Gun-Senryaku or The Flock of Birds’ Behavior

in #philosophy2 years ago (edited)

As I recently wrote in a Musing Q&A thread I grew up playing the “beautiful game” but while football is my first love, my true sports love is another team sport.


The reason why I love volleyball is as simple as it is beautiful: you are only as strong as the weakest link. In volleyball the weakest link at the time is dependent on the compulsory rotation of players positions and often we will see that the attacking stars are the weakest link because their turn is a defensive position. They then are restricted to stay behind the 3m line and the best opponent attackers will target them. The beauty at those times is that two defensive players will drop back, and cover the area around the offensive player. That makes the offensive player available for the build up because there is less often need to recover from weak defensive play.

Positions and tasks are taken and executed fluidly based on the team’s weakness.

In football, the weak link is often much less critical and others can still come in, although the game has sped up in recent years and technically players are approaching “Total football” levels again. It is only very rarely that an attacking star is absolved from any defensive tasks, like Maurizio Sarri seems to have solved that issue for Eden Hazard. Generally, everyone “presses” and the first defender is the attacker nowadays.



Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash

Some years ago, after the publication of his second biography “Leading” a story by legendary Manchester United F.C. manager Sir Alex Ferguson went viral when the BBC integrated it in a documentary about the serial trophy winner.

“There were some stories about teamwork that I’m sure Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes feel they heard dozens of times, like my tale about large flocks of Canada geese, which can migrate thousands of miles because of the way they work as a team. The birds take turns breaking the air at the front of the flock and, at the back, if one gets injured, a couple drop away from the flock to look after it. I was not asking them to fly for thousands of miles, I was only asking them to play 38 games of football.”
Excerpt From “Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United” by Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz

In Japanese there is a specific term for this behavior by birds: gun-senryaku

The term is also regularly referred to by SoftBank’s founder, and blitz VC disruptor, Masayoshi Son, or “Masa” as he is more commonly referred to in startup and VC circles.

A Team is More Than the Sum of Its Parts

The key importance of understanding and adopting the behavior of the geese, or flocks of birds, is that a well managed team working for each other becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Everybody has a talent and making sure that they get the opportunity to use it and show, not only empowers them but makes the team stronger. By taking them along, rather than dropping them, everyone can eke more out of everyone’s talents.

When we put this in the context of @taskmaster4450’s excellent HF20 Fiasco was the Best Thing to Happen post we can now start working at the often heard DPOS criticism “my vote is worth nothing, my stake is too small”.

A misbelief at best.


Photo by Shweta Shankar on Unsplash

An inaction at worst.

Your small stake is not a weak link, it is a link. Important is not to think about one’s own stake but to think how that stake fits in the larger picture... how you are part of the flock.

Your vote is not just your vote, your vote is one of several in the flock. And we need each other to perform at the best of our ability when our time comes. Do not tell to yourself you should not bother voting, remind yourself we all share the needed roles fluidly.

Your small vote is one of many and all are needed. Otherwise the flock breaks because the rotation is disrupted.


A good whale once said, "if only the minnows understood the power they have over this platform if they chose to organise themselves" in the hopes that people would stop looking at themselves as individuals here and instead as a team, a community. While individuals are chasing the ball, the team is playing the entire field.

Ha I loved volleyball as well.

I had the pleasure of working on some phenomenal teams in different situations and it really is true that a great team is more than the sum of its parts. I think some of it is the teammates setting other teammates in a position to shine. Its like being able to build off of their parts.

When I used to manage I didn’t ask people “where do you see yourself in five years”. That’s HR wank.

I asked them “if you could now chose your position (or project) in two years... what would it be”. After that, if I thought that fitted in, or could improve our roadmap... the task was mine to create that role and give the team member the opportunity to achieve what they hoped to achieve. If I couldn’t imagine making that happen... I couldn’t deliver them an ideal environment to thrive in.

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