What's a super chicken?

The other day I tuned into a segment called The Meaning Of Work,  on NPR’s TED Radio Hour. The topics ranged from Adam Smith to the misery of mountain climbing, and a fascinating story of a 1960’s software writing company for women (spoiler alert - they telecommuted too!).

Ultimately, this lead me to a TED talk by Margaret Heffernan - Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work. After pressing “play” it seemed like a good opportunity to address the then cluttered desk that had plagued my workspace. However, her talk of “super chickens” soon drew me in, and I could do nothing but listen to what she had to say (not because I’m a horrible multitasker, by the way).

She placed two ideas in juxtaposition. One being the “culture of helpfulness,” a work philosophy that says you “don’t have to know everything, you just have to work among people who are good at getting and giving help.” The other, being the “super chicken” mentality, where competition and individual accomplishment are primary motivators.

She shared the story of an evolutionary biologist who measured the productivity of two groups of chickens by tracking the number of eggs they produced. He observed one group of average chickens that developed naturally and another group of hand-picked individually most productive chickens which were selected for breeding - thus, “super chickens.” Interestingly, after six generations of observation, the group of average chickens far outperformed the group of super chickens.

So why am I reflecting on super chickens? This story resonates not just with our work within The Numad Group, but of our work with our clients - check out their stories here. The people we get to collaborate with do their work for the sake of advancing the work and lives of other people. The is so cool, and renewing to me personally, to see people who do this day in and day out.