Moving People: 10-80-10 Survival Theory Applied to ALL THE THINGS! :D

This morning, a friend of mine posted this onto our thinking group’s facebook page. I wanted to respond to the article, but it sort of evolved into a rather lengthy bit of musings, so I’ve moved them here and will send those folks the link to here.

In the 10-80-10 Theory of Survival (it’s an actual thing. There are books, but here’s a summary article: Is Your Brain Wired To Survive Disaster), when a crisis situation arises ten percent of the population falls apart and freaks out, eighty percent stands about basically catatonic, and ten percent steps up and does something useful.  Without an ounce of hard data, but years of studying people, I tend to apply this to a whole lot of situations. Today, I’m applying it to how most human creatures view drastic social change: as a crisis.

Humans have always been terrified of and resistant to change. Plato warned up-and-coming philosophers of this with the Allegory of the Cave. Change, new ways of thinking, etc are bad. And they’re bad enough for most folks to rally against and even kill the agent of change.

To return to the 10-80-10, the ten percent who step up are not all leaders, though most of them can be. Likewise the ten percent freaking out can make it difficult to get the 80 percent moving. Another obnoxious variable is that leadership does NOT equal goodness, so of those ten percent leading, it’s a smaller number wanting to affect positive change.

I think it helps to start by thinking in small numbers. Imagine that one poor soul has been given nine others to watch over. They don’t have to move them forward necessarily, just keep them from killing themselves and each other. That right there can be impossible enough! I believe the expression is “herding cats.” Now imagine that these nine are basically children to the one, they don’t understand why they need to do things that Leader suggests, or that their actions affect others (in some cases they don’t care), all they KNOW is that someone is telling them what to do and most of the time it’s easier to just do what they’re told. HOWEVER. One of the nine is sitting in a corner screaming like a loon every time the least little thing happens that they don’t like, eventually that panic starts to filter into the group of eight and it makes them increasingly catatonic, confused, and nervous. This makes them much harder to herd.

Have a headache yet? Anyone in education should understand this even better than I do. 🙂

So you have Leader. Leader may not have wanted the job in the first place (which is its own set of complications), but because of how Leader’s brain is wired for action in the face of crises, this is how it fell. Sometimes people will follow you whether you intend to lead or not.  Then you have eight Catatonic Sheep who have to be herded (or at least maintained) , but the herding is being greatly disrupted by Panicker.  Given how powerful that one disruption is at times, it can be impossible to do anything more than make sure the nine stand relatively still for a moment.

Now for every mini-herd of ten being driven by a Leader who wants to create positive social change, you have at least one, if not two, that is being driven by a Leader(s) who do(es)n’t want to create that change. There are many reasons for this, some more sinister than others. Some are as simple as these Leaders have found that it’s REALLY HARD to move their Nine forward at all, especially with Panicker screaming and falling down and requiring extra reassurance just to continue breathing and eating and being mildly contributive to their herd’s survival. Some Leaders find that for their own continued existence it’s best to just gently nudge the herd of Nine every now and then, to slowly correct courses and hope things get better rather than incite the herd to fear and violence and end up killed by the Nine (which would only leave Panicker in charge by the way. *shudder*). And some seriously wicked Leaders are not above letting their Panickers whip their Catatonic Sheep into a mass of fear and anxiety to maintain the carefully created status quo.

Imagine that on a scale that reflects the population numbers and it’s overwhelming at best. In the United States alone that’s over THREE MILLION Panickers (same for Leaders) and over TWO HUNDRED FIFTY ONE MILLION Catatonic Sheep.

This is why reform of any kind that doesn’t just shore up the old ways of thinking is so very, very hard.

Short version. The Church isn’t moving quickly enough for those who want positive social changes because there are fewer of us than there are Catatonic Sheep, and we’re evenly matched (at best) on the Leader front, and most don’t feel right using their Panickers to manipulate the CSs into doing what we know is best, because we believe in freedom of thought, etc, etc. Personally, I’m just mean enough to think it’s time we stop letting the Catatonic Sheep and the Panickers be controlled by Bad Leaders, but I also think that the only way anything is going to really change is by having a big enough disaster show up to wipe out a large enough portion of the 90% to which I don’t belong. I know that sounds gloomy, and maybe I mean for it to, though I certainly don’t think we need to give up. I know that I myself have converted at least one Catatonic Sheep into being a Thinking Not-So-Sheep and maybe one day they’ll be Good Leaders. Maybe one day, the numbers will change in our favor. It’s that “maybe” that is worth striving toward.



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