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But it does mean that, in an important sense, there i's such a thing as society. Analytically, once the principle that the behaviour of individuals can be affected directly by the behaviour of others is accepted, the properties and features of the collective whole can no longer be deduced simply from the conduct of a typical individual. The outcome for the colony in its entirety will not be the same as it would be if it consisted of a single individual operating in complete isolation on a desert island.
In short, the assembled beast behaves differently from its myriad individual component cells, a concept articulated several millennia ago in the book of the prophet Ezekiel: 'son of man, can these bones live?' Or, as the popular song puts it more graphically, 'dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones'.
The principle of interacting agents, of our ants, ought to be able to illuminate not just economic issues, but questions in the social sciences. The discipline of sociology is, after all, meant to involve the study of society.
A light-hearted, but neverthelessserious, example might be the best way to proceed. The so-called discipline of psephology, the study and prediction of voters' behaviour, is one of the few which is able to make economic forecasting look respectable. Enormous errors in the prediction of election results can be made by experts only days before the actual event, and even on the day itself.
From time to time, a conventional wisdom emerges about what determines the outcome of elections, only for it to be rapidly contradicted by events. Bill Clinton declared that 'it's the economy, stupid', and many psephologists took these words to heart in thinking about the outcome of the British election in 1997. The economy was growing rapidly, unemployment was falling sharply, and inflation was lower than it had been for over thirty years. Yet the ruling Conservatives suffered one of the biggest defeats in their entire history, which stretches back over two hundred years.
The behaviour of Western electorates seems to have two striking features. In terms of the overall division of votes between the leading political parties, there can be long periods of reasonable stability, punctuated by large and rapid changes. The changes in some European countries during the course of this century have been truly dramatic, but the point can be illustrated even in the generally more stable climate of the United Kingdom.
The Liberal Party won an enormous victory in the election of 1906, but were almost defeated in 1910 and by the. early 1920s had been reduced to the status of a small minority party, where they have remained ever since. The massive Labour victory Of 1945, overthrowing Winston Churchill, was overturned by 1951 and the Conservatives were brought back to power. A large Conservative victory in 1959 had been changed into an equally large Labour one by 1966. Yet there have also been periods of stability with, for example, the Conservatives remaining in power between 1951 and 1964, and again from 1979 to 1997.
The second point relates to evidence at the level of the individual voter. Even when the overall share of votes in opinion polls is reasonably stable, studies which follow the views of the same panel of voters over time indicate a fairly high level of change by individuals. By definition, if the aggregate share of votes is stable, the various changes of mind by individuals must cancel each other out. But these changes of opinion by individuals most definitely exist, even at times of stability in the overall outcome. Psephologists even have their own word to describe such behaviour, the faintly unsettling 'churning'.
In the scientific spirit, we are searching for a model of individual voter behaviour which is compatible with these two pieces of empirical evidence. A steady incidence of switching opinion by individuals and an overall pattern of voting for the major parties in which periods of stability are followed by swift and substantial changes.
As a first approximation, we need look no further than our friends the ants. To simplify the exposition, imagine that there are only two parties, A and B, and that voting is compulsory, on pain of a penalty so huge and Draconian that everyone does actually vote (it could be, for example, a life sentence condemning non-voters to listen to every single debate which takes place in the national parliament). The model can readily be extended to incorporate more parties, including a nominal one to represent those who choose not to vote at all. But it is easier to start with just two.
An individual who supports party A in any given period of time can, in the next period, do one of three things. He or she can simply continue to support A. The voter may be persuaded, of his or her own volition, or by some piece of news, to switch to party B. We do not need to specify the nature of the news, which we assume arrives at random. Both anecdotal and more structured evidence suggests that voters can and do make up their minds on the most bizarre grounds. For example, I was told in the early 19gos in all seriousness that someone had decided to abandon the Conservatives on the grounds that the then finance minister 'looked like an owl'. Finally, someone may decide to switch as a result of being influenced by the views and decisions of others, such as friends or colleagues at work.
This is exactly the model of ant behaviour. An individual can continue to be loyal to the same party, can decide to switch with a given probability on his or her own account, or can change opinion, with a different probability, as a result of being influenced by others. So the model involves, inherently, a constant stream of changes of opinion by individuals. And, as we saw in the previous chapter, this generates in aggregate the type of behaviour which is actually observed. Periods of relative stability in the division of support between the two parties are interspersed with sharp and rapid changes.
A typical solution of such a model of voting behaviour in a two-party...
|1||Living at the Edge of Chaos||1|
|2||Dedicated Followers of Fashion||11|
|3||To Catch a Thief||28|
|5||'Use the Maths, Then Burn It'||59|
|6||The Illusion of Control||75|
|7||A Quantitative Quagmire||91|
|8||Ups and Downs||103|
|9||Through a Glass Darkly||121|
|10||The Wealth of Nations||142|
|11||To Have and Have Not||152|
|12||Great Oaks from Little Acorns||166|
|Conclusion: Less Can Be More||182|
The other customer service books displayed in bookstores everywhere typically take one of two forms: They either tell the story of one company's efforts at boosting service quality, or they reveal a series of tips and ideas. These are fine as far as they go. I have written several such books myself. And books like this can have value so long as the reader effectively translates the ideas into application for his or her organization. But these books seldom show how to apply these diverse ideas to your organization.
The few textbooks available in customer service tend to offer over-simplified suggestions on how to phrase conversations, how to smile and polite with customers, and the like. Their simplicity defies the real world sere real people don't speak from scripts and real human relationships e complex and ever-changing.
This book takes a different approach. It ties together the best information from bookstore trade books and school textbooks-and then adds more. In this book you will find a clear and usable process for developing the kinds of skills, attitudes, and thinking patterns needed to win customer satisfaction and loyalty. The process includes developing
Perhaps no arena offers as much opportunity for organizational and professional success as customer service. It lies at the heart of any organization's reason to exist. The companies that do it well experience enormous profitability, marketplace acceptance, and genuine satisfaction among their employees.
Apply Customer Service and enjoy the rewards of professional excellence. Then, let me know how you applied the ideas. I can be reached at email: DrTimm@AOL.com