Tapping into Google’s “Hive” mentality


It’s March 16, 2005, and my ringing phone slices through the post-deadline silence, causing an immediate stir in the Surrey Leader newsroom.

Someone recanting their statement? A conflicting fact, putting our front page in question? A gaping hole on page three that needs a story? These calls on deadline were seldom welcome.

Placing the phone to my ear, I listened in disbelief.

“Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri have been acquitted on all charges,” I announced to the newsroom as I continued to listen to the caller from RCMP headquarters.

Malik and Bagri were charged in October, 2000 in the Air India bombings that left 331 dead.

We had been eagerly awaiting their fate for years. Crown failed to make its case.

What happened in that newsroom following the news was nearly as stunning as the call itself.

The group of seven reporters flowed into action viscerally.

The sports reporter, called the press hall and told them to wait for a new front page story (a stalled press was costing us thousands of dollars at the clock ticked. We all knew that). The crime reporter sunk to his phone and began calling back channels figuring out what happened in court. Another called for reaction through the Lower Mainland while the assistant editor got on the phone to victim’s families. Photographers moved to find a picture worthy of holding up the front page.

This was all without discussion, assignment or instruction.

The newsroom was operating as one organism, rather than seven individuals.

This is the ideal for any business with creative management, and the argument can be made most good ones require creative thinkers.

Part of this operating as one is due to great training and teamwork.

But it’s way more than that. It’s also the dissolution of self, a singular focus on a greater purpose.

Crack teams on the Navy Seals call this “The Switch,” and Google refers to it as “Hive Mentality.” They both organizations spend 10s of millions of dollars annually in an effort to create and sustain it.

The navy seals use mindfulness, sensory deprivation tanks among other techniques to help initiate it. None have perfected it yet.

What happened in our newsroom on March 16 was the most efficient use of our team.

Individuals had no place here.

This environment can be cultivated by great training and good policy. It doesn’t occur as readily in workplaces of fear and greed, where anyone in the group lunges for the limelight, or cowers at the wrong moment. This is often where some bureaucracies fail.

It’s why in many cases, threats of job loss or performance bonuses can be counterproductive.

Encouraging a more organic operation can be increased through good relations with the staff team and inspiring it to the common objective.

And when that “Switch” happens, both employers and staff will be amazed by the outcome.

And no amount of money can’t buy that feeling.

Kevin Diakiw