June 30, 2010 — Vol. 3, Issue 6
The Perfect Swarm
Len Fisher explains how swarm intelligence found in the animal kingdom applies to human leadership, networking, and decision making in his new book The Perfect Swarm
"Simplicity is OK, but complexity rules. OK?" writes Dr. Len Fisher in his new book, The Perfect Swarm
. In this quick read, Fisher lays out the core rules to tackling complex situations using the rules of swarm intelligence.
Swarm intelligence—when a group uses intelligence to solve a problem collectively, in a way that individuals within the group cannot—is creeping into company architectures, computer programming, and complex problem solving. We see swarm behavior in ant colonies, swarms of bees, and schools of fish. Fisher walks through nature's examples and explains how these groups demonstrate the use of swarm intelligence to find the shortest path, locate food, and move through water using apparently telepathic means.
These remarkable groups in nature use simple rules to produce complex results, Fisher explains. However, in swarm behavior, leaders as we traditionally think of them are not necessary. Leadership comes from the inside, not the front of the pack, explains Fisher. "We can lead a group simply by having a goal, so long as the others in the group do not have different goals," he writes.
Fisher delves into the many aspects of using groups and leveraging networks for decision-making. These include knowing when a majority vote produces a better outcome than an average, achieving a consensus, avoiding "groupthink," and using technology to spread a message and start a movement. "Instead of trying to start a forest fire from a single spark, set a light to a modest-sized area of forest so that at least the ring of forest around it burns before the fire dies away," he writes.
At its core, swarm intelligence in an organization means making shareholders feel like stakeholders. This means making employees, customers, and supporters feel like they are an integral part of the success of that organization. Simple rules produce the complexity of our everyday life. Fisher offers simple rules to free his readers from such complexity, but offers a caution to "use the rules wisely."
Learn more about The Perfect Swarm