“Lessons from Geese” was transcribed from a speech given by American Anthropologist, Angeles Arrien, at the 1991 Organizational Development Network, and is based on the work of Milton Olson.
Why do geese fly in a ‘V’ formation?
Scientists have determined that the V-shaped formation that geese use when migrating serves two important purposes:
A) It Conserves Their Energy.
Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The birds take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. In this way, the geese can fly for a long time before they must stop for rest. The authors of a 2001 Nature article stated that pelicans that fly alone beat their wings more frequently and have higher heart rates than those that fly in formation. It follows that birds that fly in formation glide more often and reduce energy expenditure (Weimerskirch, 2001).
B) It makes it easy for them to keep track of every bird in the group.
Flying in formation may assist with the communication and coordination within the group. Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reason. But there is much more to it than conserving energy and keeping track of all members of the group. And we could learn a thing or two from geese about working together “in formation” for the benefit of all.
As each goose flap its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater range than if each bird flew alone.
People who share a common sense of direction and community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.
When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.
If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.
When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.
It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership, as with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skill, capabilities and unique arrangement of gifts, talents or resources.
The gees flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the productivity is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.
When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay until it dies or can fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.
If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.