Guest Commentary

A United Nations Approach for UFOlogy

by John Schuessler (

It is difficult to believe we have arrived at a new century without solving the UFO mystery. I tend to belive this is because of the division in the ranks of the people working on this problem. Because of my background in the aerospace business, I have seen fantastic accomplishments through the use of the "project" approach to the work. People of different backgrounds and interests, working for competing companies, while at the same time working together to accomplish great technological progress, has demonstrated the soundness of the "project" approach.

However, when it comes to UFO research and investigations, the field is horribly divided. Those involved seem to want to destroy each other more than they want to solve the UFO mystery. It is difficult to understand why some people are considered to be the "good guys" while others are the "bad guys," when they are all cut from the same cloth and are all working on the same problem.

Some peole have told me they don't want to work with anyone else because their approach alone is the right one. Others have said they just don't trust so and so. While others keep lists on which person they believe is right and which is wrong. Well, they have completed a century with this type of mindset and the mystery is as big as ever. If any one of them had been right, the mystery would be solved and we could all be working on other problems.

Essentially, this is a people problem, caused by the nature of the mystery. Most of the work is done by volunteers, working on their own time with their own funds. If we had millions of dollars available to pay the workers, then they might work together regardless of backgrounds, because it was profitable. As we enter the year 2000, the funds are still not there, so we need to work together better as volunteers. That means the leaders in the field need to understand what leading volunteers means and how it differs from some of the old styles of management they may be used to.

As a part of one of my earlier non-profit organization leadership positions I was sent to a week of training on effective management of volunteer programs. The experts giving the seminar were quite clear about it being acceptable to have differing leadership styles as long as the organization is willing to live with the outcome. Volunteer organizations, embracing the right leadership styles can accomplish great things, while others can hold on to their old ways and fail miserably.

There are four distinct elements that affect work-related behavior in any field:

1. The motives and needs a person brings to the situation,

2. The job or task to be done,

3. The personal strengths, weaknesses and leadership style of the manager; and

4. The climate of the organization.

For the first element, we are talking about the volunteers. And right now there is a crisis out there because there are fewer volunteers than there are organizations seeking their support. There is a shortfall. That is why volunteers need more back from an organization than being told to shut up and get in line with the program or else. Volunteers need to be courted, continually.

For the second element, the job is UFO research and investigations. Everything else is secondary. Most of the arguments within the UFO community are due to the latter, or secondary issues.

For the third element, I will talk about in more detail below.

For the fourth element, we need to carefully define the UFO organization climate. Right now, the definition is fuzzy, and people are wanting more participation, more feedback, less bickering and infighting, more status, and more respect. Unfortunately, many of the players in the field want to be the stars and often do it at the expense of the other volunteers. We have seen the debunkers work this way for years.

There are nine dimensions or factors that define the CLIMATE of an organization:

1. STRUCTURE -- the feeling that members (volunteers) have about the constraints in the group. How many rules, regulations, procedures are there; is there an emphasis on "red tape" and going through channels; or is there a loose and informal atmosphere?

2. RESPONSIBILITY -- the feeling of being you own boss; not having to double-check all your decisions. When you have a job to do, knowing that is your job.

3. REWARD -- the feeling of being rewarded appropriately for a job well done; emphasizing positive rewards rather than punishments; the perceived fairness involved.

4. RISK -- the sense of riskiness and challenge in the job and in the organization; is there an emphasis on taking calculated risks, or is playing it safe the best way to operate.

5. WARMTH -- the feeling of general good fellowship in the group atmosphere; the emphasis on being well-liked; the prevalence of friendly and informal social groups.

6. SUPPORT -- the perceived helpfulness of the managers and others in the group; emphasis on mutual support from above and below.

7. STANDARDS -- the perceived importance of implicit and explicit goals and performance standards; the emphasis on doing a good job; the challenge represented in personal and group goals.

8. CONFLICT -- the feeling that managers and other workers want to hear different opinions; the emphasis placed on getting problems out in the open, rather than smoothing them over or ignoring them.

9. IDENTITY -- the feeling that you belong to a group and you are a valuable member of a working team; the importance placed on this kind of spirit.

Many of the workers out there are isolated because the factors of CLIMATE noted above are ignored by others and often, themselves.

We have two ways to approach the UFO work. One is "power-oriented" and known in business as Theory X - rigid and unbending. The other is "achievement-oriented" and known in business as Theory Y - accepting the best from everyone involved. It is easy to spot the power-oriented people and to hate them for what they do and the way they do it, even though they are trying to solve the same problem as the rest of us. They have grown-up believing that beating people into line is the only way to go. It is more difficult to spot the affiliation-oriented people because they are out there quietly trying to work together to achieve success.

To create a power-oriented climate in ufology:
a) provide a considerable structure, such as rules, policies, etc.;
b) allow people to obtain positions of responsibility, authority, and status; and
c) encourage the use of formal authority (the big stick) as a basis for resolving conflict and disagreement.

To create an affiliation-oriented climate in ufology:
a) encourage close, warm relationships;
b) give considerable support and encouragement;
c) provide a great deal of freedom and little structure or constraint; and
d) make the individual feel like an accepted member of the group.

Both are correct and acceptable. The affiliation-oriented climate encourages growth and participation and it is used by most volunteer-based organizations. The power-oriented climate encourages particpation by the more rigid, old-style managers and tends to drive volunteers away.

By the way I am quite aware that there are other theories of management, but these two put it in the simplest of terms.

Most profit-making organizations have also embraced the affiliation-oriented (sometimes called achievement-oriented) climate in order to survive. Their motivation is profit.

The field of ufology has a diverse membership. It is very easy to see that some people are Theory X and some are Theory Y types. From my point of view, that diversity is good if it is channelled for the good of the field as a whole and not for individual personal power.

The purpose of this message is to urge the thousands of workers in ufology to unite in some way that will bring a lot of pressure to bear on this mystery. We have wasted enough time and energy on in-fighting. It is time to work together to use the best investigative methods; do more science-based work instead of using belief-based approaches; to respect other workers in the field and accept them at whatever level they are able to work; and to use the power of diversity to look for new ways to approach the problem. We need to face the fact that the old ways have not solved the mystery.

Ufology enjoys a very high level of awareness in the public and working in this field is slowly becoming more acceptable because of the public awareness. We are also fortunate that so many people are willing to dedicate their time and talents to the goal of solving this mystery. What we lack is unity in the field and respect for the work of others even when it does not coincide with out personal views. Like it or not, there is power in the number of workers willing to unite to solve a problem. 100,000 or 200,000 people working together have a voice that is "heard" by the science community, the press, the politicans, and the public in general. Groups of ten, fifty or even 2,500 are not heard - they are in the noise level and have no clout.

Lets make the Year 2000 the start of major unity in ufology. I like to call it the "United Nations" approach where diverse peoples and groups work together at some level to make things happen. There is no perfect situation, but the way in which we worked in the 20th century kept us all busy, but it did not solve the mystery.

Happy New Year and Happy New Century,
John Schuessler


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