Some chickens produce more eggs than others.

Super chickens produce the most eggs.

In one study, super chickens distinguished themselves by pecking the others to death. It seems the individually successful chickens achieved their success by suppressing the productivity of the rest. 

According to Margaret Heffernan, who describes this for Ted Radio Hour, people who hear about this tell her they recognize the super chickens. “That super flock,” they say, “that’s my company.” Or maybe it’s their life. 

We’ve been told that to get ahead, we have to compete. And getting the right school, getting the right job, or getting to the top means stepping on others.

For the past 50 years, many organizations and societies have followed the super chicken model. Success involves picking superstars. But the result is aggression, dysfunction, and waste, Heffernan says. 

But there’s another model in which the successful groups are those that display high degrees of social sensitivity to others. I guess you could say they have high empathy quotients. No one voice dominates. In these groups, people are highly attuned to each other. The focus is on the mortar, the bonds and trust. Candor is safe. And conflict is frequent. Ideas can flow and grow. 

Whether you’re an entrepreneur who offers clients a special service or someone in a writing group, consider how the best collaborators bring out the best in others. “We could give each other so much more if we stopped being super chickens,” Heffernan says. And this is possible if rivalry, or this professional pecking order, is replaced with social capital.