Quorum sensing

Ever wondered that some of the live wires at the office or school were not those kind when they just joined the place. It was something like they were waiting for a tipping point and their activities became live. I randomly selected a ted talk, How bacteria talk. Bonnie Bassler a biochemist, has observed that bacteria cannot turn on their behaviour until there is enough of them. But how does all the single cell animals know how many of them are around? The answer was that each type of bacteria releases a certain signature chemical molecule into their environment, based on the amount of that specific molecule a bacterium receives, they can determine the population density. This is called Quorum sensing which is also evident for insects where we think they could be intelligent but may be that they just rely on the density of their peers around to do certain tasks.

How can this apply to human behaviour? I have been lucky to move to different places and teams almost every year, which has made me observe teams get started and get going. In one of the teams I have been, we did not know that we had good number of musicians to form a band until we had some event coming in the office. The event allowed the release of signaling molecules from individuals searching for people with similar interests.

This is also true to interests in technologies and pursuing hobbies. As the workplace gets bigger it is more difficult to network and find the right group to be in unless there is enough quorum sensing. Just by someone in the team holding a regular weekly get together for a random topic can spark interests and get people to come together and switch to top gear. I observed that a group’s knowledge and skill level gets amplified if there is effective sharing, effective sharing happens only when people come together, people come together only if something is happening and something happens only if someone takes an initiative. We must make sure our workplace is conducive for quorum sensing to make the best use of everyone’s strengths and skills.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea

Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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