Can we fly in formation?
Wow. We first wrote the following over three years ago. Sadly, it doesn't seem that the world was paying attention. Time to shift our attention? What do you think?
From a systems engineering/life cycle perspective, it is evident that we are in the midst of an ongoing, epic struggle between two different belief systems; two diametrically opposed interpretations of the Golden Rule. On the one hand lies the centralized, incumbent power broker interpretation of “He who owns the gold makes the rules.” On the other hand exists the more egalitarian interpretation whereby “One treats others as they would have others treat themselves.”
In the end, it turns out that nature values cooperation as least as much as it values competition. Both natural and human history have consistently demonstrated that there is value to be gained when individuals forego some individual freedom in favor of tuning into and synchronizing their behavior in concert with their fellow community members.
Geese provide a perfect example. It is estimated that when geese fly as a flock in a V formation and synchronize the flapping of their wings, they conserve 70% of the energy they would otherwise expend migrating solo. Examples of how nature rewards cooperation abound - from bees to ants to dogs to humans. Individuals that work together as a team with a shared vision enjoy distinct advantages over those that go it alone. Throughout history humankind has been able to utilize our unique cognitive abilities to cultivate communities with unprecedented levels of specialization, coordination and integration.
There is a delicate balancing act ongoing between leadership and liberty when looked at from a systems engineering/life cycle perspective. You wouldn’t want to be the lone goose that had to consume 70% more calories in order to enjoy your private winter vacation. But on the other hand, we don’t want individual rights to be ignored to the point where motivation and the willingness to cooperate are undermined. Members of a community need to feel as though they are heard and valued for making their unique contribution to the collective needs of the team in order to achieve optimal growth.
Cutting to the bottom line, leadership is supposed to provide a valued service to their community members; a service that synchronizes individual behaviors in ways that promote the sustainable health and wellbeing of the community. From a systems engineering perspective, the essential function of leadership –be it government or industry, public or private - is to provide a valued service to their community members; the service of synchronizing behavior to promote healthy growth.