Over the weekend I witnessed an enormous flock of starlings in an undulating swarm constantly changing direction and formation but always maintaining their speed and close formation. It reminded me of a key challenge for leaders today: How to get an organization to adapt and move together with the changing environment. Of course entrenched bureaucracies and change-resistant cultures make this particularly difficult, but even leaders of smaller companies of 100-500 employees in fast-moving technological or highly competitive industries find such adaptability difficult.
We’ve all seen flocks of birds and schools of fish instantly change directions together. Scientists have found that these groups are responding not to leaders, but to the environment and especially to each other using a few simple rules such as collision avoidance, velocity matching, and cohesion.
So what can we learn for increasing the speed and adaptability of business organizations? The key is to focus on just a few simple rules of adaptability rather than a complex set of policies and instuctions.
I’ll provide more in my monthly email this week, but in the meantime, you might want to take a look at this amazing three-minute video showing masses of starlings performing phenomenal agility and mass change. Click here for the video