Swarm Mentality and changing your Culture

Hive Minds

 Len Fisher wrote The Perfect Swarm: the Science of Complexity in Everyday Life (Basic Books 2009) about how intricate patterns grow out of simple rules. We can learn from other beings: ants or fish, and how they use swarm intelligence to behave in a way that their individual actions become “intelligent”. The fastest route to the honey quickly becomes the dominant one. UPS used this idea when they asked drivers to learn from each other and they discovered that the fastest route included the most right turns and applying this idea saved UPS 3 million gallons of fuel in 2006. The TCAB projects (Transforming Care at the Bedside) allow for one point of care discovery to quickly disseminate into practice at other facilities. The RROHC program allows simple rules to be used and adapted at many healthcare organizations. We swarm and learn from each other’s successes. I often observe the graceful, beautiful “dance” of teams in which interdisciplinary team members work in a coordinated and seamless manner with patients and families. It looks simple….but took months of developing shared mental models, clear roles and “rules of the road” regarding teamwork, and requires ongoing reciprocal feedback. Time is saved because the positive patterns or swarms have been developed and are nourished. For all RROHC leaders attempting to transform culture, the Perfect Swarm would encourage us to be sure that the simple rules are clear for all members of the team. Then leaders are free to coach each individual to discover what best patterns have emerged from experiential application of the RROHC principles and practices. Skillful coaching allows the individual to recognize his own strengths and challenges, to identify barriers, successes, and to build on what s/he has identified, always making the choice to care and engage in the transformation at hand. Measurement of individual skill growth will soon build, as staff behave in the same manner, and their collective actions together become a new culture.

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