On the Bus



I am looking forward to facilitating a workshop on Day 2 of the ECB’s Leading to Performance Conference this week.
This workshop is planned for support staff.
I chose the title On the Bus to convey my sense of the journeys support staff make with sport coaches.
I am going to use these slides to frame the workshop discussions. I have drawn this Mindmap to summarise these slides.
The workshop is linked to an In Transition workshop on Day 1 of the Conference.

Leading and Following

As I have been preparing for the workshops I have been thinking about leading and following.
I am using a quote from Robert Jerry in both workshops:

For the leader to inspire and lead, however, the followers must be willing and able to be inspired and be led. In fact, followership may be viewed as a form of leadership … followers must adopt some characteristics of leadership when embracing the role of follower …

This dynamic interplay of leading and following has come to the front of my thinking through the work of one of my PhD students at the University of Canberra, Jo Gibson.
She has prompted me to look at ethology too. I have been revisiting studies of fish, birds and wildebeast.
In 2010, Andrea Cavagna and her colleagues wrote about the scale-free behaviour of starlings. They observe:

The change in the behavioral state of one animal affects and is affected by that of all other animals in the group, no matter how large the group is. Scale-free correlations provide each animal with an effective perception range much larger than the direct interindividual interaction range, thus enhancing global response to perturbations. Our results suggest that flocks behave as critical systems, poised to respond maximally to environmental perturbations.

More recently, Lucy Aplin and her colleagues have social foraging and collective behaviour in wild birds. They report:

within groups, individuals with more reactive personalities behave more collectively, moving to within-flock areas of higher density. By contrast, proactive individuals tend to move to and feed at spatial periphery of flocks …

Lucy and her colleagues link to a paper I had read as part of my Coach as Leader post at the outset of the ASADA investigation into Essendon. Shinnosuke Nacayama and colleagues (2013) in their study of stickleback fish found that:

irrespective of an individual’s temperament, its tendency to follow is malleable, whereas the tendency to initiate collective movement is much more resistant to change. As a consequence of this lack of flexibility in initiative, greater temperamental differences within a pair led to improved performance when typical roles were reinforced, but to impaired performance when typical roles were reversed.

In a more recent paper on the behaviour of sticklebacks, Jolle Jolles and his colleagues (2014) report:

Overall, the behavior of relatively bold fish was more consistent across the stages, whereas shy fish changed their behavior more strongly depending on the current context. These findings emphasize how the history of previous social interactions can play a role in the emergence and maintenance of social roles within groups, providing an additional route for individual differences to affect collective behavior.


Jo Gibson’s work on leadership and followership has taken me to Karen Barad’s discussion of quantum entanglement. I will not be discussing this in the workshop but I will have it in mind as I discuss being On the Bus.
Ethology and quantum physics seem natural partners for the theme of this year’s ECB Conference … and for an understanding of the dynamics of group behaviour.
The title of the workshop is prompted by my memories of reading about Lenin’s thinking about the Revolution in Russia. I think he said revolutions are determined by whether you catch the train … or the bus. You have to be there to be part of the transformation.
I am hopeful that the workshop will explore how we adapt in social settings and perhaps have the opportunity to be part of the transformation of performance by being in the right place at the right time.
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Photo Credits

Manor House (Nico Hogg, CC BY-NC 2.0)
IMG_2411 (Dan Townsend, CC BY-NC 2.0)
Observing (Jerrold Bennett, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


  1. As you can guess I have been following some of the links in your presentation – this session should be very thought provoking/interesting. Some of the links (such as James Hind) are easy to digest but that from the Royal Society needs some very careful study!
    Thanks for sharing

    • Wonderful find. This is the essence of connectivism for me … knowing people who know stuff 🙂
      I really like the crowd source opportunities created by open sharing, Gordon. Thank you for having such a polymath interest.


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