look at the battles in the Middle East). History shows that gradually one value carrier dominates all others and that is: money. Conflicts usually are because of money, the future benefit or the potential lack of it. Economy has overtaken all value perceptions on all layers of society. And looking back, even the past values that we thought were more ideological, focussed on money. Churches got rich, countries grew wealthy, and the communist system was about managing money in a different way than the capitalistic system did. We all know the phrases “time = money” and “money = power”. If we express all existing values in terms of money, and set up economic systems to manage and calculate the relations, organisms have a better chance to sustain. However, the power of money is not that we can buy whatever we like. It also is not the trick that “people want it, so we can manipulate the greedy ones.” The real power of money is that it provides means to increase knowledge. We stimulate science, start new developments (even when dominated by defense demands), bring together the greatest spirits of our time in futuristic institutes, and collect information about everything everywhere. Why? Because knowledge generation is essential to growth and survival. Money allows us to make our brain free from all kinds of basic human needs and concerns, so we can freely dream about new horizons.
The only value for evolution is the knowledge, generated by our brains to move to the next phase!