The Super Chicken Study Part 2: What we’ve been taught about survival of the fittest is wrong


The Super Chicken Study Part 1: Why Collaboration is the New Competition

collaboration is the new competition

What we’ve been taught about survival of the fittest is wrong

Previously we demonstrated through the Super Chicken Study, the importance of cooperation in productivity. In fact, the chickens’ very survival depended on their collective ability to cooperate with one another. Today, we will look at 8 specific ways we can build collaboration into the small groups that comprise our large-scale societies.

Large-scale society as multi-cellular organism

Our upcoming McPhee lecturer, David Sloan Wilson, makes the explicit point that without smaller groups, cooperating among themselves and cooperating with other groups, our society at large would not exist. In his latest book, This View of Life, Wilson writes, “Individuals cannot be understood except in the context of small groups, and large-scale societies need to be seen as a kind of multi-cellular organism comprised of small groups.”

Only the cooperative survive

When we put forth the idea that, “only the strong survive.” We are commonly reinforcing the belief that the strong individual survives because they take from the weaker individual. As we saw demonstrated clearly in the Super Chicken Study (and my own backyard!), when selfish behavior becomes the norm, no one in the group thrives and very few actually survive. Remember that of the 9 Super Chickens, only 3 had survived and those remaining were hen-pecked of almost all of their feathers.

Keeping this in mind, it would be more accurate to state that only the strongest groups survive and group strength is defined by cooperation, both within groups and between groups.

“Individuals cannot be understood except in the context of small groups”
– David Sloan Wilson

How to create strong and cooperative groups

Based on the Nobel Prize winning research of his colleague Elinor Ostrom, David Sloan Wilson has refined the 8 Core Design Principles (CDPs) that will benefit any small group from the local PTA to the executive suite of a large company.

Wilson’s 8 Core Design Principles for group cooperation:

  1. Strong group identity and understanding of purpose: Group must agree on who they are and on what work they are collaborating.
  2. Fair distribution of costs and benefits: Team members must be fairly rewarded based on their contributions.
  3. Fair & inclusive decision making: Everyone participates in decision-making in a way recognized by all to be fair.
  4. Monitoring agreed upon behaviors: Monitoring and detecting deviations from team’s accepted norms.
  5. Graduated sanctions for misbehavior: Graduating from peer pressure to more serious consequences.
  6. Fast & fair conflict resolution: Teams must have solutions for quick resolutions that seem fair to all.
  7. Authority to self-govern: The freedom to conduct affairs, generally free of externally-imposed rules.
  8. Appropriate relations with other groups: Cooperation with other groups must mirror within-group cooperation.

These are brief descriptions of Wilson’s 8 Core Design Principles. In our next segment we will look at some practical ways of incorporating them into the groups that serve as the building blocks of our society. In our upcoming McPhee Lecture and Workshop series Wilson will give participants the tools to implement and teach these principles in ways that can steer human evolution in a positive direction.

Putting the 8 principles of cooperation to work