The Strength and Momentum of Social Capital: Where to Focus Your Attention As a Career-Minded Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired. Plus, Chickens.

People holding hands in a circle

I just listened to Margaret Hefferman‚Äôs TED Talk: “Why It’s Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work” and I am sincerely inspired and enlightened. It‚Äôs a must-watch.

Margaret shares research conducted on (none other than) groups of chickens measured for productivity. The researcher gathered the most productive chickens from each group (meaning, the chickens who laid the most eggs) and created a new group with these ‚Äúsuper chickens‚ÄĚ. Six generations of chickens later, the researchers examined the ‚Äúsuper chickens‚ÄĚ and found that all but two were dead; they pecked each other to death. In contrast, the ‚Äútypical chickens‚ÄĚ enjoyed the company of one another and continued to produce eggs.

Margaret, of course, presented her conclusions: the goal of many workplaces is to congregate ‚Äúsuper people‚ÄĚ who are geniuses. Management then generally holds competitions in attempt to increase productivity. But what happens over time? You guessed it, competition and ‚Äúpecking each other to death‚ÄĚ.

Alternatively, Margaret researched companies that hire employees who are both good at what they do (not necessarily geniuses) and have concern for the welfare of others. In these workplaces, management fostered group success instead of singling out the ‚Äúsuper chickens‚ÄĚ. But what happened over time? The social capital, or benefits from working together, fostered more production over time.

Here’s what I take from this research:

  • I want to work for a company that values social capital over individual competition.
  • I want to appreciate and acknowledge everybody on my employment team instead of focusing on merely my own success.
  • I want to participate in conversations, group coffee or lunch breaks, and accept invitations to work-related social events with my employment team. I know that camaraderie is beneficial for the group.
  • I want to foster and promote group success and social opportunities to any employment teams I lead.

I am here to remind us to focus on our employment teams. Build trust, strengthen ties, give praise, and focus on group accomplishment. Positive interconnectedness is the tie that improves and motivates our group productivity.