The Chicken and the Egg, Part 2

In his podcast, Akimbo, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

Through the mechanics of genetic inheritance and evolution of species, Seth explains how ideas and culture work in a very similar way.

Many creatures, like salmons, have evolved to be born with the innate knowledge and instinct to survive in this world without being taught them. However, that is not how human beings do it. Children learn almost everything they know how to do from the adults and older siblings around them.

As it turned out, many creatures also perform similar learning activities and pass on their knowledge peers or to offspring. Seth talked about the crows and nuts as well as blue tit bird and milk. Like humans, these creatures can culturally transmit learning to other peer creatures.

So why does chicken cross the road? That is because the other chickens are doing it and they learned it from each other. Many intelligent creatures get better by seeing an innovation that coming from another creature, copying it and then teaching it to someone else. That culture-building through learning is hardwired into all of us.

Another thing we need to recognize is that it is probably not our genes that makes us a good writer, a good athlete, or a good leader. We become those people by learning the role from other people we have been around. We evolved to be learning and story-telling machines which are hyper-aware of what the people around us are doing.

If we aspire to be change-agents of culture or as leaders, we can establish what people like us are doing. We can celebrate and elevate the role models. We can flash a bright light on the people who are doing the work we think is important. So, if we want to make a change in a team or an organization, what we can do is to find and to set good examples.

One big challenge we face is that we erroneously concluded that people are born fully baked. We treat people like salmon, thinking they already know everything.

The alternative is to realize that the culture we live in is plastic and changeable. It is also fast-moving and powerful in many ways. If we are willing to be bold and patient, to create ideas that spread, to surround people with opportunities, to learn and to level up, and to make a difference, we can find the instructors who will help us find the others.

With all the technology we have built, we have the chance to reach more people than ever before and to make a stand. That stand is “People like us do things like this.”