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The Smart Swarm: How Understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Things Done Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 5, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
-Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics
"With an eye for detail and an easy style, Peter Miller explains why swarm intelligence has scientists buzzing."
-Steven Strogatz, author of Sync, and Professor of Mathematics, Cornell University
"Most people can't fathom that ants, bees, and other social insects have found solutions to some of modern society's most vexing problems. In The Smart Swarm, Peter Miller offers a fascinating and articulate tour of what these creatures can do, how they do it, and the lessons for humans. This book is a gem, with a message that is as extraordinarily counter intuitive as it is valuable."
-Michael J. Mauboussin, Chief Investment Strategist at Legg Mason Capital Management and author of Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition
"[Peter Miller] has proven that there is intelligent life on earth, but it is not necessarily us. What a delightful, eye-opening book."
-Martin Cruz Smith, author of Gorky Park and Stalin's Ghost
Top Customer Reviews
The book explains how things like ant colonies interact (more interesting than you would think). First thing in the morning the scout ants take off. When they return, the gatherer ants leave but only if there is the right number of scouts returning - not enough or too many at once - danger. And if they find food, they carry it back to the nest and release a scent that other ants follow to find the food. Fascinating.
Ant colonies accomplish great things (especially termites that build termite hills to vent the carbon dioxide from the colony and provide fresh air from the wind).
Although colonies accomplish great things, the individual ants are not too bright.
Case after case in the book (like why birds that flock don't bump into each other) point out the intelligence of the group even if the individuals only focus on the few individuals around them. They are leaderless groups. Even the bee hive does not have a leader. The queen lays eggs but does not decide where they live or where the food is. Specialists each do their job.
So how does this relate to business? Studies have shown that the collective group is more intelligent than the individual.
So what does this say about the CEO or leader? As I always knew - often a leader can hinder decision making. It is incumbent on the leader (whether by formal position or just by reputation/expertise) to make others feel worthy of speaking up. And in many senses, minimizing themselves so the group can make the best decision.
Awesome book - captivating read.
Peter Miller calls this intelligent group behavior - the smart swarm. He then explains how the smart swarm works - using biology to unlock the secrets of collective behavior. The dangers of group behavior are also brought out through the examples of locusts - which is useful to understand how human groups also sometimes turn violent.
What are the principles of smart swarms?
The first principle of a smart swarm is self organization. Through the basic mechanisms of decentralized control, distributed problem solving and multiple interactions, members of a group without being told can transform simple rules of thumb into meaningful patterns of collective behavior. This is explained through the functioning of ant colonies - that is "Though Ant's aren't smart, why Ant colonies are?"
The second principle of a smart swarm is 'diversity of knowledge' - which is basically achieved through a broad sampling of the swarm's options, followed by a friendly competition of ideas. Then using an effective mechanism to narrow down the choices, swarms can achieve 'wisdom of crowds'. The honeybees example of choosing a new nest illustrates this very clearly - and Peter shows how communities and businesses can build trust and make better decisions by adapting this,
The third principle is indirect collaboration.Read more ›
The Smart Swarm: How Understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Things Done by Peter Miller is an important contribution for those who are serious about mastering the unfamiliar challenges of accelerating change and escalating complexity. Miller cogently describes how the power of collective intelligence, as practiced by ants and birds and bees, may very well hold the secret for how we navigate the new rules of our new world.
The need for thinking differently, according to Miller, stems from the fact that the human brain isn't designed to tackle problems collectively. Thus, there are numerous mental traps that leaders fall into as they attempt to manage everyday challenges. For example, Miller describes the trap of "anchoring," where we give in to the tendency to overvalue the first thing we hear. The trap of the "status quo," which permeates hierarchical organizations, keeps us from bringing forward innovative ideas for fear of rocking the boat.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book surprised me and not many books do. I was surprised at the little gems of wisdom and insight I received from it. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Chris Smith
Fascinating book. Great insights into how to organize people to get the job done.Published 14 months ago by phesselmann
Cool concept. Good to know that complex and complicated are not the same thing.Published 15 months ago by J C Markham
I always worried that without great leaders our organizations and churches might falter. This shows that groups who lack a type A, chaismatic leader can still be very strategic... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Dennis Nordine
Well worth reading even if you are already familiar with the ideas. This book gave me several ways to reconsider the structure of work relationships and some nice analogies to... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Amazon Customer
I really enjoyed it and gained some interesting insights and a new view to how crowds work in ways I never thought of!Published on May 29, 2014 by Amazon Customer
Fun read and welcome diversion of science into every day life. The author die a very good job of keeping the material approachable, while maintaining high scholastic standards.Published on May 23, 2014 by Kindle Customer
Smart Swarm's key argument may sound a little strange - attempting to siphon learning from the group behavior of swarm animals could be considered pushing a naturalistic fallacy... Read morePublished on March 28, 2014 by T. Edmund