What can chickens teach us about collaboration?

What can chickens teach us about collaboration?

Here’s an interesting one for you: chickens might just be better collaborators than we are. It’s true! That is, if you believe the findings of a recent study referenced by Jim Tamm, a former law professor and judge who recently spoke about cultivating collaboration at TEDxSantaCruz.

The chickens in question were separated into “red zone” chickens, who actively sabotaged other chickens’ egg production, and “green zone” chickens, those that got along well with each other. After separating the two groups and studying their production for a year, the geneticist who ran the study found that the “green zone” chickens’ egg production went up 260%, while the “red zone” chickens had literally been pecking each other to death.

You might be wondering why I’m talking to you about chickens, but the fact of the matter is that this translates directly into the world of business. Organizations that are more hostile, focusing on internal competitiveness rather than fostering collaboration, produce more of this negative “red zone” behavior while “green zone” organizations that are skilled at collaboration ultimately produce more eggs! Or, whatever it is that you’re trying to produce.

In Jim’s words:

It is applicable in any setting that requires collaboration. Whether that’s a family trying to figure out where to go on vacation together, or the corporate world, where it has become blindingly obvious lately that you can’t compete externally if you can’t first collaborate internally.

Jim goes on to share how his vast experience mediating over 2,000 employment labor disputes taught him that one of the biggest barriers to collaboration within any organization or group is defensiveness. According to Jim, defensiveness is a mechanism by which we project our fears and misgivings onto others, which makes it impossible to collaborate with us effectively. We get defensive primarily to cope with three major fears: about our own significance, our competency and our likability.

It’s a fascinating take on the behavioral science around collaboration and how our unconscious reactions to fear can be affecting our productivity and communication at work.

You can watch Jim’s TEDx Talk in its entirety below:


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