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Posts Tagged ‘Crowds’


Posted by Tim Bryce on August 4, 2009

Some time ago I commented on how people tend to behave in group settings (see “The Stupids”). This led to a series of e-mails I received from people asking me where they could find more information on what I called, “Herd Management.” Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to be found, not unless you are talking about the management of cattle, horses or swine. Then again, maybe that’s not a bad place to start as their objective is essentially the same as moving the human animal.

Herd Management is primarily aimed at moving a large volume of living organisms from Point-A to Point-B, which implies the development of a road map to get there. Like any management function, Herd Management requires considerable planning and tightly controlled execution to achieve the desired result. Beyond this, there are three other variables vital to success: Knowing your subjects, how to motivate them, and controlling their environment.

Before you can manage them, you must first know them, thoroughly. This is needed so you can know what they are thinking, what their interests are, what they are capable or incapable of doing, thereby allowing you to manipulate them accordingly. Even in the management of livestock, ranchers closely monitor the attributes of their animals. For our purposes, this suggests the development of a data base whereby each person is uniquely identified and defined in terms of their characteristics; e.g., address, contact data, age, height, weight, education, job function, salary, likes/dislikes, strengths/weaknesses, whatever is pertinent to motivate and manipulate them. Ideally, a cross-reference feature is available to track the person’s relationship to other people, such as friends and family, thus permitting the identification of those who may influence the person’s actions and decisions either positively or negatively. A tracking mechanism is also required, to monitor their proper and improper movements, and to steer them in the right direction. Such intelligence is essential to Herd Management.

The one element unique to the human animal is their brain and, as such, a feedback mechanism is required to closely monitor what the herd is thinking. The more management knows about what the human being is thinking, the better they can influence it. This is why opinion polls are so important. Beyond this, you will find moles among the herd who are charged with quietly listening, taking notes, and reporting back to management what the herd is thinking. Without this feedback mechanism, Herd Management will inevitably make erroneous decisions in terms of how to manipulate the herd, possibly even causing a stampede in the wrong direction.

The second variable involves motivation. A whip or cattle prod may be useful for animals, but you have to be a little more subtle in coercing humans to go in the direction you want them to. This involves controlling the information from which they form opinions and make actions and decisions. Three elements are involved: the actual content, the vehicle to convey it, and the spin of the information. This means controlling the media to communicate to the people. Suppression of information is hardly a new idea. Even if information is leaked that is damaging to your cause, it can be manipulated and spun in any direction to make it look better than it really is. When in trouble, a diversion is created to distract attention away from the subject at hand.

Essential to all of this is to make your position appear to be mainstream thinking (popular), thereby causing people to readily embrace it and defend its position over objections from dissidents and antagonists (who should be suppressed to maintain the harmony of the herd). People want to believe what they are doing is good and that their best interests are being maintained. To this end, rumors, innuendoes, and inaccuracies (lies) are acceptable, and even preferable for those who spurn the truth.

When communicating with large numbers of people, the message should be simple and easy to understand. This is why catch phrases are quickly adopted in order to communicate whole ideas through a few simple words, thereby achieving a Pavlov’s Dog effect.

The third and final variable is controlling the environment which is primarily concerned with eliminating potential obstacles and interferences that may cause delays or a shift in plan. Keep in mind, the mentality of the members of the herd is on autopilot thereby allowing them to focus on the subject at hand, such as your message. Unexpected distractions, such as a bolt of lightning, an explosion or a heckler, upsets the herd causing them to become less manageable. By carefully managing the environment, you make it easier to control the herd. To this end, Herd Management studies people’s wants/needs, habits, diet, affect of climate, and monitors behavior (such as pushing, shoving, and fighting).

Finally, you need sufficient force to control the herd. In the livestock world, we used to talk about cowboys and wranglers. Now we talk about guides and supervisors who keep a close eye on the herd, spot problems, and takes corrective action at a moment’s notice. To do so requires effective communications and a resourceful staff who can adapt to different situations.

No, you won’t find Herd Management mentioned in the business schools on college campuses. It might sound like “Big Brother” watching, but you’ll find it in the play book of everyone dealing with crowds, be it a sporting event, an amusement park, a political convention, or the public in general. It may not seem politically correct to talk about it, but make no mistake, Herd Management is very much a reality.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Tim Bryce on May 8, 2009

Shortly after graduating from high school I went to work at a large amusement park in Cincinnati for a summer where I ran the cable car ride. I had a lot of smaller jobs while in school, but this was the first where I was exposed to the public on a grand scale. The amusement park provided instructional materials to try and prepare employees in dealing with the public, but I don’t think anything truly prepares you for something like this other than to throw you right into it whereby you either sink or swim.

I have to admit, dealing with the masses for the first time is an eye-opening experience and definitely not for the faint of heart. The public’s indiscretions and atrocities are truly mind-numbing as anyone who has ever worked at such a venue can tell you. While at the park, I saw motorcycle gangs, groups of transvestites, drunk hillbillies, etc., but it was Orphan Day at the park that finally pushed me over the edge. Basically, the park opened its doors to every orphan in the state of Ohio which, to me, seemed like releasing all of the animals from the zoo. The kids basically ran amok throughout the park un-chaperoned. In addition to just being pests, they endangered others on the rides, and frequently injured themselves. As I recall, the log-flume ride had more than its share of chopped off fingers from kids who wouldn’t listen to instruction and keep their hands inside the ride. On more than one occasion they caused my cable-car ride to shut down by jumping up and down in the car during the ride. As an aside, seeing a cable car bounce up and down on a line like a pogo stick is a frightening sight. Bottom-line, Orphan Day was my last day of employment at the park.

Recently, I was asked to help out at a major community event in my area. This was not just another rinky-dink arts and crafts festival, but rather a major outdoor event involving thousands of people. The particular group I was involved with was charged with directing parking and securing the entrances and exits to the event. As the human throngs invaded, I started to experience flashbacks to my amusement park days. Instead of dealing with orphans, motorcycle gangs, etc., I was dealing with basic families and retirees. Interestingly, I discovered they suffered from the same case of “the stupids” as the whackos I had in Ohio, It thereby occurred to me that “the stupids” know no boundary and can be found just about anywhere involving large groups of people.

Here are the earmarks of people suffering from “the stupids” in massive venues:

  • Sensory impairment, particularly sight and sound. It seems people cannot see
    the largest of signs, even when it is blinking in front of them. Further, they seem
    to become deaf when you are trying to give them instruction; either that or they
    seem to forget the English language and look at you like you are from another planet.
  • People become self-centered. Instead of trying to cooperate and wait their turn, they are more interested in pushing and shoving to the head of the line. When you try to correct them, they become belligerent, regardless of how polite you try to be.
  • People develop a herd mentality whereby they follow anyone wherever they are going, right or wrong, kind of like lemmings.

Basically, I find people tend to lose consciousness in mass settings and prefer to have others do the thinking for them. If I have learned anything from this, it is:

1. People have no common sense in massive settings and need to be told what to do, not just once but repetitively until it sinks in.

2. People prefer to be led and told what to do. They are more content if they know someone is watching over them.

3. People are easily manipulated using simple commands. If the message is complicated, the less likely they will understand and obey it. Short, simple commands are all that is necessary (and all that John Q. Public understands).

If this all sounds like a cattle drive, it is, complete with park attendants who play the role of cowboys. Next time you visit an amusement park or political rally, observe how the masses are manipulated and you will see what I’m talking about. Just be careful not to spook the herd though, you might start a stampede. This is why you often hear soothing music at such venues, as it tends to calm people down (like the cowboy’s harmonica).

“Get along little doggie!”

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s eBook (PDF), “The Bryce is Right! Empowering Managers in today’s Corporate Culture” (free DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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