Is Your Organization Capable of Murmuration?
Updated: Mar 31
A Crazy Natural Phenomenon Of Coordination
When conditions are right for a flock of starlings, an amazing level of coordination takes place in a form of flight scientists have named "murmuration". From a distance, the constantly moving flock of birds seems to be controlled by an external force as its shape keeps changing and shifting while (up to) tens of thousands of starlings move through the sky together in a spellbinding display. As recently as the 1930's, it was thought there might be some kind of psychic power behind this display (birds reading the mind of their fellow birds) but scientists now have a simpler explanation...
Why murmuration? What on earth compels starlings to come together in such large numbers that a murmuration is even possible? The first reason is that starlings are migratory birds and when the flock of starlings settle down at night along their migration route, they can keep each other warm during the colder nights they experience. The second reason is that migration sends the birds over unfamiliar terrain and flying in a large group enables them to communicate about where food can be found in a more effective way than any single bird could ever manage. Finally, when the starlings are all together, they tend to attract predators who see the large group as a potential "starling smorgasbord" and the ever shifting patterns of the murmuration makes it very difficult for the predator to find a single target - similar to how a school of fish operates.
How does murmuration work? Scientific studies have revealed that the beautiful shifting patterns we observe in a murmuration is actually comprised of something quite mundane... those huge flocks moving across the skyline can be boiled down to each single starling paying very close attention to no more than seven other starlings. And each of those seven starlings are paying close attention to seven other starlings... and so on. The staggeringly complex display we see is built from something that is really quite simple.
What does this have to do with your world? I have never met a leader who wouldn't like to see their business (or their piece of the overall business) become better able to handle the opportunities and threats they face without requiring a large scale intervention or reset. How do we build an organization where our teams can quickly shift their attention and energy to what is most important? How can we create an environment where flexibility is enabled without losing the coordination that allows us to work effectively together? How do we create an organization that can "murmurate"?
Let's consider the starlings... In our organizations, we seldom invest to ensure that our staff is able to clearly and effectively communicate with their team mates. Nothing is more foundational in a workplace than to understand others and to be understood by others. This skillset should not be taken for granted - but it generally is. Stop for a moment and
think about the time and energy wasted in your own experience because of miscommunication or poor communication and the cost that is incurred by your organization as a result. Consider what might happen if you could help each member of your team better understand and communicate with just seven other team members. And then those seven, with seven others... and so on.
One of the most practical tools I've used to build individual and team communication skills is the Wiley Corporation's DiSC profiles. There are a number of different ways to use these tools and they can be focused on different audiences (like leaders and managers) or specific competencies (like productive conflict, emotional intelligence or sales) but the bottom line is they all are designed to build you and your staff's ability to be better communicators. They are not expensive, they are not time consuming to deliver and they can be done over time while retaining the information to be used on an organization wide level when that makes sense. Better communication is the foundation to your organization's "murmuration capability" and in today's quickly evolving business environment, who doesn't need that?
Here's a brief video that outlines the benefits of using the DiSC Profile in your organization:
Thank you for reading this - let's get your organization's murmuration started!
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