Bacteria – Natural Mastermind Groups?!?!?

That weird-looking picture on the left is of bacteria – the organisms that play an essential role in our lives.  Bacteria help us digest food, eliminate toxins from our body, and provide us with vital nutrients.  And yet these tiny creatures, responsible for so much good stuff on the planet (and lots of bad stuff, too), have no ears, no sense of touch, and no form of intelligence.

Despite being deprived of these senses, bacteria can tell not only if their siblings are nearby, but also precisely how many of them are present.  They can coordinate their behaviours and determine if any other species are in the area.  They then form alliances to increase their chances of survival – all while being unable to hear or touch each other.

Bacteria are able to achieve this level of teamwork by something called quorum sensing.  Basically, they release a chemical that can be read only by members of the same species.  That’s it – a unique and reliable shared identity.

Remote employees are somewhat like bacteria.

They’re deprived of major senses that would otherwise keep them connected to their colleagues.  They don’t see each other, hear each other or stay in touch with each other as often as employees who share the same office.  This produces a level of distance, both physical and metaphorical, that makes it difficult to encourage teamwork and engagement.  The solution can be found in quorum sensing.

From a management perspective, quorum sensing is about releasing certain elements into a remote team that engender a sense of shared identity.

In particular:

  • The sense of vision: Generate an inspiring vision articulated well enough and frequently enough for all members of the team to remember.
  • The sense of observation: Ramp up face-to-face communication, such as webinars or video conferences, which create a more meaningful connection than teleconferences.
  • The sense of togetherness: At least once a year, but preferably once a quarter, organise an event where all remote workers can meet for a day or two in the same location.
  • The sense of informality: Open up informal lines of communication, because trust and relationships are more easily formed via casual and relaxed channels.
  • The sense of collaboration: Create opportunities for remote employees to work together on projects, especially ones that would necessitate a joint approach to problem solving.
  • The sense of intuition: It’s hard to tell if employees you rarely see are happy or sad.  So, check in with them regularly by asking questions such as ‘what are your challenges?’

As the author of the scientific study writes:  “Bacteria might be small but they communicate in more than one language, they strategise, they co-ordinate their efforts, they have thrived in places you wouldn’t even go for a dare.  It seems clear the bacteria still have a lesson or two for us big-headed folk.”

Thank you to Mark Mackenzie of The Graffiti Eaters for sending this to me. As The Exponential Growth Strategist, I use quorum as one of the foundational principles of the Exponential Mastermind Experience that we create in our Platinum Program.

3 Responses to “Bacteria – Natural Mastermind Groups?!?!?”

  • Hi Marc,

    You are not wrong about “the bad stuff” that bacteria can do. From an Australian Food Safety Specialist to The Exponential Growth Strategist, I can assure you that the wrong type of bacteria in food can cause massive carnage to all that consume them.

    While the bacteria picture looks “weird” they can make us humans very, very sick….and the problem we have is that while the bacteria look great under a microscope, they cannot be seen with the naked eye.

    In fact 5.4 million people get food poisoning every single day in Australia…from eating foods that look, smell and taste great, but if you don’t handle, transport or store the foods properly, then your kitchen could be an accident waiting to happen.

    It doesn’t just happen in restaurants and cafe’s. In fact 1/4 of the people indicated above are thought to get food poisoning from food prepared in their own homes!

    Thats why a food business must have a food safety program based on the principles of HACCP, provide their staff with regular food safety training and conduct routine food safety audits to ensure the safety of their customers, as not all bacteria is good.

    Eat well. Eat safe!

    Gavin Buckett
    Founder and Managing Director
    The Gourmet Guardian Pty Ltd

  • A Wider View on The Interdependence of Life and It’s Relevance To Business & Mastermind Groups Today:

    The history of ‘civilised’ human literature tends towards reflecting the common & collective view that we are born into: that humanity is the superior species dominating and commanding planet earth. At the other end of the scale would be simple thoughtless bacteria, which from a scientific view would relate more to the inferior beginning of life in some sort of primordial soup. This view so dominates and permeates most all that we do and reflects both in much religious and scientific literature. How convenient to our ego and significance to hear that humanity is given dominion over life, the land, the sea and the sky in the likeness of god and to confirm in school science that this is due partly to the unique combination we have of greater intelligence, cognitive awareness, reflection and opposable thumbs. Whether you care to admit it or not, this is a god like, arrogant, ignorant and hierarchical view of our position and our role in our ecosystems to dominate life, land, sea and air to do as we god like species desire, such that any impact or effect on life and the planet around us is secondary. This is the paradigm that has dominated our ‘civilized’ cultures, permeated and reflected in our design of civilisation, our education and how we run business and all that we do. It is however a false paradigm. You may care about the environment or not but the very foundations, and systems your business stem from are born of and limited by the effects of this historical view.

    The wider one looks and the further one looks back the clearer the picture of where we are at and where we are going.

    It is no mistake that every human civilization in history eventually failed. Jared Diamonds book on “How Civilizations Fail” shows how the above god like view not only permeates in our relationships with our environment but with each other. Jared shows the historical evidence of how when those leaders who reach the top of the hierarchy if not affected and accountable to the effects of their decisions, will lead eventually to collapse of the whole civilization.

    A few thousand years ago the centre of our security was in community. We live in a time where we have placed that security with money. This is however a time of international fiat currencies. History shows that every fiat currency eventually returns to it’s intrinsic value of zero. Not only is there no currency now that has existed for 1000 years, but they tend to be short lived. It was only back in the 1960’s that the British Stirling was the world reserve, which got replaced due to failure with the British pound and the US dollar become the world reserve. In this sense history is likely to repeat and soon (within a few decades). Germany, Argentina, Ethiopia and many others have had hyperinflation and replaced currencies in the last 100 years. The centre of our security in money is a false sense of security. What matters is relationships, knowledge, passion and control from individual, family, community, ecosystem to the whole world, interdependence is the living truth. No amount of manifestation can replace our interdependence with bacteria, but every part of our business, monetary and civilization can be replaced and life still go on.

    Stepping from civilization to business, how many businesses do you know that exist across civilizations from say Greek or Roman times till today? None do. Even within a civilization today most businesses (roughly 90%) fail within the first 3 years. Most family businesses and family wealth across 3 generations will fail. This failure is central to false paradigms, flawed thinking and by not accepting, and understanding and managing powerful yet simple human fallacies.

    One of my humble observations is that everything we learn and do is contextual. Lets not under rate humble observations and focus on the fantastic or we might get distracted from what matters. Apart from some DNA entrenched learning all of us in every generation are born knowing nothing. Everything we learn and do is contextual of a time, place and circumstance. Yet our adherence to our default god-like view of our enlightened interpretation is to be universal. No wonder we once were sure the earth was flat and then that the universe revolved around earth. Even as we discover that we are but a spec on a small planet in one of so many galaxies we still find it difficult to not over rate our insights. Look at all the universal laws, some of them have changed. Even our so called best and brightest created space junk which is becoming an increasing problem for satellites. Read a little of philosophy and you will often find a rare and brilliant mind that makes profound insights, holding that insight high, relating to one side of a duality as high, or one aspect such as spirituality as high, but falling prey to hierarchically looking downwardly or in a separatist view, on it’s opposites. Yet from macro science to quantum physics we see nothing existing as unique and separate, like waves and wave theory, between 2 fixated points or views is a wave of potentialities and a connection and relationship. Nothing exists without it’s opposite. Everything has a place. Change the context and your greatest strength becomes your greatest weakness. High ideals only hold in context of a place, time and circumstance, after which holding such separatist ideals high is but foolishness.

    We live in an interdependent universe. The wider you can understand the relationship the more acuity you can have to work with change in circumstance. We live in a time of an increasing rate of change so acuity is becoming more important in business. That said we can not wait to know the universe before starting. We have to keep moving and work with what we have, but be open to the idea that we will always have limited perspective and much to learn.

    A quick google search on the ‘Human Microbiome’ will show you that these ‘Good Bacteria’ cells dominate our own individual bodies, outnumbering human cells by a factor of 10. This is a good thing because the majority of them being the flora in our digestive and intestinal systems are essential to keeping us alive and for stopping disease and virus taking over our bodies. An educated medical view (as opposed to a pharmaceutically sponsored medical view) would recognise ill health in this area is almost always paralleled by poor flora and a need to restore the balance of 500 to 1000 species of ‘good bacteria’ in our gut. It is good practice that next time you take a course of antibiotics you should follow it up with a course of probiotics.
    Bacteria do not only dominate in our bodies but in almost every sphere of life, from one mile under the surface of the land to life around hot lava vents at the bottom of the ocean to being interdependent with most every living species on earth. It is a fact that brainless bacteria dominates life on earth not humanity. Comparatively humanity is so feeble to only survive a few minutes without a breath and to survive needing to obtain shelter water and a variety of foods and maintaining a narrow balance of body temperature, a temperature range that is uncommon even in our own solar system.

    Bacteria have numerous clever mechanism of chemotactic signalling, in which the individual bacteria send chemical messages to tell their peers in which directions to move. For example, when detecting a rich source of food they call their peers to join the meal by sending attractive chemotactic signals. On the other hand, bacteria that detect regions of low food or harmful chemical imbalances send out a repulsive chemical to signal the others to stay away. Here nature embraces win-win interdependencies, not seeking to eliminate and destroy but to work together. Short of little cataclysms, nature tends only to pick on and destroy the weak. Fungi are also wonderful symbiotic relationships bringing nutrients sometimes a mile away to the roots of plants in exchange for glucose brought from photosynthesis. Scientists after decades of research remain confounded by the profound collective intelligence in soil. Soil biology is the most complex science on earth. It is the stuff that keeps us fed. Yet for thousands of years we have overploughed the earth, and in the last several hundred years we have cleared the forests and let the soil erode and then in our narrow chemistry view overloaded the soils with nutrients, which in a period of a few decades destroys all the good bacteria and fungi leaving the soil lifeless meaning that nothing will grow without the huge expense of more processed fertilizers, which turns out to be less cost effective than healthy soil.

    There are endless examples of the interdependence of life and of us with each other. The ideal of ‘self sufficiency’ is one that is easy to be fond of. What a great feeling to stand on ones own feet, master of ones own life. Yet should you attempt self sufficiency and with your own patch of land commence with nothing but your will power, you will soon bend the rules to buy some tools made of mined and processed iron and steel, perhaps some hickory wood fashioned into a handle. Next if you are educated so, you will recognise the advantage to build a relationship with the land, the soil, the bacteria and fungi in the soil that will be the gold that feeds the nutrients to the plants that grow the food you eat and you will find it so much easier to find some local specialists in your local community to help you build your habitat. The end result will be that ‘self sufficiency’ is a misnomer and that even if you become independent of civilization it will be a harsh life. You will discover it far better to put up with and design to live with the foolishness of the people in your community and to make friends of them and help each other and least ye die of loneliness as a social being that you are.

    There are those who see all that is material as flawed, mortal and short lived and even some go so far to say that it is not real. Many seek high ideals of consciousness and spirituality to go beyond. This is fine except that part of it which is separatist. Does your experience reflect a reality of which your spirituality is strengthened by poor health. If you dive deep beneath the surface of the water or are tumbled by a wave, is it first your love, your soul or your spirit you must serve or is it to get back to the surface to breathe. If you are lost in the bush and near starving or have run out of energy on a long run as you find your way is it first your emotional needs you seek or survival needs of food and water. Let go of a hierarchical view that sees higher as better and separate. Your survival needs are important, so are your emotional needs. If you fail to design to meet these, you will fail your dreams of meeting your fulfilment needs and security. Our physical bodies may have a history of a short shelf life, but we are learning to extend it. Better to embrace the truth of the wonderful potential and longevity of living ecosystems than to be absorbed with a separatist view of the aberration of becoming an immortal spirit.
    “Man, being the servant and interpreter of Nature, can do and understand so much and so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature. Beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything,” Francis Bacon
    Of all our mistakes, endeavours, weaknesses and learning, does not history scream out to encourage you to embrace that in this information age and time of massive technological development acceleration, to please have the wisdom to recognise that all of our current world views, learning’s and understandings are contextual and limited and as the understanding of this universe unfolds, be willing to reconsider and readjust your methods as circumstances change and knowledge unfolds. Embrace the great potential in accepting and leveraging interdependence and stop looking down on things as this only exposes your folly and limits the potential in your relationships.

    Best wishes in your dreams, desires and business endeavours. Financial independence is a nice ideal. Understanding financial interdependence is relevant in your business niche. Let them serve win-win interdependencies that embrace the serving of life’s interdependencies, this will lead to business success in any civilization and in circumstances of change. Let go of the weak and of that which no longer works. Be wary of high ideals that conceal separatism. The whole idea of economic theory is just an ideal, now a man made system overlaying a very real world ecosystem. Human ideals can come and go, morph and change, but the true common ground is an ecosystem of interdependent living systems. So within business, sharemarkets and monetary systems do not loose sight of the living systems as that is the ground for which you create true value of worthy exchange that will have you journey onwards.

    Whilst seeking successful interdependence in business, having a master mind group and a mentor is a great idea. That said value your own independent thought. Be wary of group think and the pressures of conformity. It is great to see alignment of vision and streamlining of systems but it is foolish when conformity of ideals become desparate with circumstance. With time by valuing your own insights the abilities of your own uniqueness and thinking will bring much value to you and others in the examples you make and the deeds you do. You will need to encourage others to get with the program and conform but you will get the best from them if you also encourage others to speak their mind, accept their individuality and be willing to agree to disagree but to still respect them for continuing to make their own insights and to share them.

    Live strong, love life, create value, connect and exchange

  • The Question of How To Balance The Building Of A Strong Immune System With Safe & Clean Practices?

    Maintaining a good homestasis of intestinal flora will not necessarily kill bad bacteria but will make it highly competitive for much of the bad bacteria to get established in your gut. In many cases where several people eat the same food, only some of them get food poisoning. The difference being the state of their existing intestinal flora. Similarly of many people in contact with each other daily get flu’s and colds many times a year, whilst a few of them go for years without getting sick at all. The difference being diet and intestinal flora. Having worked at Nestle, Roche, Beiersdorf, George Weston Foods, Goodman Fielder, Griffins, Coca Cola, and Pepsico I am aware of the importance of the important work regards food safety, HACCP and GMP relating to bad bacteria. We also often take for granted and forget that an even higher risk to our health in poorer nations where disease spreads even more rapidly than for unsafe food preparation is where there are open sewers or no sewers.

    The divergent truth however is also interesting, which is that by having too much microbal killing substances (e.g. anti-microbal detergents) we can find that we reduce the amount of good bacteria in our subcutaneous skin and in our digestive systems and that by having too many antibiotics we weaken our intestinal flora and immune systems. The atrocious practice of feeding antibiotics as a form of prevention to farm animals leads to poorer quality meat, and antibiotic resistant diseases amongst other things.

    There is a generalised argument that I am not sure if there is scientific evidence for suggesting that young children allowed to get muddy and grubby tend to form stronger immune systems. It is true that mothers having antibiotics in their 3rd trimester tend to have babies with poorer intestinal flora as it is from the birthing and breastmilk that the baby begins for the first time to receive their good bacteria. My mum was a surgical nurse, where cleanliness is critical and so I find this idea curious.

    One study was made where it was found that reused soap will hold more bacteria than using none. THus the use of liquid soaps at medical practices and for food preparation.

    I have had the unusual and unpleasant experience of having to meet with a person over a period of years who rarely cleaned his kitchen or house, barely washing a dish just prior to use (ie sitting for a week or more uncleaned). Initially he got sick a lot but it was baffling to find that over a period of 5 years he formed such a strong immune system and stopped getting sick.

    I can only say that I suspect there is more to be learnt about how to strike the balance between strong immune systems, healthy intestinal and digestive flora and safe practices for food and black waste. I for one will be interested to know how to strike that balance

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