Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘formal hierarchy

The ya-ya sisterhood group context for spreading epidemics, (December 6, 2007)

This article is developing on the context of group influence for reaching a “tipping point” in epidemics.  Have you heard of a concept called “transactive memory“?

Have you noticed that in your family specific members are selected as the experts in a few jobs or skills and then you rely completely on them whenever you need to perform a task that you don’t care about the particular knowledge involved in achieving it?

For example, a member is the software expert, another the hardware expert, your mother as the child caring expert, another the graphics expert for designing cards for invitations, ceremonies or birthdays?  This is a strategic method that mammals in general transfer the load on their memory and distribute it to the member of the group.

Have you ever experienced the loss of a member of the group for some reason and you say “I miss him so” and felt totally disoriented because you realized that some parts of your cognitive capabilities have been diminished or your efficiency in getting a job done has been drastically reduced, simply because the missing person is not contributing his share in the collective memory?

Among the different kinds of intelligence and memories in mankind, the social memory for relationships among the members of the group is the most developed.  Actually, we are not adapted to notice physical situational clues in surroundings during danger but we can feel and comprehend that something is not right in our immediate social environment; the evolution of our social intelligence and memory for relations among the closed group is much better developed than the other sorts of memories and intelligence.

For example, the short-term memory in chimpanzees is far better than in humans and our capacity channels for sensory information is quite limited; the average person is at most able to discriminate among seven classes of tonality, tastes, colors, touch and so on.

Mankind is at a loss to attending to more than two tasks simultaneously, especially if the tasks require inputs from the same sensory channel.

During our evolution, the modern man realized that governing groups of over 150 members is overwhelming and beyond his cognitive capabilities to keeping track of the various relations among the members. Thus, it requires special social and political structure.

For a group to be functional and effective and manage in self-autonomy, it has to be composed of less than 150 members.

The hunter gatherers split their tribes whenever it grew over 150 members.  The armies realized that the functional unit or company should be in the range of 150 soldiers.

Successful companies split their business into self-autonomous units of less than 150 employees where production, manufacturing, marketing and research and development departments work in the same building and knows one another and solve problem in face to face meetings.

These business units do not need any kind of formal hierarchy and the employees behave as associates and perform under peer pressure. Everyone is familiar with the expertise and skills of everyone else and they know where to seek the required information and clues and advice.

The mammals’ and human have large neocortex with respect to the total brain for social memory; the larger the ratio, the bigger the average size of the group they live with. The capacity of the neocortex must be huge in order to process the social and intellectual burden of relations among every pair in a group of 150 members.

Suppose that you have a tight group of 5 friends and you have to keep track of ten separate relationships by investing time and effort and attention, almost everyday, to hold this circle of friends well-managed.  Now, if this circle is of 20 members then you have to understand 190 “two-way relations”.  I may argue that we must include three-way relations because the dynamics of “3-way relationship” is drastically different from two-way.  Add the three-way to the two-way relations and the number is tremendous.

Sympathy groups are composed of between 10 to 15 individuals.

Personally, a circle of five members is already too complicated for me; obviously, my social neocortex must be atrophied and I have to submit to my lot.

Rebecca Wells sensed that her book “Devine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood” is on the brink of an epidemic in sales when her readings in Northern California was attended by closed-knit groups, instead of individuals.

Northern California and the San Francisco Bay are famous for the multitude of small reading groups and when these groups started to flock at Well’s reading and signature of her book then she realized that the word of mouth of these groups will communicate the message extensively and efficiently because they are the best connectors and salespeople.

Note: Topic extracted from the “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell




March 2023

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