Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What Monkeys Know About Membership

The video below is from a fascinating TEDTalk about animals and morality. It discusses our previous views of animal behavior seen through a lens of aggression and competition and how our understanding of animal (and also human behavior) has evolved and now points to different outcomes in terms of how animals value each other, cooperate and also evince a basic sense of fairness.

I can't help but think there are messages in here that can relate to the concept of membership, citizenship or community.  As members of an association, we sometimes get into conflict and then go through a reconciliation process. We have to cooperate on tasks and to encourage each other to stay in the game.  We also have a basic sense of fairness when it seems some members are getting advantages that we are not, and a certain sense of cucumber throwing outrage when the membership system rewards become unbalanced (if you watch to the end, you'll understand that reference - it's worth it).

At around 4:20 into the video, I saw a typical committee at work.  You will too.

The point is, we can learn wonderful lessons from our animal friends about our own behavior and this was a great way to spend 18 minutes of my day.  They are far more sophisticated than we give them credit for.  Focusing our efforts on the creation of membership communities that encourage reciprocity and are imbued with a sense of fairness will go far to solidifying the kind of productive relationships we would like to see among our colleagues and peers, members and volunteers.  Those efforts will go a lot farther than shiny brochures and catchy slogans.

Here is the link for those of you who can't see the embedded video.


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