Learning from Apes: Simon remembers a very local educational

You may remember a post on ape dynamics by Dr Katalin Csatadi of Apemanagement©. If not, then very briefly: She looks at the social hierarchies of the bonobo and uses these learnings as means of understanding those found in human workplaces. She ends the post with an explanation as to exactly what Apemanagement© does:

    ‘[We] translate academic research from biology and the behavioural sciences into usable and practical knowledge, as well as learning methods that can be used to address everyday social issues. Their key areas of current focus are management and corporate behaviour, bullying and choice of partner.’

This is interesting stuff. We are after all animals, however sophisticated, and if you’ve come across the likes of The Secret Lives of Five Year Olds, then it’s very clear as to how we evolve, both as species and within our own lives. Observing apes teaches us, says Dr Csatadi about ourselves.

So, to come to the point: We – the whole office – travelled over the summer to Port Lympne Reserve of the Aspinall Foundation, Kent, one of the places where Apemanagement© sheds light to all the aforementioned ‘usable and practical knowledge.’ It was a long and thought provoking day, much of it taken up with drawing parallels between ape and human behaviour, sometimes enlightening, sometimes downright disturbing, often hilarious.

Of the former, we learned that chimps are one of the only handful of animal species that recognise themselves in a mirror, meaning that, like us, they have a sense of how they are perceived – or better put, have an image of themselves – and are thus capable of practising behaviours, a talent that allows as much for manipulation as it does sympathy.

In terms of how the same levels of emotional intelligence might result in the disturbing, we were shown a video of a fake lion entering the a chimp compound, resulting in the alpha male scarpering up the tallest trees, leaving the females to fend for the group. The next day the male was beaten by the females and ostracised. The fall from dominant male to outcast was swift and brutal.

From our own perspective, thinking on Dr Csatadi’s above explanation as to the ideological purpose of Apemanagement©, drawing parallels between what we saw and our own office set-up was amusingly illuminating, each of us more or less falling into recognisable behaviour-types, the point being that, while things are never so clear cut when it comes to analysing exactly why we each behave the way we do, strip away the sophisticated layering, and we are left with what we are: a group of humans working together because it’s to our advantage as individuals to do so.

Here endeth the (ape) lesson.

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