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A flock of domestic fowl establish something called a PeckingOrder based on strength, machismo, etc. The ones at the top of the PeckingOrder get to eat (peck) first and thus get the best food, etc.

The etymology is more likely that the order is maintained by each bird pecks subordinate birds and submits to being pecked by dominant birds., and the order determines more than who gets to eat first. Localised aberrations have been observed where a dominant bird has been temporarily disadvantaged (eg. injured) and some lower ranked birds have asserted themselves, while others haven't (usually due to lacking the opportunity by circumstance).

It's the flip version of the GroomingOrder? as seen in apes and chimps, where hierarchy is formed by promotion not demotion.

Is this distinction relevant, are there lessons in it with regards to rewards vs punishment?

In human societies, pecking orders or power hierarchies are formed and reformed constantly, sometimes as a CryptoCracy. This is normally useful because there must be some concentration of power to get things done (i.e. "I'm going next" vs. "Who's going next?"). Even in a "BarnRaising" someone has to direct the construction.

However, when there's power without context, this is destructive. By without context, I mean there is nothing to get done except acquire more power. It becomes individual vs. individual instead of community for community.

At this point, the community has probably failed unless you can excise the individualistic people like the cancerous tumours they are.

Recently, I have learnt the stunningly obvious: without strong leadership with clear goals, the lack of direction creates a power vacuum that ultimately only frustrates people. Leadership is needed to say, "This is how we're going to do it," as forcing consensus is bad. Of course, a good leader makes a decision informed by her subordinates. Clear goals are needed to give focus, a CommonContext. Without focus, people push their (conflicting) personal agendas.

Moreover, the PeckingOrder should make sense and flow from the strong leadership's desire to fulfill the goals effectively. You need to delegate power, but only along sensible, workable lines.

Individualism is good in moderation. People have to have the freedom to take initiative and they need to be self-interested enough to try to improve their life. Smart people know that having a strong community behind them is better than a degenerate anarchy, if only to catch them when they fall.

Finally, sometimes PeckingOrders are assigned willingly by the subordinates, at least temporarily. Techniques like PeerPrivilege help alleviate pressure from the majority while improving the efficiency of the implementors. -- SunirShah


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