The magic of Plan B, by Rob Schouten

Among the minor, yet striking characteristics of mathematical physics, may be mentioned the fleshless and skeletal build of its propositions; the peculiar difficulty, complication, and stress of its reasonings; the perfect exactitude of its results; their broad universality; their practical infallibility. Charles Sanders Peirce 1889


This page summarizes records our 50-years of history with the triumphs and tragedies of  working in the field of dysfunctional hierarchical social behavior – lest we forget.

The Plan B narrative

The Ascent above the mentor line

The Iliad of Plan B development, “going boldly where no man has gone before,” serves as a comfortable segue into the warehouse of knowledge about social behavior. Telling the tale of the epic struggle to attain and sustain Plan B delivers an idea of the circuitous path we took to reach the goal. Just like our mentors, we were never prescient about picking the right forks in the road. Yes, the dice are loaded, but when you have nothing for navigation, a crap shoot guess is all there is. The deck is stacked against you. The flying monkeys come in swarms. After visiting an implementation, this fact of securing Plan B viability comes as a surprise to no one.

There is no Iliad for Plan A because the instructions for Plan A behavior were already hereditary by the Stone Age. Nobody has to commiserate or apply cognitive effort to implement Plan A. Doing nothing, knowing nothing, thinking nothing, is effective enough. Going with the flow of others gets you to Plan A each and every time, still.

The Plan B Iliad serves as a reminder about navigation without a destination – blind drift. The expedition lurches and ricochets, like Moby Dick sailors, shrouded in doubts that the undefined destination even exists. Sir Thomas More called his book on Utopia fiction. Now with Plan B success firmly in hand, we claim the paradigm of Plan B to be both non-fiction and incontrovertible.

The journal begins

For us, the odyssey to Plan B left port during WWII. We volunteered for all the local war-effort initiatives, such as paper drives, scrap metal recycling, lard collections, victory gardens and the like. Our town neighborhood came out in force, all classes, working together collaboratively and quietly towards those aims. The cooperation and alignment seemed natural. Never a sign of hierarchy or “drive.” How else to get the job done? We thought then, of course, that Plan B had to be the only way of life because it made such complete sense.

We considered our college experience as an extension of WWII social conditions, a natural, bumpless transfer of culture from generation to generation. University was crowded with veterans under the GI bill and they were zoned-in on getting an education, no nonsense. They had families to support.

After graduation, working as degreed grunts on massive construction projects brought the first hints that cooperation and collaboration towards crucial organizational objectives was not necessarily an automatic human universal. The first head-on collision with corporate Plan A irrationality came in the 1960s. Many more examples followed.

After the bruises from colliding with dysfunctional industrial and government hierarchies piled up, the decision was made to do something about this lapse in human intelligence for ourselves. There was no observable justification for the OD madness producing the malfunction or the puzzling tolerance of honest citizens for its consequences.

Incredibly naïve, we began a campaign to restore social sanity to Plan A cases, using all of the foolproof practices we were taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Business, including:

  • Get management buy-in
  • Have a ROI over 15%
  • Benefit stakeholders
  • Business decisions are rationally made on facts, evidence, risk, logic
  • Protect the environment
  • When the stakes are high enough, everyone can be trusted
  • Follow the example of your professors and you can’t go wrong, they said

As PEs ourselves, when we inquired of HBS as to why executives didn’t have to be professionally licensed, we were expelled. In retrospect, the non-verbal response of the institution fully answered our question.

When experience with OD had accumulated and all the “approved” methods of risk-informed decision-making flopped one by one, the final straw came with the 1986 Challenger explosion, a visceral horror we watched live from an outdoor turbine-generator deck in Florida on the Atlantic. All the lessons of the brilliant Apollo moon project had been replaced by NASA Establishment for the shuttle program. Our first book on OD was published in 1987, “The New Plague,” still available on Amazon. It reached out by breaking silence about what was really going on with OD. Its goal was to test for Plan A ubiquity. Surely, Challenger wasn’t one off.

Feedback from the book, aimed at engineers, answered the ubiquity question. The forces that inexorably drive social systems into Plan A were indeed as widespread as they were powerful. Two more books about hierarchies gone berserk and the mechanisms of action that drove their insanity led to a series of keynote speaking engagements at large technical conferences. Direct contact with thousands of OD victims made it clear that OD was not an occasional aberration of Nature, but the global manifestation of indifferent Nature Herself with man as willing agent of self-destruction. Working on massive engineering projects in Formosa and South Korea, settled any question about culture as a variable in hierarchical processes. No difference whatsoever. Then, in 2003, NASA’s Columbia disintegrated on reentry. Oh the humanity!

Lessons learned?

Cable TV features “Great engineering disasters around the world” on multiple channels that run 24/7 year in and year out for your entertainment. When an episode is about a particular project we worked on, we come away puzzled by how much of the ruling-class corruption was omitted. The blame for failure falls onto the engineers, never the upper-hierarchy perpetrators. A two-tier legal system?

Gaining ground-truth knowledge about what was going on, evaluating consequences, did nothing to explain why it was going on, the cause, the prime mover. The answer to OD, if there was one, cannot be found by archeology at the sites where the wreckage manifests (Einstein).

We asked: Who were the winners in OD? Did the CEOs who exercised their golden parachutes in corporate bankruptcy think they were winning something by destroying their enterprise? The piles of human debris strewn about spoke for themselves. We thought of our fallen comrades under Jack’s GE, now an overgrown cemetery.

Genetic endowment and social conditioning had betrayed us about the prime mover of OD. The bias favoring Plan A functioning within an indifferent Nature is genome-delivered. The bias is psychological, taking place exclusively within the dark matter of the unknowable subconscious mind.

The disciplines of conventional wisdom biased towards ineffective remedies had proven to be counterproductive to our aims. Trust in social intelligence was gone forever. OD was being protected at all levels of the hierarchy – perpetrators and victims, undiscussable (Argyris). Monkeys on backs, elephants in rooms, Plan A’s signature menagerie: rats, stool pigeons, sheep, scapegoats, wolves, snakes. Ambush predators and prey, the lot. Massive 3-D corruption.

Betrayal by universal basic training for today’s social life led the search for Plan B away from standard practices and empiricism. To deal with Impasse One, multiplicity, we switched to the trustworthy engineering benchmarks of mathematical physics and black-box investigation to develop knowledge (Ashby). To that end we became apprentices to Professor Rudolf Starkermann, pioneer of the application of system control principles he  used in industry to study social behavior.

In 1993 he assigned us a scope of work to conduct using the engine of social dynamic simulation he developed (Starkermann). This experience launched our role as thesis validator by application testing of his study findings in the operational reality. The fit of control theory models to social processes in process was 100%. Each one of the counterintuitive results occasionally coming out Starkermann’s studies of social dynamics proved out in reality to be true. From that point on we never used empiricism or folk wisdom to make important decisions about social behavior.

Yes, the laws of Nature impacting systems of metal were congruent and perfectly effective with systems of flesh. Whatever was going on in the human hierarchy had a one-for-one fit with applied industrial control technology, including the need for hierarchy (i.e., distributed control) itself.

During the late 1980s, black-box experiments were conducted to forge a high-performance work group for projects in any organizational context, hostile or not, using the principles derived from mathematical physics. The campaign to deliberately establish immunity from management sabotage with a generic process proved to be highly successful for the democratic workgroup. We validated that high performance in tackling complex problems would build a Plan B sanctuary in an OD context out of earned “prestige” – on its own. This algorithm, developed from Starkermann’s work, worked wherever it was implemented.

During this period we learned that no amount of goal-seeking performance triggered interests in paradigm emulation. While the workers enjoyed the fruits of independence and security we engineered, there was no interest in learning the paradigm for themselves. In a decade of applications on several construction projects, no manager out of hundreds of windfall beneficiaries ever inquired about how we managed to run circles around our counterparts. When we finished a project, the paradigm and its people were swallowed whole by Plan A (Nash). At the time we had no inkling an Impasse Two, social status via authority via domination, was waiting in ambush.

Using black box methods to build knowledge about social behavior continued the process of elimination. We reported progress through eBooks, on Kindle, as algorithms for OD prevention kept getting better and better. Having contacted and worked with many disciplines, from law to anthropology, it became obvious these disciplines were hostile dead ends to Plan B advancement.

As system-think freaks, the time came to accept that the hard-ceilings of disciplinary thought were shielding the engines of Plan A and for us to go full time above the mentor line – that invisible roof of inquiry, where our mentors refused to consider cross-disciplinary concepts. When breaking through the barrier to system-think zeroed our Rolodex, we knew we were on to something fundamentally important. Working above the mentor line gives you total freedom of thought, no criticism, but with personal, total responsibility to advance the bleeding edge of social knowledge. It does take awhile to get used to the isolation that comes with unlimited opportunity.

It did not take long after the decision was made, to scramble up towards the cause of Plan A, for us to advance to the point where our previous collaborators could no longer understand our scope of work. In ten years we have gained about four conceptual levels of abstraction above the mentor line. Each higher echelon attained brings a different perspective, raising new questions, and more advanced concepts come into our reach.

When the mind drinks in the facts, be they observable, testified to, or merely dreamed, drinks them in, breathes their atmosphere, soaks itself in them, becomes an organ of them, in the earnest endeavor to interpret them and recognize the idea that is beneath them, or behind them, or that pervades them …. Suddenly a new light illuminates the scene, the facts … all at once rearranged themselves in a new figure. Charles Sanders Peirce 1963

Making progress above the mentor line is its own reward. You can’t expect praise from your fellow man when no one below the ceiling is allowed to know what the hell you’re talking about.

By 2012 the process of elimination and working unrestrained above the mentor line had produced the sociotechnical platform for social prosperity according to mathematical physics. Our work with the Human Factors Society had introduced the psychological angle as a constraint, but the discipline flamed out facing OD. While advances in concepts of prevention were still being made, most of the product was enhancement to what we already had. In stalemate with reality, a review of experience suggested we experiment with a thoroughbred audience, no hierarchy class mixtures, to systematically check on the psychological significance of social status.

The experiments finally got to MitM-only groups. We adopted the best methods of adult learning produced by academic research to program design. When details of class size, duration, and frequency of episodes had been worked out by experience, we called the program framework “hyper-learning” – a requisite.

Getting to Plan B psychologically is best illustrated by the pole vault. You have to exert great strength, speed and timing in a burst to get up to and over the bar. It starts with a sprint, not a marathon. That’s another hint that the entire matter of OD causation is psychological, not material. The network of entangled minds has no mass, no inertia with the subconscious mind of each node deciding the task action of its host in a centisecond, every centisecond.

Up to 2012, black box testing and Argyris’ criteria set the reference objective so that when Plan B materialized, it could be recognized for what it was. It was the first coherent specification of Plan B ever, which explains why previous accidental exhibits of Plan B had no traction.

Implementation of Plan B came on a grand scale in 2013 at a large industrial complex in TX. The rules of class size in hyper learning meant that several classes would be going through the program (FLLP) at the same time. The first season of six episodes was conducted as originally designed. When we returned six months after Season One was over, to deliver Season Two, Plan B was already fully operational. Attaining the chain-reaction of Plan B success was luck, to be sure, but it was no accident. Nowadays there’s no luck to any of it.

For the first time, we were able to deliver, in measurable parameters, the extraordinary claims for Plan B as well as the extraordinary evidence for it. Carl Sagan assured us that “Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence” would win out. How could that maxim possibly fail?

The next phase was aimed to extend the windfalls of Plan B flourishing to the benefit of the host organization and on to society at large. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” We had the better mousetrap and all the proof in the world. What could possibly go wrong? Still naïve, we pursued the promotional practices endorsed by our graduate business school education.

  • Publicize
    • Books
    • Website
  • Advertise advantages (claims)
  • Advertise evidence (proof)
  • Client testimonials
  • Authority testimonials
  • Endorsements
  • Direct marketing to needy customers
  • Establish a clear identity
  • Share knowledge of Plan B

The idea does not belong to the soul; it is the soul that belongs to the idea. Charles Sanders Peirce 1893

Much effort was invested in following this conventional wisdom. Every encounter was documented. Thousands of corporate head sheds were given the news of Plan B, customized to their operation. All the labor unions were contacted with the news of Plan B liberation. When those initiatives failed, we did the same for the departments of management and engineering of every university in the USA. When that flopped, we appealed to greed.

Every venture capital firm in the USA, the most ruthless and greedy enterprise conceived by man, was contacted with an offer no self-respecting Midas could refuse. Not a nibble.

After 3 years of conventional-wisdom marketing, we had fallen prey to Impasse Two in ambush. We had reached the barrier that only “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” attainment would reveal.

Retreating out of the cul-de-sac that imprisoned the Plan B accomplishment, we began an investigation to identify the unknowable force behind the second impasse. This was another black box issue with the process of elimination as the only known effective tool. Working above the mentor line paid off in record time. All the requisite knowledge and evidence was already scattered out there in plain sight.

It had to be:

  • Psychological, subconscious mind
    • Supported by the endocrine system
  • Social
  • Universal, generic
  • Supported by all levels of the hierarchy, save one
  • The instructions for manning the impasse are present wherever humans are present in hierarchy, no lag between cause and response.

In time, test, and reflection, Impasse Two possibilities were narrowed down to a point – social status, rank, class, and inequality. Time, testing, and historical evidence has since settled the issue. It is the most powerful value in social behavior bar none. Just like quantum mechanics, social status answers the torrent of questions about ongoing social madness. Give it a try.

The ambush impasse of social status has to be preempted to attain the Plan B objective.

Impasse #2: social status via authority

Searching the social sciences about the relationship between motivation strength and social status comes up with many statements to its paramount position. Social status by authority is the apex predator soused on testosterone and in musth in social system operations. The power of social status in organizational affairs cannot be over-exaggerated.

Social status by authority is a psychological phenomenon based on belief, nothing but opinion expressed in a vote. It is a subconscious measure of the social value in the relative level of respect, honor, assumed competence, and deference accorded to people, groups, and organizations in a society. It is a subconsciously-valued role a person occupies based on beliefs broadly circulating over the entangled network that defines a social system itself.

The authorities of status-based hierarchies are empowered to allocate authority and resources by proxy for the collective. In doing so, belief-based social stratification makes grossly-unequal distributions of resources and authority appear natural and fair. It is a corruption of inalienable human rights perpetrated upon the low-authority classes by the high authority ranks that comes coded in the human genome. Like paper currency for gold, all classes support the belief system in use, on faith. No cognitive effort required.

It is important to understand that the mechanism for suspending human rights comes in the same genome used by Jefferson and others to enumerate inalienable human rights in 1776. Both functionalities are housed in the invariant subconscious mind where exhibiting one “face” then another can occur in a small fraction of a second. Take any citizen, make him emperor, and observe the instantaneous switch in beliefs (attitudes) before he enters his palace for the first time. The instructions for social behavior in context are part of the individual subconscious mind. There is no collective super mind, no central control room. The individual mind is the biggest mind in the entire network because it is the only mind Homo society has.

No human behavior incentive is stronger than zero-sum social status competition. It is either being sought competitively or defended competitively. Steady state is impossible. That said, social status is 100% subconscious, without mass, dark-matter driven – still. The visible stuff, conspicuous consumption by the potentates, is only symbolic of the real, but intangible thing itself.

As in the case of paper currency representing a promise to deliver an amount of gold you can’t see, it is the faith in equivalency that enables commerce to work. The only stuff that makes authority and its power to punish exist, is opinion. As social status is an opinion produced by unknowable subconscious minds, one by one, it is a psychological phenomenon that can only be altered psychologically.

  • Authority: The legal right of dominion by force over others, acquired by creating fear of punishment, an opinion. Domination is an exciting, addictive zero-sum competition, winner take all. Authority is also inversely related to social power.
  • Power: Social power comes in two very-different categories.
    • The right to abuse workers and stakeholders at will and with legal impunity
    • The opinion of others, based on your goal-seeking performance, that you are an exceptional contributor to personal and social betterment. Working alongside you is deemed win-win. Authority is never mentioned.

You wend your way to authority by being feared as the baddest-ass bully in the collective, by competitive success. The price of gaining authority status by terror is permanent distrust, which adds social transaction costs for personal defense of the insecure, anxiety-impaired captives. As authority is power only to harm the collective membership, productivity under authority, burdened with the imposter syndrome, goes to hell.

You gather social power by ignoring “power” completely, concentrating all your efforts on performance for group goal-seeking benefit. Over time the judgment of others will count towards workmaster power to design and assign task actions. The opinion happens spontaneously in the unknowable subconscious or not at all. Power, as used on this website, always means the “power” to bring beneficial changes to the collective – never at the detriment of an individual.

We have exposed and validated the two impasses confronting Plan B, one for the engineer and one for the psychotherapist, determining their composition and mechanisms of action. The fact that Plan B is being implemented successfully shows that the social status impasse has some grab bars. There is no need for extreme efforts about extraordinary claims. Both quantity and quality of benefits have no value at the second impasse. The extraordinary evidence of Plan B largesse are necessary tickets to view the impasse. When you are caught in the cul-de-sac, don’t depend upon extraordinary evidence to persuade anyone about anything. When you get there, note that the impasse didn’t have to be invoked by a tyrant. It’s already in-place wherever you are.

Effort supposes resistance. Charles Sanders Peirce (1888)

Running the pole vault to Plan B takes a lot of internal energy. In practice, Plan A has everyone’s internal energy supply locked up in angst, insecurity. Step one, therefore, always begins by venting off the angst to create a supply of internal energy that will last until Plan B largesse kicks in. And, it all starts with the keystone level of the hierarchy. Targeting any other level of the organization, like the management buy-in myth, is a fatal error.

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