Of Ants and Humans

Carl Zimmer reported in the New York Times over the weekend that scientists have a better idea as to why ants and other swarming animals can work so efficiently. Turns out, according to Iain Couzin, a mathematical biologist at Princeton and Oxford, that there are a series of trails ants leave and rules they follow which keep them from moving in a chaotic manner. Zimmer summarized the findings by stating that:

"[These] rules allow thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism."

Couzin and his colleagues tested their theories of chemical trails and behavioral "norms" using mathematical and computer models. They discovered that among these , and other swarms (birds, fish, locusts), each individual has to regularly choose between its desire to move in a particular direction or to follow the group path. A small number of leaders can turn the swarm by changing the input and that entices the rest of the group to "spontaneously come to a consensus and move in the direction chosen by the majority."

Brainless animals.

If only it weren't being found to occur in our species as well. Couzin has found in recent experiments that humans make eerily similar unconscious swarming decisions -- influenced by a small group of leaders, we tend to follow a path because of popularity.

Is that why The Blair Witch Project was successful? Does that explain The Tipping Point with empirical proof?

Seems to me to have a great deal of implication on behavior when it comes to marketing. That's also why I subscribe to the opinion that we should be helping our clients to be noticed for the right reasons with a small, influential audience. I think it was Seth Godin who said we should be creating marketing that is remark-able.

Getting noticed for energy and excitement will capture the attention of the leaders and the swarm will soon follow.

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