chapter  10
23 Pages

Canaries, starlings and headless chickens

This chapter explains about moving from the foundation narrative of industrialisation, which created an atomised individual in order to play the limited roles of worker and consumer, towards the development of new collective narratives that re-energise leader's collaborative nature and offer a broader vision. The use of caged canaries to detect noxious gases in coalmines, as an early-warning system for miners, was standard practice from 1911 up to as recently as 1987. It was discovered that these small yellow birds are especially sensitive to the presence of even tiny amounts of carbon monoxide – colourless, odourless and tasteless – or other noxious gases in the air. Research tells that starlings in large flocks adjust their flight in relation only to their seven nearest flockmates. They do not have leaders. The mechanics of starling murmuration are thought provoking not because coaches can directly extrapolate to human behaviour but because they relate to the management of uncertainty.