Recovering team and group Messaging Instincts
My research into biological teams has revealed that they make extensive use of short messages as their primary means of communications. For example, Ants use chemical messages, Bees use visual messages conveyed through dance and Dolphins use sonar: unlike human teams they all exhibit strong Messaging Instincts.
The Messaging Instinct
I call this natural method of communications The Messaging Instinct.
When you analyse these types of message-based communications further you quickly notice that across species and communications media the underlying systems all share certain common characteristics:
- Peer systems - Every one in the group or team communicates like this - not just the leaders or elders
- The messages are sent and instantly received ‘in situ’ – in other words the messages come from and go to wherever the other members of the group happen to be – they are not stored for processing later
- They are predominantly ‘one to many’ broadcast messages (‘shouts’) with some ‘one to one’ messages (‘whispers’) but not much ‘one to some’ messages (‘gossips’) - See Team communication patterns: key lessons from nature for more
- They often only use one-way messages – the receiver can take action (or not) without having to reply first – this makes it incredibly fast and responsive
Have Human groups lost The Messaging Instinct?
I contend that human groups, possibly because we are so advanced at complex and long conversations have largely forgotten their Messaging Instincts.
Human electronic communications today, with the exception of young people, is based more on documents than messages.
What do I mean by document-based communications: essentially email /attachments being exchanged electronically.
Just to clarify the difference between a message and a document:
a message is a simple single topic communications signal which may or may not merit a response signal
a document is a complex multi-message communication transaction each component of which may require further complex communications
Learning from the Short Message Generation
The Messaging Instinct might have been lost to humankind forever (and never even noticed that it had been lost) had today's younger generation not stumbled into the SMS (Short Message Service) and IM (Instant Message) phenomena on their mobile phones and computers.
So one of the central foundations of bioteaming is helping human teams, social groups and business networks recover their lost Messaging Instincts.
And the technology change which now enables this: Short Messaging, Instant Messaging and presence technologies– digital pheromones for humans!
For more on bioteaming see The Bioteaming Manifesto.
Bioteams Books Reviews
Lateral leadership skills are how to get the job done when you are not the boss.Roger Fisher, the world's leading expert on win-win negotiation, partners with Alan Sharp in Lateral Leadership (1998, 2004) to identify three fundamental problems with collaboration in organisations and what you can do to fix them.