Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Poultry, Tchaikovsky and Teamwork

This is one of my favorite ballet pieces. Since I was a child, this melody has mesmerized me. The little swans are so graceful, so weightless, like four snowflakes pirouetting in perfect unison over the surface of the lake.

When teams are united, when there is a shared understanding of the objectives and everybody is absolutely sure of what needs to happen, you can observe similar seamless execution of tasks. What is, let's imagine, one of the swans decides that she (or he, if it is a male swan) is smarter than the other swans and performs altogether different kicks and moves than the rest of the flock. Not only will she/he introduce dissonance into the overall piece, but also will endanger her/his flockmates (who can get knocked over/drowned/shot... choose your favorite corporate analogy).

Another bird that can teach us a think or two about teamwork is not as gracious as a swan, but equally adorable. Emperor Penguins protect each other from cold during long (and definitely sub zero) Antarctic winters by organizing themselves into what is called a "turtle formation" when the birds on the outside of the formation move slowly along the edges and slowly edge towards the center of the group. This ensures optimal warmth conservation and equal distribution of energy in the group. What if one smart penguin chooses to stay in the center all the time? After all, there are dozens of others, who would notice? While such behavior is often observed among human species, out there in the nature it can endanger the whole colony. Ag, animals are so much smarter than people (more on the topic of human interactions and biology see my earlier post: http://hrboutique.blogspot.com/2010/05/avatar-vs-schwarzenegger.html).

Finally, coming back to swans, one learning I personally took away from watching those magnificent creatures: 
you can kick and paddle like held beneath the surface, fighting whatever battles might come your way, but to your team you must always come across as if your are in full control of the situation. 
Panic begets chaos and destruction while confidence helps those around you get mobilized and focused on the task. So next time you feel like you are losing it, go watch Swan Lake.

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