Transcript of Episode 151 – Daniel Mezick on Ritual and Hierarchy

The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or Daniel Mezick. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.

Jim: As many of our regular listeners know, we talk about the Game~B movement on the show from time to time. For those interested in learning more about what the hell is this thing, Game~B, a new short film has just been released as an introduction to some of the Game~B ideas. If you haven’t, you can check it out at That’s or search Google for An Initiation to Game~B. Our guest today is Daniel Mezick. He’s a returning guest he appeared back away when we talk about some of the books that he has written and some of his ideas. But today we’re going to do something a little different. But before we get to that, let me tell you a little bit about Daniel. He’s been coaching executives and teams since 2006. He’s a scrum at scale trainer and expert on business agility. And as I said, he’s the author of three books on organizational change. Welcome back, Daniel.

Daniel: Hey, thanks for having me on the show.

Jim: Yeah, it’s good. I always enjoy talking to you. We’re going to do something unusual today. As regular listeners know, we talk a fair bit about books. And when we do, we always have the authors on to talk about their book. But today we’re branching off an email exchange that Daniel and I had that we’re going to talk about two books that we both have read, that provide quite different perspectives on the nature of leadership and social coherence more broadly defined. But because Daniel and I aren’t the authors, please don’t blame them for any blather or bad ideas that may ensue, it’s all our fault. If you find this discussion something you want to learn more about, I recommend you read the books if you’d like to learn more. And as always, the links will be provided on the episode page at

Jim: So book number one, and this was a book suggested by Daniel, it’s titled Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge by Michael Suk-Young Chwe, a professor of political science at UCLA, who studies how people coordinate their actions when each person wants to participate only if enough others do. Book number two, which I suggested, is Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior by Chris Boehm. Regular listeners to this show will know this is one of my favorite books and one I often recommend. Chris, who I just discovered this morning when I was pulling together my show notes, recently passed away at the age of 90. That’s too bad, he was a really good person. I had dinner with him several times, great guy. He was a professor of biological sciences and anthropology at the University of Southern California. And his research focused on the origin of human conscience, the development of altruistic behavior in human beings, and the evolution of political behavior in apes and humans. So Daniel, let’s get started. Why do you think the book Rational Ritual is important?

Daniel: The primary reason is that because it opened up a discussion about a mechanism that makes it possible to coordinate very, very large groups of people, potentially millions. That’s an interesting mechanism if it’s real. So when I found this book, I don’t know exactly how I stumbled upon it, but it’s one of those things when I reached the book, I was like, “Well, yeah, this explains a lot of what I’ve often felt intuitively about ritual.” And he goes so much deeper on it. So for example, he cites sources that have applied mathematical modeling to common knowledge and have built up an algebra of common knowledge. And on page 18, he mentions a researcher who has done this. So the book for that reason is extremely interesting to me. Right now, we’re trying to figure out how to maintain civil discourse and coordinate people, align people. And the book provides tools for doing exactly that.

Jim: And it was interesting, I actually did enjoy reading it quite a bit. What he starts off with is getting into what is the essence of the problem, and he calls it the coordination problem. Which is, how do you get people to do things particularly, and this seems to be his hobby horse, is when our natural instincts or self-interest or psychology would want us to do things only when other people would also commit to do things? Why do you think that is a particularly important class of cooperation?

Daniel: My gut reaction to this is that the human species is a mimicking species. From a very young age, we mimic others to learn how to be human. And when you talk about doing what others are doing, we’re actually valuing what others value. And René Girard the philosopher has mentioned and discussed this in detail, that mimicry, specifically mimicry in what’s valuable, is what humans do. We don’t know what’s valuable till we find out what other people think is valuable. And this is exactly what happens in the coordination space.

Jim: I figured you would mention Jordi and Mamisus, that’s of course the classic on to what degree humans are inventors versus copiers. Obviously we have to be both because if we weren’t inventors, there would be nothing to copy. Which I sometimes throw back at the Jordians, that, “Hey, wait a minute, we still have to account for innovation.” But it is true that a lot of what we do is based on copying. And he gives some example of coordination problems in the product space. This was quite interesting, I’d never quite thought of it this way. I’ve thought about network effect products. But he points out that even something like beers is in some sense a coordination problem, particularly the degree that you’re a social person and have people over and have some beers on the patio. Probably you select your beers, at least for when your friends are over and you’re not just drinking the cheap shit, hoping that your friends will like your beer choice. So in that sense, even beer is a coordination problem product.

Daniel: So the idea of what beer do my friends value and I’ll buy that and I’ll make sure that we’re in sync. What he says also about commercials versus call downs on the telephone in political campaigns. He says a call down on a political campaign, you never know how many people got the same call that you got when you picked up the phone. But if there’s a commercial, you know that multitudes saw that. And that he makes that distinction with common knowledge so that I have to know that you know about the beer, that’s what makes it-

Jim: And that’s his argument.

Daniel: Yeah.

Jim: Yet he goes through quite a bit of quantitative analysis showing that advertisers of coordination problem products are typically willing to spend more to reach large audiences because they believe there’s a synergistic network effect. The evidence was relatively strong not utterly compelling, but pointed in that direction. He also pointed out that in the United States at least the one really big event for still being able to reach a mass audience is the Super Bowl. So his thesis was that we should see on the Super Bowl mostly coordination problem products. That was an interesting idea. So I looked up what’s going to be on this year’s Super Bowl, and it looked like it was a mix actually. Some things that were coordination products like beer, cryptocurrency, snack foods, cars, and Facebook while some other ones weren’t, things like avocados. People don’t even know what’s in our God damn guacamole bowl at a party. So what avocado I buy is not a public good in any sense. Travel sites, QuickBooks, Sam’s Clubs, Squarespace, and car parts.

Jim: So at least now it seems less dominated than coordination problem products are. But his book was written in 2013, which means it was probably based on research 2010. And the world has changed a lot since 2010, it’s become much more fragment. And back to your political comment, that’s absolutely relevant to the fractionation of audiences through micro targeting, particularly in social media, but also on TV. Back in the so-called good old days, which, hey kids, they weren’t as good as old farts sometimes make them out to be. But there was a much more coherent sense of common knowledge. Doing some research this morning for our call and I looked back at what was probably the high watermark in American society of message coherence. And that was the Beverly Hillbillies, TV show number one ranked for year after year. And thought to be the greatest single audience for a non-special event in American history, was a particular episode of Beverly Hillbillies in January, 1964, where 66% of all households that had a TV were tuned in to the Beverly Hillbillies.

Jim: It’s also worth noting for kids today that in those days, most people only had one TV set. So it wasn’t Mary in her bedroom and Bob and his bedroom and mom and dad in the living room, everybody was in the living room watching the same TV show. And 65% of them were watching yet another puerile and idiotic episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. Which gave them something to talk about the next day at work or at school or on the bus, et cetera. And that’s really a different world than we live in today. So we get back to again, the political example. If a political ad had been running the Beverly Hillbillies, not only would 65% of the households seen it, but to point and the book’s point, is that those 65% households would know the other 65% of the households had seen this.

Daniel: That’s right, Jim. That’s right. And also realized that the gathering around the TV, the analog campfire was itself ritual. And it’s important for your listeners to know the link between common knowledge and ritual. The Rational Ritual book asserts that ritual generates common knowledge and common knowledge can be used to coordinate at scale. And that is the key thesis of the book, that ritual’s at the core of that.

Jim: Well, that is sort of the core. But he also talks a lot about common knowledge more generally, which I thought was equally interesting.

Daniel: Oh, yeah.

Jim: Again, back to this political example where it used to be advertising on the Beverly Hillbillies, billboards, bumper stickers. Today, an awful lot of political advertising is truly micro targeted. That was the first real practitioners with the Obama campaign in 2008. And then that was then perfected subsequently, and the Trump campaign were experts at it in 2016. And both sides were pretty good at it in 2020. So each side had a thousand 1,000 or more messages that they would deliver to you based on a great detailed, fine tune analysis of all the data the social media companies he’s had on you, which is a quite different world. And maybe at least in part to explain the sense of shit falling apart. Because there is much less common knowledge, especially in the political space.

Daniel: So when we see that targeted ad, we might assume that everyone else in America also sees that targeted ad, or at least the people in my cohort. But we don’t realize that my co cohort might be a cohort of 100 or 200 depending on the congressional district or what the election is. So maybe what’s going on is we’re all assuming everyone else knows what I know because they’ve received an ad. And that’s patently false because we’re all getting 1,000 different versions of that. So the common knowledge that we think is really happening, and he discusses it in the book a little bit, the people they think they know more than they know about what others think. I think that’s exactly what’s happening here due to this digital targeting.

Jim: And he also makes one, as the direct quote for the book, “Our explanation starts by saying that submitting to a social or political authority is a coordination problem.” Each person is more willing to support an authority the more the others support it. So that would strike me that-

Daniel: That is so interesting. I have the exact same quotes written down in my notes.

Jim: That’s interesting. That one just popped out at me as near the core to what his thesis was. And no surprise then that in this world where the channels are becoming much, much less mass, the idea that people understand each other to have a common view of politics is broken down.

Daniel: So my calculus for figuring out who to follow is, I’m going to look and see who Jim Rutt follows. Because I value Jim ruts opinion. And if Jim Rutt is following a certain voice or giving attention to a certain leader or a certain leader, maybe I should be paying attention. Because I notice that Jim Rutt is someone that I have respect for. So this is what’s going on when we’re trying to make sense. Our sense making apparatus, I think we default to, well, what are the other people doing? And this is a blessing and a curse. It can bring on things like mass delusions and it can also set us up to go in the right direction if this is managed properly. So it’s a dual edged sword, this idea that we look to others to find out what’s valuable. It’s in the leadership department as well. Who’s a valuable leader? I’m going to see who Jim Rutt thinks is a valuable leader and I’m going to go listen to that person.

Jim: Of course, our social media platforms are both a problem and an opportunity in this space, for instance Twitter. People complain about Twitter and I complain about it a lot too. But Twitter is what you make of it unlike some of the other platforms. If you follow idiots, you’ll have idiocy in your feed if you follow good sense makers, people that bring good ideas to the four or good pointers to sources, then you’ll have a relatively better experience on Twitter. However, you’re also still subject to the random or not random but the algorithmic sampling that the platforms do. You do not see what all the people you follow on Twitter are saying, you only see the ones that Twitter wants you to see.

Daniel: What I was going to say is I have personally gone to your Twitter account, Jim, and I have looked through who you follow. When I’ve got a little time on my hands, I’ll graze on what those people have to say, and I might follow a few of them. So it’s shorthand for me to go to the Jim Rutt Twitter account or the whoever Twitter account and go look and see, who’s Jim following and should I be listening to them? Maybe I need to click through on this.

Jim: I think we all do that. I certainly do the same thing from time to time. But by the way, if you want to check out my Twitter account people, it’s Jim_Rutt at Twitter, so check it out. So the other thing that this new world that we’re in changes, Clifford Geertz, the book talks about him a bit. He made the point that culture is not about unobservable mental stuff but more about socially established structures of meaning by which people communicate and are therefore available for analysis and understanding. This gets this, again, the idea that common knowledge that we share, at least historically, has been the building block of culture.

Daniel: And culture you could think of is the group memory, it holds the group memory. Whereas the individuals have individual memory. Jamshid Gharajedaghi wrote a book called Systems Thinking, he was an accolade of Russell Ackoff. And he referred to this container as the shared image. And he was speaking, I think, directly to common knowledge along the lines of what Michael J was saying in his book, Rational Ritual. The shared image is how Gharajedaghi referenced the same thing that we’re talking about here.

Jim: Now, when we get down to smaller groups, we’ve been talking a fair bit about the political society level, mass mega societies, he also has some interesting things to say about much smaller scale rituals and ways of developing common knowledge, such as the habit of sitting in a circle for instance.

Daniel: Facing each other or not.

Jim: Facing each other or not. And he relates it back to the old forager level campfire, which seems reasonable. Where everybody orients to the campfire, but they can also see each other.

Daniel: And that’s generating common knowledge in real time. As I notice that you notice that I’m noticing that we’re all here in how you’re responding and we’re all responding to each other. Of course, that’s the essence of… On the previous podcast episode, we discussed open space. We didn’t do discuss it as much as ritual, but that’s what it is. And it’s a circular event when you’re face to face, it’s chairs in a circle. And that’s extremely powerful. That thing scales too, you can have thousands of people in a circle.

Jim: Now, of course, the other issue about common knowledge is that if you want to be a totalitarian, it becomes your job to manage what is the common knowledge. The definitive book on that is 1984, where they literally invent a new language so bad ideas can’t even be expressed. We think about totalitarian regimes today like China, they go to great lengths to squelch the emergence of common knowledge that’s outside of the narrative that they want followed. I’ve been doing some fairly low level digging into how China actually works, and it’s quite interesting. The idea that it’s completely repressive is actually not quite right. China actually tolerates demonstrations, even quasi violent ones, as long as they’re about local problems like corrupt officials or people unhappy about replacing a farm with a polluting factory or something. But the instant you start challenging the grand narrative about the CCP, the cops show up, start breaking heads, and throwing everybody in jail. So they’re actually remarkably subtle at tolerating quite more dissonance than you might think and yet at the same time, making sure that the common narrative is preserved.

Daniel: The macro-narrative, the one that they steward and husband and develop and prune. They’re taking care of it and they’re keeping what consider to be noise out of the signal.

Jim: And then another issue I’d suggest around common knowledge is sometime probably around 1920, using some of the work from Freud, in fact, famously his nephew Benets invented the whole modern advertising industry and PR and all that, is the machinery of late stage modernism has developed the ability to manufacture needs. Michael referenced that in his book and told the story about LISTERINE for instance. And as I look at this, I find this ability to manufacture needs considerably more a bug than a feature. Is that it puts us on a rat race where despite the fact that by any objective standard in Western civilization, we live like Kings, a welfare recipient lives better than Louise the 14th did in certain ways. And yet because of this ability, if I consider a runaway bug, to constantly manufacture new needs that aren’t really very needful, the ability to actually relax and enjoy our abundance as being destroyed by our own society.

Daniel: So in the book, he talks about this LISTERINE ad making a common knowledge that almost everyone has bad breath, manufacturing the obligation to have good breath. Louise, the king you mentioned, he probably had bad breath because he never watched the LISTERINE commercial. He had no clue because no one had the balls to tell him because he was the king. So this is the world we live in today, this is what’s going on. And it also speaks to Minimus as well. So common knowledge and Minimus are really linked together. So the work of Michael Chwe in his book, Rational Ritual, and again, the Gerard hypothesis about Minimus, I really think those two things tie together in a big way and one confirms the other.

Jim: Let’s talk a little bit about ritual and then let’s move on to Boehm’s book and then we’ll talk about, what does it all mean? So in America, at least, our rituals are pretty weak if you think about them. I was pondering that, what do I do that’s ritualistic? Not much. Every couple of years I end up, well least pre-COVID, I ended up going to a wedding, and a fair number of them are these $100,000 weddings, holy fuck. When my wife and I got married, we spent $550, I can tell you exactly what we spent on our wedding. We had 110 guests at our party and the whole deal. But nowadays people like to spend 100,000 bucks on a wedding. And guess what, they’re actually pretty weak sauce. They’re stereotypical, they’re not very moving, they’re more about glitz and status promotion, et cetera. What do you see as some examples of ritual in our society that maybe are more healthy than that?

Daniel: Well let me talk broadly about just modern man in general. Modern man in general is lacking in rituals or the rituals are not obvious. The Super Bowls are ritual that America has, the whole world has now every year. Ritual I think is how we make sense of things. And modern rituals are weak, like you mentioned, the $100,000 wedding that follows the same script that the $550 wedding followed. Rituals today, you mean group rituals or individual, which would you like me to speak to?

Jim: Group rituals, the ones that produce common knowledge or produce coherence.

Daniel: I think today a lot of this has been skewed by social media. So social media has created new kinds of rituals at the group level. So for example, in conversations, we are notified immediately when there’s something that happens on the thread that we commented on. There’s a ritual basis to that interaction, you get a notification, you jump in after being notified, and you’re adding. There’s a little bit of limbic hijacking there, but that communication is ritual in nature. In fact, it’s so deep now that gentlemen like you, Jim, take sabbaticals from social media because you want to get away from the scripted nature of what’s going on there.

Daniel: Inside organizations, I would say all hands meetings. In the society itself, I would say sporting events and the ritual before or after and during sporting events is also very common. Baseball, football in America, basketball, they’re very scripted, especially the championship events. And then in general, there’s not a lot of ritual at the individual level, which is leading to a meaning crisis. People don’t know in America when they’re men, when they’re women. Speaking now to passage right rituals, the Jewish culture has the bat mitzvah and bar mitzvah. What do we have? If you’re not Jewish, what’s the coming of age ritual?

Jim: Yep, exactly. When your dad hands you a condom and the keys to the car basically.

Daniel: And he wants to have the talk that he should have had with you six years earlier.

Jim: Exactly. Even at the micro level, and one of the things that Michael Chwe talks about is dance. And even our dance today is now an individual or very small group thing. You go to a club and you don’t see people doing coordinated dancing like many traditional societies. You see everybody out there being their freelance, goofy ass person or maybe forming up in little groups of two or three. But the idea of even coordinated dance seems to have gone away.

Daniel: Yes. And it’s interesting how he brings up how movement builds common knowledge. When he talks about coordinated dancing and how the dancers all must share some common knowledge to coordinate at all. And then coordinating itself reinforces their alignment in the coordination. So right now in the world today, we’re severely lacking in ritual. And I think that’s the reason why we’re lacking in common knowledge. And common knowledge coordinates and aligns huge groups of people. And what we have is a total lack of alignment, lack of coordination, a breaking down into tribalism because we don’t share anything in common in the culture space or in that shared image like you’re saying, I think it comes down to the building blocks of common knowledge are ritual, and it’s lacking in the West.

Jim: As my good friend and close collaborator, Jordan Hall would say, “Things that we have left are weak sauce.” They’re $100,000 weddings or Super Bowl parties. Come on guys, we can do a hell of a lot better than this. And humans have done in the past the hell of a lot better.

Daniel: While we’re on the subject of ritual, I want to bring up that most rituals are some kind of meeting. And meetings in general, I have a hypothesis that they are essentially games. And if the goals, the rules, and the progress tracking are well formed, then the game’s enjoyable to play. So when you look at ritual and you look at the roles in ritual, you look at the rule set or constraints, the boundaries in ritual, and you look at the way progress is depicted in a well-formed ritual, you can see that there’s game elements in ritual. So my current belief is that ritual is game at scale. This is what’s really going on. And there’s a book called Homo Ludens and it’s by a fellow called Johan Huizinga. And he discusses this game playing animal or the playful animal, Homo Ludens.

Daniel: So I think this is why ritual rings and clicks with us is, is that we’re game playing creatures, we’re playful creatures, we want to understand the goals, we want to understand the rules, we want to experience progress, and ritual delivers. There can be a lot of meaning conveyed through that structure, through that game structure. And I believe this is what ritual actually is. So there’s a huge job opportunity. Like you’re a Game~B developer, acolyte, an enthusiast. I think ritual is a key to moving into that space, that Game~B folks want to move into. So when I say game, that might be a loaded term for your audience, to the listeners, but not every game is competitive. Many games are cooperative in nature and there’s many, many different kinds of games. So when we look at ritual, we’re going in and we know exactly how it goes, it’s predictable, it’s reliable, it’s a trustworthy a game that’s easy to play.

Jim: That’s an interesting insight. We’ll revisit that and other things from Michael Chwe’s book after we talk a little bit about Chris Boehm’s book, Hierarchy in the Forest. This is really quite an interesting and rich book. And as I mentioned earlier on, one I mentioned a lot, it’s had a lot of effect on me. I think his original thesis is that egalitarianism needs an explanation. And he goes through the historical record and shows that most forager peoples who organized in groups of 150 or less, the famous Dunbar number, and even in many early agricultural people had, by our current models, remarkably egalitarian societies. They did not have chiefs, that was a little later when tribes formed and there were chiefs or big men, head men, et cetera. So he goes to a tremendous amount of work deconstructing the evolutionary history of humans and the sociology of chimps and bonobos and gorillas and all this stuff.

Jim: And he comes up with, at least I would argue as the thesis, that if you look at our genetic heritage, we almost certainly have a large propensity towards dominance and submission and thereby the emergence of hierarchy. They look at chimps in particular. Chimps are a bad satire of a totalitarian dictatorship or actually more like the mob. Because people are always taking each other out on the hierarchy. But everybody knows their place in the stack and they get beaten if they violate the norms. Unless they can beat the other guy then they take his place. It’s really quite horrible caricature of the worst possible human behavior and bonobos, while everybody says they’re the hippy apes, they’re not all that much better. In fact, on some objective scales that Boehm quotes says, “Yeah, bonobos. Not so hideous as chimps but actually a lot more hierarchical than humans.” And since we shared a common ancestor with both chimps and bonobos, Boehm argues that we should have a level of dominance and submission that’s probably somewhere between bonobos and chimps.

Jim: And he makes an argument probably closer to chimps for various reasons, may or may not be true, doesn’t really matter. In any case, somewhere in that space there’s a lot more hierarchical than our ancestors. And keep in mind, the forager and small scale agriculturalists represents more than 90% of human history. So where does this come from? And one of the things I found very refreshing about Boehm is that he rejects the blank slatism of so much of his social science peers. And he says, “Let’s take as a given that human nature left to its own devices would produce hierarchy, dominance, and submission and would be fairly ugly probably.” How did the forager get out of that trap? And his argument is they developed, evolved into actually a social operating system that was rigorously evolved and tuned to avoid the emergence of big men and people who were bosses. I thought that was really, really interesting and an important counterpoint to common knowledge. Which while very powerful for organizing people at every scale, also has the tendency to collapse into hierarchy and dominance and submission.

Daniel: So when we look at Boehm and what he wrote about the Dunbar number, you mentioned that, I think it’s important to note that even Boehm himself says that hunters, foragers, gatherers they’re around the Dunbar number. And then tribesmen, those are larger structures. So that’s the first thing, is that all this egalitarian stuff is mostly clustered around Dunbar and lower numbers. That’s the first thing about it. And then he struggles and strains to offer a clear hypothesis about why egalitarianism. Because as he points out in the book, it flies in the face of evolutionary theory. Which is that I’m going to support my kin, I’m going to support my DNA at the expense of the other so my DNA can make it into the next generation, whether it’s in my body or one of my kinsmen. So he says, why would we knowingly help, assist, and generally help another group to thrive who has none of our DNA, another family strain, another line? Why would I help another line? And you and I we talked over email about this and I think it’s actually pretty straightforward. You want me to offer my hypothesis?

Jim: Absolutely.

Daniel: I think it goes like this, I think looking out for the group ultimately is looking out for yourself. Because in hunter gatherer societies, if you were left alone, basically you got to die. And as you pointed out with the primate societies and human beings, the first thing another band is going to do is kill you if they find you wandering around their territory. And you don’t have anyone else backing you up, you’re going to have a hard time, you’re going to die of natural causes or you’re going to be murdered by the incumbent in that space. So looking after yourself is actually looking after the group. If the group doesn’t survive, I don’t survive. And I think that explains it a lot.

Jim: That’s the traditional group selection argument, right?

Daniel: Yeah.

Jim: And biologists don’t like it for some reason, but it’s always struck me as got to be at least in part true. Because it is true that humans are an inherently social animal. We don’t really make sense as independents, which is one of the things that’s so peculiar about Western civilization. Again, is this ever stronger ratchet towards more and more atomization of the individual down to the very small nuclear family. And even that these days, how many people are still having common dinner hours. That is not how we were evolved or what we selected for, which was to be a much more coherent and convivial and social species at the level of 50 people as your, as Dunbar would call it. And then 150 people approximately as your broader community of people that you actually know. Again, those are some things that we have deviated far away from in modern society.

Daniel: Now, keeping that together as a matter of discipline and intention as an individual and a family. In the America, people move away and they’re not around. Personally around here, my children live nearby and the previous generation also lives here. And we go out of our way to stick together and to do basically group rituals, like shared meals in various events together. And that’s because we all know that that ministers to the wellbeing of every person in the group, to have membership. Membership and belonging is a big deal. So getting back to this thing about group selection, I want to offer one more piece to it and see how it lands with you. I think that egalitarianism at its core has something to do with increasing group decision quality. So for example, when a hunter gatherer group makes a decision to migrate somewhere else or go to war, I think the decision quality is increased through collective intelligence. It could be decreased through dictatorship, tyranny, one man rule, one person rule. So I have a suspicion that this egalitarianism is in service to improved decision making at the group level.

Jim: I think that makes a lot of sense, particularly for the big questions, like the examples you gave. Should we go to war with the people in the next valley? Should we move because things aren’t looking so good here? Those are huge decisions. And as I think we know, the forager people tend to make those by consensus after quite elaborate processes and ceremonies. It could take days to reach a decision on those big questions. I would also suggest that even at the smaller scale decisions, the egalitarian model may well be better. The way I have synthesized this down to be useful in business is to look at what the forager do, which is role-based leadership. So rather than having the headman boss when we’re talking about hunting, oh, we go with the 22 year old who has shown by example to be the best hunter, to know the most about how animals move, how to be able to read the signs, et cetera. We listen to what he says, because he’s the best hunter.

Jim: When we’re going out to gather tubers, that we listen to the older woman who had 40 years of proven track record of being the greatest tuber hunter of them all and she is our leader when we’re hunting for tubers. And when we go to war, who do we have as our war leader? We have that slightly psycho dude who everybody’s afraid of and who we have been trying to manage all these years. But let me tell you, he’s fucking useful when we go to war. That’s in fact actually my side hypothesis, is why have sociopaths continue to exist at about a 1% frequency rate in the human population? And the answer is, you need your sociopaths when you go to war. So unlike in let’s say many businesses where the distinction between role-based leadership, we have position-based leadership. Through some process, somebody has been made the boss and put in this box and is in charge of a whole bunch of processes and work.

Jim: And Hey, those of us who have worked in corporations know, often the boss is a fucking idiot. Might have some skill and something, but it might just be kissing ass and brown nosing. But is often not the person who is actually best situated to make the best decisions about particular areas of expertise in their domain. So the decisions made by these especially bureaucratic type companies is grossly suboptimized because of a position-based leadership rather than role-based leadership. I believe that’s another area where the forager, more egalitarian style of leadership actually does result in better decisions on average.

Daniel: So let’s talk about this for a minute. The book is called Hierarchy in the Forest, Jim, right? Hierarchy of what? Taxonomy is a hierarchy of things, and there’s other hierarchies in nature. So not all hierarchies have the same content. What kind of hierarchy are they talking about? It’s an authority hierarchy.

Jim: Yes.

Daniel: And what is specifically being authorized? Decisions that affect the group, that’s the authority hierarchy they’re talking about. So how interesting is it when you call it role-based leadership. In the book, they talk about a skilled hunter finding the game and the forage group having a successful hunt. Then they have this ritual, one of the hunters will come up to the one who found all the game and say, “Hey, what did you get today?” And they took down some large game together because of this one guy. And the one guy says, “Well I caught a couple. I got a couple of small ones, I got a rabbit, I got a squirrel.” And it’s a joke, everyone knows that this is the one who led us to the game. But there’s this affectation ritual where honor is brought to the person everyone knows that the person’s worthy in the honor. And the ritual is that the person’s supposed to play that down and not puff it up. It’s a social ritual about success in a particular role. Isn’t that interesting?

Jim: Yeah, very interesting. Another one he equal is the Kung people, the San people of Southeastern Africa, one of the most long lasting forager people, still forager people today. Some of them a game they play, apparently according to Chris Boehm, is that the person who gets credit for the kill is the person whose arrow first struck the animal. And they have this elaborate ceremony of lending their arrows to each other. So it’s the actual owner of the arrow not the person that shot the animal who gets the credit. And because there’s such a high level of sharing of arrows that essentially credit for the animal is more or less random. Even though it’s a term turns out, based on anthropological analysis, the skill of hunters varies in a much more predictable fashion. Better hunters kill a lot more animals than lesser hunters. But because of this randomization of borrowed arrows, credit is distributed more or less randomly. Which I would argue a very clever mechanism for reducing tendency of the better hunter to puff themself up and take more authority than they really do.

Daniel: And everybody knows. So when you talk about the role-based leadership versus positional, this is the informal authorization of your kinsman, your colleagues, and your peers. They’re basically saying to each other, “Hey when we go hunting, Jim seems to know where the game is. So why don’t we defer to Jim long enough to find that out.” Then there’s this whole series of social rituals, like you mentioned about the Kung and the sharing of their arrows. It’s an airbrushing away of what everybody knows. There’s social value system there. One other thing I noticed in the book, for the listeners, that the values in these hunter forager groups were sharing, self-control, humility, altruism, cooperation, and community. And what they don’t value, as you can see through their customs and their rituals and their rules anger, self aggrandizement, conflict, arrogance, lying, theft, personal ambition, and aloofness.

Daniel: So all those things are devalued in these societies, sharing self-control humility are valued. And what I also found interesting about the book were the minimum qualifications for leadership, Jim, there were two. And the one was generosity. So if you’re a good hunter or you’re good at something, like getting those tubers, sharing. Generosity, sharing what you’ve got. And then the second thing which I found very interesting was even temper, slow to anger, measured, in control of themselves emotionally. I found that to be extremely interesting. I’ve been reflecting on it in the modern world. How many leaders today demonstrate generosity, demonstrate even temper? So we’ve lost some of that.

Jim: In fact, when you were reading that list of the things that the hunter gatherers did not want in a leader or a person even, I said, “Hmm.”

Daniel: It’s all the psychopathic crap.

Jim: That’s our society, that’s life in corporate America. It’s the anti-pattern from the foragers. Again, then in our Game~B context, it’s one of the reasons why we focus so much on building society from the bottom up in groups of 150 or thereabouts. Because we talk about this and we get into the more general applications, which is probably where we should go next, is that humanity has demonstrated through at least 90% of its history that we can manage ourselves in groups of up to 150, about the basic ways of living and basic ways of life and how to raise children in as safe and sane fashion, how to keep homicidal male jealousy under control and all those classic issues, which are always on the edge of preying on group coherence.

Jim: And we can do it in egalitarian fashion if we one, use role-based leadership and two, aggressively subvert attempts for people to grab general authority. And to the point that you made and the Kung. There’s lots of ways to needle and belittle and make fun of anyone who puffs themselves up. And hell those who know, in corporate America, you can’t do that with the position-based boss. Maybe the very best companies you can a little bit. But in most companies, that is not the way that you work with your boss, is making fun of him and belittling him, not if you want to have a good career.

Jim: Well, in the forager world, that is part of the social operating system as Boehm lays out. Inevitably talks about this, lots of times people puff themselves up, want to be the big man. And the first thing you do is you laugh at them. And say, “Who the hell are you to tell me?” Then the second thing is you ignore them and then the next thing you do is you ostracize them, nobody else talks to them either. Then if they continue to try to puff things up, then you exile them. And as we talk about before, to exiled from the group, unless you’re really lucky, basically is death. Maybe you can come back and sometimes they’ll take them back usually, and maybe they’re chastened. But if they’re exiled, they come back and they’re not chastened, what do they do? They kill them. And he talks about that quite a bit.

Daniel: And interestingly in the book, there’s often retribution, tit for tat killings. So to solve this problem, they have someone from his bloodline do the actual assassination so that there’s no retribution, it came from the family itself. Isn’t that interesting?

Jim: I thought that was extraordinarily interesting point. And it went with it in terms of technology, it’s actually a physical technology but it turns out to be a social technology. He also a makes point, this is actually one of the things he’s most famous for, even though I think it’s a relatively minor part of his work, is that he makes the point that in the chimpanzee world to betas not kill an alpha, but two beta humans with Spears can kill an alpha human real easy. And that hunting weapons provided a technology that may have been one of the things that allowed this more egalitarian style to trump our biological tendencies towards dominance, submission, and hierarchy. One of the great irony is it may have been hunting weapons repurposed for killing humans that allowed us to escape the trap of hierarchy.

Daniel: And Jim, if I can add to this. In the book, Boehm also mentions that this could provide a plausible explanation for our diminished body hair. Because primates like chimpanzees and gorillas have hair that will make them stand up straight and make them look bigger in displays of threat. And then when we got weapons, Hey, we didn’t need that anymore because we had reach, we had lethality, it was all there.

Jim: And we had skill. That’s a very interesting and little appreciated point. As I said, Boehm was actually quite famous for having that insight. And it is an interesting one, but I don’t think it’s nearly as important as his idea of an evolved operating system that allows people at Dunbar number and below to operate non-hierarchically in a much more fluid fashion than our more hierarchical cousins, the bonobos and the chimps. And interestingly enough, our modern selves where after the invention of even the chiefdom, but certainly after the invention of the early states and Mesopotamia, we’ve been caught into this fucked up arms race of more and more hierarchy.

Daniel: One thing I want to call out about what you said is it’s not just any hierarchy, it’s a hierarchy about authorized decision rights. When we talk about hierarchy, we say hierarchy is shorthand for a hierarchy of who has what authorized decision rights. And the higher up and the hierarchy you are, the more you are authorized to make decisions that affect the entire group. So for example, when we elect someone in the United States, we are literal electing them to make decisions that affect the entire group. So this has huge implications. When you talked about banishment, I think this is the reason why people defer to authority maybe too readily in this world, and it’s a cause of many sorrows. People just normally accept whoever shows up as an authority figure without questioning, like with a lack of sovereignty, almost automatically, almost instinctually, almost at a deep code level. I think it has to do with survival. People are very much concerned with surviving and they feel like deferring to authority is going to help them in their fitness.

Jim: So we’ve, I think, given our listeners a very light gloss on these two books. And we have not done justice to these two books.

Daniel: Not at all.

Jim: These two books are a lot richer than we have gotten into here. We just hit some of the high points. And again, if you’re interested in these topics, go read the books. They’re both well written, easy to understand, you don’t have to have any special background to make sense of them. So go read them. So now let’s move on from these two different though overlapping perspectives. And what do we think this means for how we should be thinking about the world we live in today?

Daniel: The world is seeking leadership all the time. And especially during a crisis and sense making and meaning like we have now, more than ever people are almost too willing to settle for any kind of leadership. The Game~B folks have a vocabulary, have a glossary, have terms of art, one of them is sovereignty. So sovereignty, one definition of sovereignty is the ability to stand aside and to be careful about who and what you’re authorizing, not being so quick to follow. So we talk a lot about leadership and authority but there’s also followship, and sovereignty speaks to that.

Jim: Absolutely. And the forager too. Let’s just jump in here for a second, let’s get back on your story. That’s clearly the idea of personal sovereignty was core to how the forager saw themselves. And the hierarchy that they were trying to loosen and make much more specific and not general. The reason they did not like the big man, was the big man would limit their personal sovereignty. And they were everything Boehm talks about, is that there seemed to be an instinctual sense. And other people, I just finished reading Graeber’s new book, Graeber, who was the other guy, his co-author? Going to how the North American forest Indians lived. And famously they didn’t want nobody to tell them what to do, God damn it. And that is sovereignty at some level. Of course, you have to be practical and know that you also have to cooperate. But the strong sense of, you ain’t the boss of me, is something that’s been beaten out of people here in our modern world.

Daniel: That’s correct. I think it’s in the deep code of the human species, part of our makeup, part of our nature, is to defer to authority in service to survival.

Jim: That’s the chip part, right?

Daniel: Yeah. This is very much what’s going on, often below the level of consciousness, Jim. So people are routinely authorizing leaders who they haven’t really thoughtfully about, who are now in charge of decisions that affect them and the entire group. So the sovereignty thing in Game~B, from my point of view, is a huge issue. There’s not nearly enough emphasis on authority and authorization. So for example, in universities across the country, there’s schools of leadership studies but you won’t be finding any schools on authority studies. And that’s actually the deeper thing because all leaders are authorized in some way to be so or they wouldn’t be leaders.

Daniel: Like you said, positional-based or role-based formal or informal, but authority is at the bottom of everything. Even your podcast, the people that you choose to have on the podcast, you are authorizing their voices as potential leaders in the world today. We’ve discussed some candidate guests. And without getting into the names, you and I have discussed how, “Well I don’t know if I want to give that person a voice.” Because I’ve got a certain agenda of my own and I don’t know if I want to authorize that voice as how I picked up on that conversation. And that’s very much what you’re doing.

Jim: No, actually I will say my algorithm is actually slightly different than that. And though it may be constructively a similar result. I remember some of those conversations. One of the things I’ve chosen for the style of this podcast is to, as you know, I push back a fair bit with all the guests. But I’ve never had a guest on that, with one exception, that I radically disagree with on most things. I figure there’s enough negativity in the world. I want to bring on people who, in some sense, I think are saying things that are true or that are useful or that are beautiful. I do like to push back where I disagree, but it’s just not the game I’ve chosen to play, to engage with people who I’m not more or less on a similar page with.

Daniel: So true, useful, and beautiful is what you are willing to authorize as a curator of the Jim Rutt Show.

Jim: What I think is true, useful, and beautiful, what I personally believe to be. I make no claim that I am always right or that my views are the objective definitions of truth, duty, and utility. But I will take that actually from you, this is good. It’s a good conversation, that my authority in the space of the Jim Rutt Show, the way I choose to model this authority is to look for and to approve people that I think, personally and with recourse that nobody else, if I bring them on my show will add to the world stock of beauty, utility, or truth.

Daniel: So there you go. The other thing I want to say about this, both Boehm and Michael Chwe speak about it in their books, and for the record, I found 17 references to the word authority in the Boehm book and I found six references to the term social distancing as part of the sanctions that they do when they don’t value what’s going on, they socially distance. But getting back to the authority thing, Chwe and Boehm both, I think, are discussing exactly this because the authority information is the glue that holds a social system together. So for example, if you were still a CEO at Network Solutions, you bring me into Network Solutions and you introduce me around, you give me the person’s name. And the very next thing you do is you tell me what their positional situation is, where are they in the authority hierarchy. Why is that information shared with me? So I can make sense of where I am because that’s a glue that’s holding everything together, it’s that authority information.

Daniel: So this is playing out on social media in a huge way, it’s playing out in your podcast, it plays out obviously in the Boehm stuff because it’s all about this. And the common knowledge piece is really about what narratives and what information, what knowledge we’re authorizing, as you brought up when you discuss China being okay with certain kinds of challenges and totally not okay with others. The macro narrative is not going to be trifled with, they shepherd that and steward that. So this authority thing is a big deal. The information is what holds society together. And US elections or elections in any country are about who gets to decide. And we’re seeing that even in egalitarian societies in Boehm’s book. Who gets to decide where we hunt? Who gets decide if we go to war? Who gets to decide where we go looking for certain kinds of food? We’re electing the best people we can in each role to go do that, we’re authorizing them.

Jim: We have to if we’re going to cooperate. And again, we talk about sovereignty, but on the flip side of sovereignty the true human superpower which has allowed us to basically live in every biome and just doing remarkable things is cooperation. And at least so far at the micro level, there needs to be some authority, there needs to be a decision making to achieve coordinated efforts amongst people. But I guess my take in the Game~B perspective is that this is ossified into rigid hierarchies. Again, go back to Network Solutions. I walk you around and say, “Oh, this is the manager you work for, who reports to this director, reports to that vice president, who reports to me.” That’s the formal position-based box. But we also both know in real companies an awful lot of what really happens, happens in the informal leadership aspects of it.

Daniel: Let’s talk about that, let’s discuss that for a minute. Here’s one of the characteristics of the informal authority system, it can change and adapt about 1,000 times faster than the formal system can. That’s the first thing about it, is that you and I might be hold someone in high esteem and then they do something that’s completely foolish, and exponentially they’re standing suffers instantly and exponentially. The formal system can’t do that because there’s procedure, there’s protocol, there’s compliance, there’s all of HR, and all this other stuff. You can’t get rid of a bad formally authorized leader as quick as you can get rid of an informally authorized one. Like we see it in the Boehm book through shunning, it’s like, “No, we don’t authorize that anymore.”

Jim: And we reauthorize it every day, essentially. Joe, who used to be the best hunter, he ain’t the best hunter anymore. So maybe Joe gets to have two or three days worth of inertia but he doesn’t get two or three years like somebody in a box might with position authority. So I think that’s, again, another driver, why in this re-imagined human operating system that we’re trying to find our way through with Game~B, we’re wondering if we can build even large scale, long range cooperation without rigid, unbending positional authority. You probably need named authority, but are there ways to make it more fluid, and to your point, much more adaptable to the real factors of the facts on the ground?

Daniel: That is a very interesting question. So I would submit that Game~B architecture is authorization architecture first and foremost. Because if there’s one thing that we don’t like, it’s the Game~A authority structure.

Jim: And I was actually thinking about this as a little example today. We’re finding some interest in people contributing money to the Game~B movement to do more of this movie that I talked about early on, do more Game~B arts. There’s a couple of architectures one, we could put it all into a common pool and have a committee appointed to allocate it out to projects, et cetera. And as we thought this through and go, “Yeah, that’s pure Game~A. We made some small group of people the curators of projects.

Jim: And they said, “Yeah, the Game~B way is let’s provide a platform where people can propose projects and people can directly support the projects they want to support.” So that leadership, in the sense of people proposing a project, is put out there. But people have to come to them, opt in rather than we delegate to some group of curators to figure this out for us. I said, “Huh that’s quite interesting.” This is a completely different way of the thinking about how a culture authorizes. Because someone does have to actually gather funds to create a work of art, and does so without any intermediary bureaucracy and it’s completely fluid, right?

Daniel: Yeah. And it’s based on passion and responsibility. So in the Open Space world, Harrison Owen, who created Open Space, he’s a storyteller, he is up in his 80s now, he has a lot of these sayings. One of them is, “Without passion, nobody cares. And without responsibility, nothing gets done.” And then he goes on to say that, “Passion without responsibility will not win the game. And responsibility alone is mere obligation.” You really need both. So when the passionate and the responsible show up, that film’s going to get made because they care and they’re committed. They’re not just going to say, “Hey, the film’s a great idea. Why don’t you do it?” That’s a passion without responsibility, you need both. So this opt-in thing is based on invitation and responding to invitation. So that’s actually another big thing I think that we can get out of the work of Boehm, is that basically positional titles and rank status and the authority that comes from that is actually not adaptive. It’s not as adaptive as what you call role-based or the informal authorization.

Jim: And of course, role-based authority or the example of the self organizing funding of movies is not stupid and arbitrary. We look at each potential candidate and we assess their capabilities. So someone lightly puts themself out as the hunter leader, we say, “Oh, wait a minute. Daniel has never hit anything with an arrow in his fucking life, why should we listen to him?” And the same with the movie, someone proposes some grandiose $100 million space opera and we say, “Hmm, this person has never actually successfully delivered in eight minutes short, probably not the person that we want to lead the charge on $100 million space opera.”

Jim: So again, humans are not stupid, they’re pragmatic and they’re able to, at some level, evaluate the appropriateness of a person to a role. I think that’s something that’s very hopeful actually for the ability to get away from position-based leadership and move more pervasively to role-based leadership. Because we’re not going to give up vetting. In fact, we may actually vet our leaders much more if we personally have to give them a grant of resources or our time or authority for some purpose rather than grudgingly accept their authority that was pushed down on us from above because somebody was put in the box.

Daniel: Exactly. And a lot of times you can get totally out of alignment. You can have the wrong person in a leadership role, a positional leadership role, and it can be horrible for the group for a long time until that person’s removed. Whereas in the informal system, things move at the speed of light. People are promoted and demoted almost instantly based on how the group is assessing their performance, their behavior, and so on. The other thing about the Boehm book is he talked a lot about what he would call relevant plausibility in some of his theories, Jim. So he would discuss, he’d make a hypothesis, or he’d offer something and he’d to it as relatively plausible. Now, one part of the book he talked about how we sat for over 300 hours and watched all the Jane Goodall chimpanzee tapes. So this is a guy that’s totally fascinated with primates and he wants so much to have a unified theory of egalitarianism. Do you feel like he might have been reaching in some of the work?

Jim: Yes, actually because he admitted it, that he was attempting to build a theory here but there really wasn’t quite enough evidence to build it on. And interestingly, Graeber in his new book, the Dawn of Everything, David Graeber and David Wengrow, which a lot of people are reading and talking about, it is a good book. I just finished reading it, I don’t know, a week ago. They actually engage Boehm, which is unusual. In two different sections of that book, they actually specifically call out Boehm and his theories in Hierarchy in the Forest and engage it. In their first engagement, I think they were actually bang on, which is that they acknowledged that he was certainly onto something.

Jim: But because their core thesis in the book is that human history is a lot more interesting and a lot more variegated than the straightforward narrative of forager becomes tribalist, becomes several agriculturists, becomes state, becomes empire, and that things were much, much more varied than that. So their principle critique of Boehm was, “Yes, sort of right sometimes. But here’s some examples of brutal top-down dictators in small forager groups. Here’s some examples of egalitarianism at much larger scales.” So Boehm was onto something but overstated his position with respect to its universality. And I would say that’s probably a fair assessment.

Daniel: And to support his work, let’s also point out number one, through cultural anthropology, he has to look at artifacts and make guesses. And then through ethnography, he has to extrapolate backward through time. But he was never there, so he can’t really be sure, he can only be sure of who these people are now. So he did the best he could given those tools.

Jim: Interesting methodological question. Of course, this is a famous problem with cultural anthropology. To what degree can we look at today’s forager people or forager people that existed within very recent historical time, so they were reasonably well documented, and project that back into history? And it’s a known problem, but it’s all we got.

Daniel: So I want to read something out of page 123, where he refers to the term game. I watched carefully for this word in the book, and it shows up on page 123. And here’s what he says, “The egalitarian ethos amounts to an unusual political ‘game’ that is based on social agreement among the main political actors.” The implicit contract reads something like this, “There are individually variable human tendencies to outstrip or control one’s fellows, which can lead to domination by the strong. We determine to solve the problem as follows. Rather than countenance modes of competition that will permit one of us to dominate the others, we all agree to give up our small chance of becoming ascendant in order to avoid the very high probability that we will be subordinated. We agree to settle merely for individual autonomy for all, rather than seeking ascendancy or domination. And we implement this program by defining our firsts among equals.” So meritocracy.

Jim: You have to pull that one out. That’s damn close to almost a preamble for the Game~B constitution.

Daniel: It’s worthwhile to look at it, page 123, where he refers to it as a game. We talked about meetings, we talked about ritual, we talked about meetings being games. We talked about who Huizinga in his book, Homo Ludens, the game playing animal. I think that this is what we’re doing all the time. And that where politics are concerned, it’s about who decides ultimately for the group. And authority and authorization is at the core of that. And in what we’ve talked about over this talk, discussed small group, the virtue of a small group, the small group game. How do we scale it, Jim? That’s the real question.

Jim: That’s a real question. I would say it’s the biggest open question in the Game~B hypothesis. Can we actually scale non-position-based leadership to the scale of building 787s, getting to the moon. Or the one I use as a thought experiment is the Long Baseline gravity observatory.

Daniel: Oh, what’s that?

Jim: Several billion dollars. That’s the thing that detected to gravity waves. So a 30 year massive scientific project on three continents, thousands of people, loosely coupled but still, at least in part, driven by position-based leadership. Could humanity find its way through new ways of self organizing to be able to take on the largest challenges? Because one of the things I always have to underline for people, Game~B is not the theory of hippies living in a mud hut. Game~B still wants humanity to get to the stars. So we have to solve huge problems and we don’t yet know how to do it at that scale. But it’s our number one challenge, to try to figure that out.

Daniel: Coordination problems, Jim, that’s what they are.

Jim: They’re coordination and cooperation problems. And the two are closely related but they’re not quite the same thing.

Daniel: So Boehm talks about generosity being a key trait of any leadership candidate, that and an even temper. Now, this generosity thing actually plays out in the way that leaders lead. So if leaders lead not with domination, not with delegation, but with invitation, a couple of things happen all of a sudden. Number one, when you invite, authority passes from the sender to the receiver. The receiver is now in charge of the next sequence of events, when they respond, how they respond, if they respond at all. So there’s some implicit authority generosity there.

Daniel: If a leader invites someone to come in and do something, the leader is saying, “Hey, you’re pretty good at this. Would you like to lead in this particular domain for a little while?” So there’s some real honor associated with leadership invitation as well. Then we talked about passion and responsibility. If the person’s not passionate and they’re not responsible, they’re not going to say yes to that invitation. So some people get invited into a role they never wanted any part of, they’re voluntold. Maybe part of the Game~B ethic is that invitational leader, leadership invitation is at the core of the leadership ethos. What do you think about that?

Jim: I like that, I like that. At least certainly it seems like a reasonable building block, reverse the polarity, right?

Daniel: Right.

Jim: And it’s very similar to the idea of crowdfunding the movie. Which is at some we’re inviting you to participate. That nobody is saying, “We’re I got to do this.” Basically they’re saying, “Here’s an opportunity, who wants to become involved, either as a worker, an advisor, or a funder or all the above?” So your idea, which you have obviously campaigned in your writings and your books and things, of invitation-based leadership actually, especially as we’ve pursued this examination in this conversation, actually looks like a potentially quite useful building block as we think about what is Game~B leadership, cooperation, coordination at scales beyond the Dunbar number. I’m reasonably confident that we can figure it out below the Dunbar number. But so far we have not demonstrated the ability to do it above the Dunbar number, and this may well be one of the important constituents of that.

Daniel: Do you want to go a little further on this thread?

Jim: Yeah. If you have other things to say, let’s get them out. We don’t have a lot of time, try to wrap it up in the next five minutes or so. But what other thoughts do you have along these lines?

Daniel: Let me continue with this receiver thing. So let’s say that the leader invites someone from the group to come in and take the point position or lead on something. And now we’re going to find out if that person is passionate and responsible about the topic. So they’re not going to say yes unless they know what’s in it for them. So it has to be carefully framed. Jane McGonigal in her book, Reality is Broken, on page 22 did the world a tremendous favor by offering an extremely general and extremely robust definition of a good game. And she said that it had four properties. First, clear goals, what’s in it for the person. Secondly, the constraints, boundaries, or guardrails, the things that are not negotiable. Like when you show up when you leave. And then the third thing was a way to track your progress, how to read feedback and know where you are in the game. People need to experience progress to have a feeling of wellbeing. So goals, rules, progress tracking. And then the fourth and most important piece, opt in participation.

Daniel: Now, what’s super interesting about this is that we refer to this Game~B, the word game is baked in to the term Game~B. So that’s pretty interesting number one and number two, the definition that Jane put out there for a good game actually is the same exact structure of a well-formed invitation. If you invite me into something but you can’t name the goals, you can’t name the constraints, you can’t name how I’m going to experience progress, I cannot give you an unambiguous yes or no. But if you define the goals, the rules, the feedback mechanisms, and you’re offering me a job, I can give you a totally unambiguous yes or no if you can define those things for me. So this is some of the pieces of the invitational leadership style. It goes back to McGonigal’s definition of game. And also that definition applies to well-formed invitations. So the last thing I’ll say about this is that well-formed invitations require much more design thinking, much more a rigor, and much more discipline than mere delegations because they-

Jim: I like it.

Daniel: If you want people in, you better darn well explain what’s in it for them and structure it. So that’s my rant on that piece.

Jim: Very useful. And I know we’ve talked about this before, but this actually has made it more clear. Somehow having these two parallax views on it of Chwe and Boehm. Well, Daniel, we are at the 90 minute mark. And me being an old fart, I noticed my mental acuity starts to fuzz out a little bit around 90 minutes. Sometimes I can carry on a little further, but not much. So I think it’s best that we wrap it up here. This has been a fascinating conversation as always. And I look forward to doing one in the future.

Daniel: Beautiful, Jim. I just want to say one thing in closing about you, you got to wake up pretty early in the morning to pull a fast one on Jim Rutt, pretty early in the morning. So with that, I’ll leave you.

Jim: All right. I won’t disagree with that one. I’m going to wrap it right there.