Murmuration from Islands & Rivers on Vimeo.

In an organization, leaders must strive to have everyone in the same hymnal, singing the same song. Inevitably, not all things go that way. Like an orchestra, the music never hits the right spot unless everyone is contributing his and her part to the whole. If one musician is off,  the rest of the orchestra can begin to wobble.

When I watched this video of a flock of starlings, I was struck by how those birds had a keen sense of themselves and each other. Why wouldn’t they just fly into one another? How can they move with such speed and grace? I am sure scientists have clues, but it is deep in their DNA. This murmuration of starlings gets described as scale-free correlation — if any one bird turned and changed speed, so would all the others.

Getting this right inside of organizations — the ability to move with speed and grace in relation to each other — is both an art and a science.

But it often comes down to three key things:

  1. Power of the Collective:  This is a core belief; there is genius in groups.  The research tells us that when we leverage the strength of the group, we get farther than if we just go it alone.  A flock goes farther than a single bird.
  2. Know Yourself: Teams work well when each individual has high self-awareness.  They know what strengths they bring and where they could use help.  A sign of heath and strength is having enough self-awareness to ask for help.
  3. Know Your Teammates: High performing teams always understand how to leverage each others strengths in order to reach the desired outcome. This usually requires an investment of time to “seek first to understand, before being understood.”  Knowing the person on your left and ring wing gives you confidence to soar.

These starlings seemed to create this great spectacle of motion by understanding what they could do individually. They have a keen sense of awareness of those around them — even centimeters away — and the unique ability to move toward their goal in a collective instead of 1,000 individual paths.

The starlings elegantly demonstrate what is so difficult to achieve with groups and institutions.  Maybe we ought to be careful to use the term birdbrain in the future!

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