Three Things We Need To Do If We Want To Murmurate

And if we do, the human flock might just sort itself out

B. Lorraine Smith


Nature offers patterns of behaviour for us to observe and learn from if we choose. This video of a murmuration of starlings — an invasive species in my native North America — offers ideas for me and my sister and fellow invasive humans to ponder.

Nature handles complicated complexity, simply and beautifully

Sometimes simplicity is right in front of us. It’s ours to notice, even as — or especially as — we confront the most complicated and complex challenges.

I was reminded of this by a line of questioning at a recent gathering. The query went like this:

What needs to happen for a murmuration of starlings to occur? And what can humans learn from this?

If you haven’t seen a murmuration before, I encourage you to take a moment to appreciate the dynamic, geometrical, seemingly magical habit of our feathered friends.

Scholarship aplenty

How do these birds not crash into each other? We humans seem to be crashing into one another a fair bit, in small and large ways. What are these critters doing that we aren’t? And what can we apply to our own behaviours?

Numerous books have been written on related topics (one I appreciated is The Smart Swarm, by Peter Miller). Here, I’ll simply home in on a pattern that feels relevant for us, now, in the context of our combined challenges — our “pentalema” as the mighty Nick Parker of “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” and other fame calls it*.

With starlings, the rules are fairly straightforward. And their rules sum things up in ways I think we humans can grasp: move in the same direction, not too far from one another, not too close; aim for the middle of the group.

But what will it look like for humans to “murmurate”, to collectively create a safe and joyful space for all of us to thrive, when we are all individuals in a massive — and massively diverse — context?

What does murmuration look like for us? We don’t just want to fly around in a groovy moving blob. We want to be well, when many of us right now are not well. We want to create conditions for future generations to have a chance to be well, too, at a time when that looks unlikely.

KISH (Keep It Simple, Humans)



B. Lorraine Smith

Former sustainability consultant replacing ESG with reality-based insights about corporate purpose and impact.