Is your group greater or less than the sum of its parts?
How is it that birds, which are not that bright, can coordinate a hundred-thousand acrobatic movements without a single collision? How can termites with microscopic brains build cities complete with air conditioning and skyscrapers? What enables fish -- who as individuals can't remember where they were five minutes ago -- to migrate thousands of miles to the same spawning grounds where they were born?
|Above: Dylan Winter's "Starlings on Otmoor", a short film showing amazing flocking behaviors.|
These extraordinary abilities emerge when a few key relational dynamics are active in natural systems. These dynamics empower self-organization and synchronized motion, compounding the force of their collective effort and focusing this energy. This maximizes benefits for the entire group and its members: extraordinary longevity, sophisticated problem solving, ingenious asset discovery and use, skillful simplification of complexity, and incredible responsiveness to both threats and opportunities.
FlockEffect applies theses natural dynamics for people in groups and groups of groups (organizations, associations, movements, companies, networks). It fosters flexible, organic, coordinated productivity in a variety of contexts. It creates an environment that can unleash massive latent potential: robust and innovative solutions to previously unsolvable challenges, high market responsiveness, ingenious-yet-simple operational systems, and truly responsible platforms for growing and supporting people.
Manage Complexity with Simplicity
FlockEffect applies simple rules, practices, and structures to group and network interaction in order to release emergent behaviors, capacities, and powers. This structure creates an environment of collaborative motion where the product of the whole exceeds the sum of the members when they are at rest or in independent motion. Since the effectiveness of the whole comes from helping the members connect their direction and contributions, the resulting environment produces exceptional results while simultaneously maintaining health and integrity of individual members and the entire network.
This structured environment begins with group dynamics based on three key rules that must be embodied at every level of organization (group, sub-groups, individuals):
1. Avoid crowding and bumping neighbors.
Separation (Short-range Repulsion): For any group to be productive, the "space" between members must be maintained as they group moves through an environment. Effecitve groups maintain identity through respect and protect creative and personal space with appropriate boundaries. "Bumping into each other" ultimately leads to chaos, since bumping spreads to others and causes members to steer away from each other and the common heading. It's critical that members learn to monitor space and self-direct to avoid counter-productive crowding and bumping.
2. Steer towards the average heading of your neighbors.
Alignment: The members of the group must constantly check their own direction with the average direction of the whole group so that optimum productivity may emerge. This keeps everyone on mission and avoids “group think,” since any member may adjust their heading slightly and his neighbors will respond. Since this type of steering is based on the average heading of the entire group, and not any one member, deviant trajectories will often be corrected or ignored by the majority. Since leaders do not set the heading alone, they can only manage direction by managing the entire group, thus preserving eveyone's ownership and contribution.
3. Steer towards the average position of your neighbors.
Cohesion (Long-range Attraction): Effective groups stick together because members intentionally steer towards the average position of everyone else. In other words, they make an effort to stay close to their companions on the journey. This proximity creates the amazing responsiveness of the whole flock, combining the awareness, reflexes, and instincts of everyone. Ultimately, each member's participation is determined by the direction of the entire network, and this can only pass effectively from the leading edge to the last mover when the relational integrity is actively maintained. Lack of focus on this rule will lead to flock splits, conflict, and disintegration.
Good Things Don't Just Happen, They Emerge
FlockEffect is based on emergence phenomena in systems theory. Its name comes from one of these phenomena called flocking. Scientists have been studying flocking dynamics for two decades by observing the collective motion of large numbers of self-propelled entities. They've discovered that astonishing results can occur when a few simple relational rules are applied to a variety of creatures like birds, fish, bacteria, insects, and even people.
We've taken what science has learned about flocking and other forms of emergence -- like collective/swarm intelligence, aggregate wisdom, and decentralized work -- and we've applied these to group dynamics and management theory. This application, FlockEffect, infuses business processes with the simplicity and power of self-organization, self-motivation, self-direction and self-regulation.
These principles are employed in the animal world for innovation, survival, and a high-return on resource investments. Through them, the members of groups and networks share the load, utilize and optimize participation of every member, and draw resources to the surface at the critical moments. Pioneers in business are beginning to realize the importance of these powerful dynamics in economic environments as well. Markets, workforces, and industries are moved by these underlying forces, so their comprehension increases responsiveness and sensitivity. In the growing climate of constant change, the next challenges demand that every person in the organization moves with agility and common purpose.
Why FlockEffect is Effective
The Modern Age of business assumed that humanity's key talent was the invention of technology and the powers of abstract thinking. But as neurology has unraveled the wiring of our brains, we've discovered that our 100 billion neurons like to make connections, building networks of people, capacities, and concepts to meet challenges. Business thinkers have worked this understanding into the cutting edge of management theory and have discovered that people perform best when in a group where everyone applies maximum awareness, even to a common task. We do benefit from leaders who provide clarity through articulation, placement, and reinforcement, but we don't typically work at our peak when a single brain or elite group does all the thinking. In order to be fully present (and productive, consciencous, safe, and creative) we must think through any work in the context of a network of well-connected brains.
Since we're so wired for working socially, the quality of work roughly equals the quality of the relationships involved. For example, risk-avoidance centers in the brain are related to the same areas that handle complex social dynamics. Generally speaking, the more stimulated these areas are by social entanglements, the less likely members will make their relational network available, contribute their full potential, or trust a good decision that will lead to good outcomes. The solution is to structure a work environment that continually clears entanglements. Besides improving collaboration, these healthier interactions actually stimulate the parts of the brain that like risk and reward and contribute strongly to creativity and productivity.
Teams can be more effective by developing a rhythm of reflection on the following questions (the faster the group speed, the more frequent):
1 Am I crowding anyone or being crowded myself? Is there clear space in our group for creativity, decision making, and diverse ideas? Do we need to clear some space or affirm anyone's identity as we continue? 2 Is the direction of this group crystal clear? Is that where I think we should go? What do I see, sense, or know that might need to be shared to influence our direction? 3 Where is my group right now in terms of direction, progress, and energy? Am I there myself? If not, am I crowded, do I need to talk with my group about alignment, or how to draw closer to the center of what we're doing?
What Potential Could Emerge Where You Are?
Although team chemistry has been often illusive and mysterious, its true source is almost always a few members with relational skills in clearing and managing social entanglements so communication and work can happen with transparency and enthusiasm. The best teams turn these skills of a few into group culture. FlockEffect draws out this capacity in members and accelerates team discovery of their chemistry which can then be encoded into shared practices and a common identity.
Often group dynamics within teams steer everyone off course, lowering the value of their work to the organization and wasting resources. Even when the project goes a few degrees off-center initially, this will lead to major deviations over time. FlockEffect resolves these dynamics to allow teams to self-correct, rebuilding work relationships and realigning teams with the larger organizational mission. By building these effective-yet-simple dynamics into work culture, teams can inoculate against future deviations and organizations can ensure effective transfer of strategic and cultural DNA at every level.
As complexity, rapid change, and fragmentation contiue to increase, the brain that owns the future is the hive-mind rather than the master-mind. FlockEffect can create networks that compund their sensitivity and processing power to discover better information, realize more possibilities, and envision applications while, at the same time, building adoption of shared innovation across workforces and markets. This naturally avoids expensive group-think and maximizes operational, strategic, and human investments.
Many businesses invest considerable time and energy developing advocates in their market. The return on this investment is largely determined by the handles these advocates provide to the business for steering the decentralized, largely flat, relational matrix of the market. FlockEffect can enhance this return by empowering greater synchronization between these advocates and company personnel while building the leadership effectiveness of advocates, even in audiences that percieve themselves as leaderless.