Virtual team mobilisation and three powerful tips from nature
There are 3 types of recognition in nature: Species Recognition, Kin Recognition and Individual Recognition. Bioteams can use Species Recognition to avoid freeloaders, Kin Recognition to build strong work-groups and Individual Recognition to ensure mutual team member co-operation.
Species Recognition allows a bee or a monkey to recognise another bee or monkey.
All species have this innate ability however they make mistakes. For example, Ants are plagued by parasitic beetles, which imitate Ant signals and are admitted to and looked after by the colony. However they operate as 'free-loaders' - they don't contribute.
Species recognition in a bioteam stops 'freeloaders'. In organisational teams this can be achieved through simple Ground Rules or Team Etiquette. Occasional freeloading should result in a gentle warning. Repeated freeloading should result in expulsion from the group.
Kin Recognition allows a team member to know if another member is related to them.
This is important because helping kin promotes an individuals gene pool even if the individual does not benefit himself or herself. Kin recognition enables 'kin selection' which explains acts of Altruism, which would otherwise not happen according to 'The Selfish Gene' theory. Whilst it is not universally agreed how kin recognition works in different species it is believed that all species that live in social groups possess this ability.
As a general rule, collaborative outputs in organisational teams are produced by small groups and reviewed by bigger groups. The engine of these outputs is the small work-group or sub-group. Kin recognition can be implemented in an organisational team by ensuring that the bigger team has the right set of tightly related sub-groups which operate well both in terms of individual relationships and complimentary skills.
Individual Recognition allows one individual member in a team to recognise another member.
Individual recognition is only present in natures' more advanced teams such as primates or dolphins. Individual recognition is important in these teams because it enables mutual co-operation. I help you in the expectation you will later help me. However if I can't distinguish you and you can't distinguish me from the other members of the team then there is no way to return the compliment. Hence mutual co-operative behaviour does not evolve.
Research shows that if we don't know someone well, which is a risk in virtual relationships, we will find it easier to break commitments to them and are unlikely to put ourselves out on their behalf. Individual Recognition can be implemented in an organisational team by ensuring regular physical meetings as well as virtual ones. Also we need to encourage good one-one virtual conversations that build relationships as well as getting operational tasks done.
In a nutshell
In our organisation teams we can learn from nature and ensure our team members use Species Recognition to avoid freeloaders, Kin Recognition to build strong work-groups and Individual Recognition to ensure mutual co-operation.
Bioteams Books Reviews
Just because we might have selfish genes it does not mean we have to behave selfishly; nature knows when to be nice as well as nasty and nepotism occurs in the biological world too with equal destructiveness as our world. This is according to Richard Conniff author of The Ape in the Corner Office and reviewed in the UK Guardian Newspaper (27 May).