Adaption & Group Dynamics

Just a few notes from a session last week about how group dynamics affect adaptive systems (in other words, how a group can stay antifragile).

So far, we only looked at antifragile bodies and antifragile brains / behaviour. What about a group? You can only look at a group or system is behaving or adapting at a low resolution (e.g. watching a swarm of bees or seeing what a football team is doing) but to understand it, we need to zoom into a higher resolution to see what’s happening at an individual level. Only at the point can behaviour be understood – i.e. the why –  why are people are doing things which are adapted to maladapted.

What about adaption to a new stressor? How does a group react to that and how can a group adapt.

We  looked at the adoption curve:

and how this curve is also related to risk. 

That is, the innovators are more ready to take a risk. This goes back to the story about ancient peoples trying berries for the first time (which in primitive times may or may not have been poisonous). As a species we need both innovators to try out new berries, early adopters who will try after others have tried them (and haven’t shown signs of sickness), and the early majority who will try the berries once most people are eating. And then of course laggards who will quite happily never change (just in case the side effects are only visible much much later).

So any change (designing to antifragility) needs to start with the innovators. The critical mass is simply not there for the whole group to change at once.

But even then, how do you create lasting change / adaption? You need skin in the game and the critical mass for a change to become plastic (otherwise its just elastic) – which in turn can only be achieved by starting with the innovators.