Nature Blog Network Future Earth: Corporate gorillas.

Friday, 29 February 2008

Corporate gorillas.

Mea culpa. I admit to a fascination with how groups of people interact, how teams work and how they become dysfunctional. Families too. In my defense, I can't help it - I've spent far too much time lolling around with apes... I mean "studying primates in the wild". Primatologists are warned about anthropomorphism, but not about the converse. I look around the room at a corporate meeting now and find myself picking out the characters....

.... ah, yes, there's the dominant silverback - quite a young one, not yet confident in his role and chest-beating for self assurance;
.... oh and there's the glossy young blackback looking to challenge. Pant-hooting with no real reason or resonance.
.... watch out for that experienced female - the others are looking to her for guidance, a real pivot point for action, we'll have to convince her to move up the mountain first;
.... there's the young adult who has been picked on and marginalised. She'll be transferring to another group before long. She's watching, knows where all the best foodplants are and is full of emotional intelligence, we just don't have access to it - how can we draw out her contribution and get the others to listen?
.... and there has to be a young rascal, jumping all over everyone and making them laugh. We'll book him to plan the break-out session.

Yes, many types of talents needed for groups to gel and societies to function. Ignoring that can lead to management mayhem - whether you are a corporate captain striving for success in the urban jungle or an itinerant ape eking out a living on the forested volcanic slopes of central Africa.

Just watch out for ethologists - keep an eye on them as they are keeping both eyes on you.

1 comment:

theo said...

Just watched the final episode of Life in Cold Blood - chilling stuff (in more ways than one). David Attenborough's increased efforts to point the spotlight on humans (his final summary reminded us of nature's superiority when it comes to energy-efficiency) provided an appropriate example of your final sentence in action.

It seems that the job of many naturalists now is to lead their fellow man by example - or at least to point them in the direction of that example. When the builder pouring concrete over a precious natural habitat knows nothing of the species he is potentially rendering extinct, what hope is there? At least a group of crocodiles is wise enough to collaborate when hunting for fish, as they know it will increase their chances of group survival. When a group of humans gather in a meeting room, you wonder if assertion of status is in fact the only motivation.

PS. Thanks very for the chocolates - I will begrudgingly give King Kev a stay of execution (though his own proverbial extinction cannot be far away..!)