How we are 90% Chimp and 10% Bee

90% Selfish

90% Selfish

One of the most interesting books I read in 2013 was Jonathan Haidt’s best seller The Righteous Mind.

What I want to share with you here, what I think relates to networking, is part of what Haidt (pronounced like “hide”) writes in laying the foundation for the larger points in this book.

Early in the book, Haidt paraphrases Charles Darwin saying “the most cohesive and cooperative groups generally beat the groups of selfish individualists.”  We humans rule the planet because of our willingness and ability to cooperate.

We’re not the most cooperative species on the planet.  That prize would go to bees or ants or termites.  Those creatures are super social according to Haidt.  They exhibit little selfishness.

Humans are super cooperative, but we’re not perfect:  “We are selfish and we are groupish. We are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee,” Haidt writes.

Lest we all get mushy about how wonderfully cooperative we are, Haidt emphasizes that this wonderful cooperation serves the end of having our group defeat other groups.

I used to think networking is simply a technique for building a career, currying favor or getting the sale.  I had no interest in it.  Haidt’s book shows how networking can be a marketing technique, but it is also fundamental to our survival and happiness.

Our Cooperative Part

10% Cooperative

I recently helped my wife, Wendy, create a profile on LinkedIn.  More than once we’ve talked about how LinkedIn decides who to include on the pages where it suggests “people you may know.”  Those suggestions come through the people in your LinkedIn network.  They are secondary contacts.  For Wendy, that includes the people in my LinkedIn network that aren’t in hers.  For me, it will include the people in Wendy’s LinkedIn network that aren’t yet in mine.

If you know one person who works at 3M, that may make chunks of 3M available to you.  Knowing you may make your brother, neighbor or house cleaner available to the people who know you.  This is one thing that Haidt’s book emphasizes although he’s not talking about networking directly.  He’s talking about what it means to be in a group and how groups interact.

Haidt’s book ultimately is about the values that constitute what he calls “the moral matrix.” He identifies six values in his moral matrix. They are:

  1. Care vs. Harm
  2. Liberty vs. Oppression
  3. Fairness vs. Cheating
  4. Loyalty vs. Betrayal
  5. Authority vs. Subversion
  6. Sanctity vs. Degradation

His research shows political groups are determined by their common moral values with those who care mostly about #2 tend to lean one way (Libertarian), people who care mostly about #1 and #3 lean another (Progressive/Democrat) and those who care about all six pretty equally lean a third way (Conservative/Republican).  Haidt also laments the cost of focusing on our differences while ignoring points of agreement.

If you’d like to get into that discussion more deeply, I have written a post to digs into Haidt’s Moral Matrix and how it can help us understand each other and might raise the civility level of political discourse.




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