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Some time ago I commented on how people tend to behave in group settings (see
"The Stupids"). This led to a series of e-mails I received from people asking
me where they could find more information on what I called, "Herd Management."
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot to be found, not unless you are talking about
the management of cattle, horses or swine. Then again, maybe that's not a bad
place to start as their objective is essentially the same as moving the human
Herd Management is primarily aimed at moving a large volume of living organisms
from Point-A to Point-B, which implies the development of a road map to get
there. Like any management function, Herd Management requires considerable
planning and tightly controlled execution to achieve the desired result. Beyond
this, there are three other variables vital to success: Knowing your subjects,
how to motivate them, and controlling their environment.
Before you can manage them, you must first know them, thoroughly. This is
needed so you can know what they are thinking, what their interests are, what
they are capable or incapable of doing, thereby allowing you to manipulate them
accordingly. Even in the management of livestock, ranchers closely monitor the
attributes of their animals. For our purposes, this suggests the development of
a data base whereby each person is uniquely identified and defined in terms of
their characteristics; e.g., address, contact data, age, height, weight,
education, job function, salary, likes/dislikes, strengths/weaknesses, whatever
is pertinent to motivate and manipulate them. Ideally, a cross-reference
feature is available to track the person's relationship to other people, such as
friends and family, thus permitting the identification of those who may
influence the person's actions and decisions either positively or negatively. A
tracking mechanism is also required, to monitor their proper and improper
movements, and to steer them in the right direction. Such intelligence is
essential to Herd Management.
The one element unique to the human animal is their brain and, as such, a
feedback mechanism is required to closely monitor what the herd is thinking.
The more management knows about what the human being is thinking, the better
they can influence it. This is why opinion polls are so important. Beyond
this, you will find moles among the herd who are charged with quietly listening,
taking notes, and reporting back to management what the herd is thinking.
Without this feedback mechanism, Herd Management will inevitably make erroneous
decisions in terms of how to manipulate the herd, possibly even causing a
stampede in the wrong direction.
The second variable involves motivation. A whip or cattle prod may be useful
for animals, but you have to be a little more subtle in coercing humans to go in
the direction you want them to. This involves controlling the information from
which they form opinions and make actions and decisions. Three elements are
involved: the actual content, the vehicle to convey it, and the spin of the
information. This means controlling the media to communicate to the people.
Suppression of information is hardly a new idea. Even if information is leaked
that is damaging to your cause, it can be manipulated and spun in any direction
to make it look better than it really is. When in trouble, a diversion is
created to distract attention away from the subject at hand.
Essential to all of this is to make your position appear to be mainstream
thinking (popular), thereby causing people to readily embrace it and defend its
position over objections from dissidents and antagonists (who should be
suppressed to maintain the harmony of the herd). People want to believe what
they are doing is good and that their best interests are being maintained. To
this end, rumors, innuendoes, and inaccuracies (lies) are acceptable, and even
preferable for those who spurn the truth.
When communicating with large numbers of people, the message should be simple
and easy to understand. This is why catch phrases are quickly adopted in order
to communicate whole ideas through a few simple words, thereby achieving a
Pavlov's Dog effect.
The third and final variable is controlling the environment which is primarily
concerned with eliminating potential obstacles and interferences that may cause
delays or a shift in plan. Keep in mind, the mentality of the members of the
herd is on autopilot thereby allowing them to focus on the subject at hand, such
as your message. Unexpected distractions, such as a bolt of lightning, an
explosion or a heckler, upsets the herd causing them to become less manageable.
By carefully managing the environment, you make it easier to control the herd.
To this end, Herd Management studies people's wants/needs, habits, diet, affect
of climate, and monitors behavior (such as pushing, shoving, and fighting).
Finally, you need sufficient force to control the herd. In the livestock world,
we used to talk about cowboys and wranglers. Now we talk about guides and
supervisors who keep a close eye on the herd, spot problems, and takes
corrective action at a moment's notice. To do so requires effective
communications and a resourceful staff who can adapt to different situations.
No, you won't find Herd Management mentioned in the business schools on college
campuses. It might sound like "Big Brother" watching, but you'll find it in the
play book of everyone dealing with crowds, be it a sporting event, an amusement
park, a political convention, or the public in general. It may not seem
politically correct to talk about it, but make no mistake, Herd Management is
very much a reality.
Copyright © 2009 Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of
M. Bryce & Associates
(MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the
management consulting field. He can be reached at
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-08-01 15:14:00 in Personal Articles