In the early 90s, Craig Reynolds, an expert in computer animation of complex behaviors, tried to understand and replicate how flocks of birds move, seemingly erratically, across the sky. He discovered that he could emulate the behavior by allowing each bird to follow three simple rules:
1. Avoid collisions with nearby flockmates.
2. Match their speed and heading.
3. Stay close.
resulting flocks fooled even ornithologists. Ken
Thompson has taken this idea an intersected it with the collaboration tactics
of virtual teams. He looks at organizational dynamics in nature – how ants,
termites, swans, wolves, sticklebacks etc organize and sees connections to how
virtual teams can organize more efficiently. The basic principle is to use few
and simple rules – these rules then form the basis for truly responsive,
adaptive behaviors. In one article of his he lays out three basic rules for
action in a virtual team. Here is an excerpt:
Virtually Networked Teams can benefit hugely from an approach I have called "bioteaming" where they model their operation on natures most successful teams. You can immediately start to create a basic bioteam technology environment for your virtual teams by using the three action rules
Rule 1 - Send out timely information
- Communicate Information not Orders
- Use 1-way messages
- Develop member autonomy and self-management
Rule 2 - Everyone must broadcast
- Enable "every member broadcasting" to and from any device
- Define Teams "Vital Signs"
- Establish Team Etiquette and "Bio Behaviors"
Rule 3 - Act don't Ask (Permission Granted)
- Permit but log and track actions
- Challenge "Permission Structures"
- Regular team review sessions
His site is a treasure trove of interesting information around virtual team behavior. This is still early stage stuff but that makes it even more exciting.