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  • Neil: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English, I'm Neil.

  • Catherine: And I'm Catherine.

  • Neil: Catherine, what's the connection between

  • hierarchies, managers and chickens?

  • Catherine: Well, I don't know Neil, but I'm, sure you're

  • going to tell me.

  • Neil: First of all, could you explain for our listeners

  • what a hierarchy is?

  • Catherine: Of course! A hierarchy is a way of organising

  • people. For example, in a company, where there are

  • people working at different levels. You've

  • got bosses, managers and workers.

  • The workers do the work and the managers have

  • meetings that stop the workers doing the work!

  • Neil: But where do the chickens come in?

  • We'll find out shortly, but first here is today's question

  • and it issurprise, surpriseabout chickens.

  • What is the record number of eggs laid by one chicken

  • in a year? Is it:

  • a: 253

  • b: 371

  • or c: 426

  • What do you think Catherine:?

  • Catherine: Well, I think most chickens lay an egg once

  • a day, so I think it's 371.

  • Neil: Well, we will have an answer later in the

  • programme.

  • Now, for hierarchies and chickens.

  • In the radio programme The Joy of 9 to 5,

  • produced by Somethin' Else for the BBC,

  • entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan

  • described an experiment.

  • In this experiment, researchers compared the

  • egg production of a group of average chickens

  • to a group of super-chickens.

  • That's chickens with an above average egg production.

  • Which was the most successful?

  • Here's Margaret Heffernan, and by the way,

  • the noun for a group of chickens is a flock.

  • Margaret Heffernan: He compares the two flocks

  • over six generations.

  • The average flock just gets better and better and better.

  • Egg production increases dramatically.

  • The super-flock of super-chickens,

  • at the end of six generations, all but three are dead,

  • because the other three have killed the rest.

  • They've achieved their individual

  • productivity by suppressing the productivity of the rest.

  • And that's what we do at work.

  • Neil: Which flock was most successful?

  • Catherine: Well, the super-flock actually killed each

  • other, so it turned out that the average flock

  • laid more eggs in total and was more successful.

  • Neil: Yes, but why was that?

  • Catherine: Well, the super-chickens must have seen

  • their other flock members not as colleagues,

  • but as competitors.

  • Now to understand this, we have to start with the word

  • 'productivity'.

  • This noun refers to the amount of work that's done.

  • So, on an individual level, the super-chickens achieved

  • productivity because they suppressed

  • the productivity of their flock members.

  • 'Suppressed' here means they 'stopped the other

  • chickens from being productive' by killing them.

  • Neil: So, what do we learn from this experiment?

  • Catherine: Well, Margaret Heffernan suggests that we

  • see this kind of behaviour in the human workplace.

  • When everyone is equal, productivity is high,

  • but as soon as there's a hierarchy

  • - as soon as there are managers -

  • things can go wrong because not all managers see their

  • role as making life easier for the workers.

  • They demonstrate their productivity as managers,

  • by interfering with the productivity of the workers.

  • Neil: But there are other experiments which show

  • that chickens are productive in a hierarchy.

  • How are those hierarchies different though?

  • Here's Margaret Heffernan again.

  • Margaret Heffernan: So chickens have an inbuilt

  • or, if you like, an inherited hierarchy - that's where we

  • get the term 'pecking order' from.

  • But it's one that they create among themselves,

  • rather than one that's imposed upon them.

  • Neil: So, which hierarchy works, at least for chickens?

  • Catherine: Well, the best hierarchy is one that isn't

  • imposed. That means a good hierarchy isn't

  • forced on the chickens.

  • They do well when they create the hierarchy themselves,

  • naturally. They work out the pecking order themselves.

  • Neil: 'Pecking order' is a great phrase.

  • We use it to describe levels of importance in an

  • organisation. The more important you are, the higher in

  • the pecking order you are.

  • Where does this phrase originate?

  • Catherine: Well, 'pecking' describes what chickens do

  • with their beaks.

  • They hit or bite other chickens with them.

  • And the most important or dominant chickens, peck

  • all the others. The top chicken does all the pecking,

  • middle-level chickens get pecked and do some pecking

  • themselves, and some chickens are only pecked

  • by other chickens.

  • So, there is a definite pecking order in chickens.

  • Neil: Right, time to review this week's vocabulary,

  • but before that let's have the answer to the quiz.

  • I asked what the record number of eggs

  • laid by a single chicken in a year was.

  • The options were:

  • a: 253

  • b: 371

  • or c: 426

  • What did you say, Catherine?

  • Catherine: I said 371.

  • Neil: Well, lucky you! You're definitely top of

  • the pecking order, aren't you?

  • Because you are right!

  • Catherine: That's a lot of eggs!

  • Neil: Indeed. Now, the vocabulary.

  • We are talking about 'hierarchies'

  • - a way to organise a society or workplace with

  • different levels of importance.

  • Catherine: An expression with a similar meaning is

  • 'pecking order', which relates to how important

  • someone, or a chicken, is, within a hierarchy.

  • Neil: A group of chickens is a 'flock'.

  • It's also the general collective noun for birds as well,

  • not just chickens.

  • Catherine: Another of our words was the noun

  • 'productivity',

  • which refers to 'the amount of work that is done'.

  • Neil: And if you 'suppress' someone's productivity,

  • you stop them from being as productive

  • as they could be.

  • Catherine: And finally, there was the verb to 'impose'.

  • If you impose something, you force it on people.

  • For example,

  • the government imposed new taxes on fuel.

  • Neil: Well that is the end of the programme. For

  • more from us though, check out Instagram,

  • Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and of course,

  • our App! Don't forget the website as well

  • - bbclearningenglish.com.

  • See you soon, bye.

  • Catherine: Bye!

Neil: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English, I'm Neil.

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B1 UK catherine hierarchy flock productivity margaret noun

What chickens can teach us about hierarchies - 6 Minute English

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    ああ posted on 2021/11/07
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