Biomimetic file 183: Group Power

How collective interaction can lead to greater business outcome


The human brain is composed of billions of neuronal connections, yet in all this “mess” organized thoughts arise. Picture source: University of Rochester Medical Center

Highlight: “the collective behaviour and nest architecture of social insects can inspire innovative and effective solutions to human design challenges…Individual social insect workers exhibit relatively simple behaviours, but collectively, colonies can perform complex functions such as routing traffic, allocating labour and resources and building nests that provide physical and social services… Unlike most human operations, social insects accomplish such feats without a supervisor or centralized control; instead, colony-level patterns self-organize, or emerge, from local interactions that elicit positive and negative feedback responses…”

Insight: Breakthrough innovative ideas most often arise from individual minds (or at most a few individuals) rather than larger group thinking. Yet, group thinking is key to adjust decisions that are to be applied within the group and/or beyond; it is an integral part of the delivery process. The paradox between restricted and larger group thinking can be challenging in modern change management strategies.

The common pyramidal top-down hierarchies of modern administrations is outdated and slowly showing signs of fading. Most corporations still restrict strategic decisions within a close circle  without any feedback from other layers of management. While strategic thinking will always be led by a few individuals within a group, managing the risks of the outcomes is a different story and group interactions can really help to clarify and mature a concept; the larger the group the more confident the outcome will be…

In nature feedback mechanisms are omnipresent (e.g. the climate system, heart bits., insect wing flapping…)  and contribute towards systems stability. Without dynamic feedback (negative and/or positive), systems would rapidly go out of control and collapse.

Are you planning a drastic  change? If so,  perhaps consider applying a robust collective feedback process before moving ahead. Social interactions (with some moderation) is key to future leadership and risk minimization…

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What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species or natural systems on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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