This is a fascinating talk in which Mark Pagel talks about language being the most potent trade that humans have learnt to utilise enabling us to convert new lands and ideas into immense value. The ability to communicate effectively has transformed the way in which we evolved turning us from ‘monkey see monkey do’ creatures into beings able to develop social learning increasing our chances of survival.

How does that relate to business?

Mark says that if we have the capacity to see others doing what we need to do, we can learn by imitating enabling us to benefit from their skills and wisdom. But he also states that this social learning is actually visual theft.

An interesting concept!

We then have the capacity to steal other people’s ideas and benefit from others’ talents perhaps even before they do. Hmmm! And how often have we seen that in business?

He goes on to say that language is ‘social technology’ for enhancing the benefits of cooperation and exchange. We can collectively accumulate ideas. Communication enhances cumulative cultural adaptation!


There is plenty of evidence to illustrate that if we put ideas together then we can enjoy the prosperity of combined wealth of knowledge. It seems that it is naturally within us to share. It has ensured our survival. Collaboration, pooling resources, sharing ideas, mutually supporting one another, referrals ……. anything sound familiar? Anyone who has belonged to a close knit association, mastermind group, a boardroom, (i.e. #EcademyBoardrooms) will know the value of such ideas.

Whilst I can’t quite grasp the concept of of language being the ‘voice of our genes’ and what that might imply, I can however understand that there has to be balance too. Language has demonstrated its ability to be used as a tool to protect and guard clan secrets from competing tribes by stopping the flow of communication – as shown by densely populated areas where many languages spring up in very small areas. Question is though with the world being connected in such extraordinary ways through the internet technologies – how is this going to impact our development of language?

Mark asks are we moving towards one world with one language?

I want to know – is that one language the one of cooperation?

Mark Pagel’s talk on TedTV – definitely an idea worth spreading!

“Biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. He suggests that language is a piece of “social technology” that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation.”

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