Birds Do It

That’s right, according to the New York Times Science section, when sparrows have to figure out novel ways to reach their food, bigger groups do it eleven times faster than smaller ones. And they open four times as many containers per capita.

The researchers, reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, say that larger groups were more successful because they were more diverse—a six-sparrow group was more likely to contain some innovators.

If diversity works so well in groups with brains a bit smaller than ours, it should remind you to use the same principles whenever you need a new approach to a problem. Bring in some brains with different experiences than yours, people who are open to trying to do things in ways you might not imagine.

Come to think of it, bees seem to prosper by raising group intelligence when they add members too. Maybe birds and bees have more to teach us than that lesson your parents attempted in your youth. 


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About Lynda Lawrence

Lynda Lawrence is an innovation consultant with Ideaworks Consulting. She teaches Strategic Innovation and Design Management at the Merage School at UCI, and is an advisor to the Beall Center.