Skip to content

Visualizing Microlearning in an Organization

What if an organization could move and respond like a murmuration of starlings? Learning Transformation as a Murmuration of Starlings

What happens when you move your team during digital transformation or periods of uncertainty and change? A Murmuration, if you are lucky. A murmuration is a stunning display of starlings, executing turns while remaining completely fluid. What seems random actually requires an acute awareness of the immediate surroundings.


Scientists have recently begun to understand how they are able to create and act as a cohesive organism. Individual starlings are focused not on the entire organism, but on maintaining relative positioning with their seven closest neighbors.

“Starling flocks move in beautiful ways that both captivate and intrigue the observer. When uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort.”
George F. Young


Murmuration Requires Shared Preflight Understanding of Core Knowledge

A critical element supporting murmuration is onboarding employees to a core set of values and operating beliefs. Overall rules and guiding principles – core values, culture, defined roles – provide the structural rules (the physics of flight) and synchronizes behavior between peers and leaders.

In his book Whiplash, Joi Ito describes the MIT Media Lab’s compass learning approach to technology:

“A map implies a detailed knowledge of the terrain, and the existence of an optimum route; the compass is a far more flexible tool and requires the user to employ creativity and autonomy in discovering his or her own path. The decision to forfeit the map in favor of the compass recognizes that in an increasingly unpredictable world moving ever more quickly, a detailed map may lead you deep into the woods at an unnecessarily high cost. A good compass, though, will always take you where you need to go.”

Joi Ito


Social Collaboration to Move the Organization Forward

Onboarding core knowledge allows for a seamless shift to microlearning during times of performance and leads teams through course corrections, much like a compass mid-flight.Interjecting microlearning into social collaboration situations allows for individualized corrections so that team members can function better as a whole. Traditional learning paths and organizational structures have to give way to a more flexible and collaborative way of working that can absorb and respond to change in real time. By focusing learning on collaboration in the social connections of your immediate peers, teams, managers, and direct reports, you can transcend location whether in the same office, on the same floor or campus, or spread across the globe. As teams dynamically interact and individuals shape direction through interactions with other teams, this collaboration across the organization can allow for the entire organization to move as a whole, as a murmuration.

SmarterMedium develops customized microlearning courses and preboarding programs that allow individuals to engage with development and learning programs that fit their schedules and their needs. Individual learners are encouraged to customize their experience throughout the course and adapt the learning to their specific needs while maintaining their perspective of the team and the organization.

Additional Information and citations (and some cool science and visuals)

  1. [Starling Flock Networks Manage Uncertainty in Consensus at Low Cost](
  2. [The Science Of Starling 13.7: Cosmos And NPR](
  3. [The Startling Science of a Starling Murmuration | WIRED](
  4. [The Beautiful Phenomena of Starling flocks, Explained by Computer | Fast Company](
  5. [Whiplash by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe] (

A version of this post appears on  Photo by Laura Aziz on Unsplash