William Muir is an evolutionary biologist who was studying what would increase the egg-laying productivity of chickens.

His hypothesis was that by continually breeding the Super-Chickens of the flock generation after generation, one would progressively develop a better egg-laying hen population.

His experiment used two groups – a control and test group. The control group had nine average producing hens that were left to reproduce for six generations. The test group was made up of “Super-Chickens”– chickens that were the highest quantity egg producers from each successive generation.

There were two pens that the chickens lived in. The control group lived in one pen, and the Super-Chickens lived in a separate pen. The experiment was easy to monitor because all Muir had to do was count the eggs that were being produced.

But in Muir’s experiment to produce Super-Chickens, he discovered something he wasn’t anticipating. The “average” chickens in the control group were plump, well-feathered, healthy, and actually producing more eggs than they were at the start of the experiment.

However, the Super-Chicken group was in pretty sad shape. Only three hens survived after many were aggressively attacked by the other hens and pecked to death.

Not a pretty sight, right!? It brings a sobering insight to the term “pecking order.”

The connection here is clear. Competitive cultures are not sustainable, and can produce wounded people who aren’t able to be as productive.

And, here’s another lens to consider. Some of us suffer from Super-Chicken syndrome by our own devices – we can let that Saboteur voice run rampant and peck ourselves to death in the process. If you know people who resemble the Super-Chicken syndrome, remind them (or yourselves) that “average” can actually be more productive in the long run.