home_meerkatOn my way to work I received a TED Talk email with the subject line of PUPPIES! followed by a mention of complexity theory. Intrigued, I listened in.

The talk, given by Nicolas Perony, discussed animals in their natural habitat and how surprisingly (though they aren’t aware) they are affecting the larger group of their species and mirroring each other’s behaviors.

For example, how do meerkats adapt to new circumstances such as a road?  Well the dominant female meerkat leads the group to the road, and then lets the subordinates pass ahead before she does. (Clever girl!)  As the female matriarch, she is both protecting herself and ensuring the livelihood of the meerkat group.

These animals follow simple rules that collectively create larger patterns of behavior. In thinking about this, I started drawing connections between complexity theory and personalization. If you think about 1:1 personalization, it’s simply not scalable for the larger population or “species”. By learning the patterns of behavior displayed by the larger group, you are capitalizing on the wisdom of the crowd and learning from the value that their experience carries with it. These learned behaviors are both simple and complex at the same time yet they provide the group with a better experience.  And while online shopping may not be as dangerous as crossing the road, in the meerkat example, learning from the crowd may just be the difference between life or death.