Why would Kubrick think "man" is little more than a high-tech chimp?

                            MANAGER SEE, MANAGER DO

            Research on chimps offers clues to human power plays
                excerpted from BUSINESS WEEK, 4/3/95, pp. 90-1

How did Newt Gingrich climb from lowly congressional backbencher to 
Speaker of the House in a mere five years? Part of the answer may lie in 
the work of Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal, who studies how power is 
won and lost within a large community of chimpanzees.

Gingrich has been an avid follower of de Waal's work for years. He has 
his recommended reading list for freshmen Republicans, along with 
better known texts such as the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. 
Constitution, and the Federalist Papers.

What secrets of power has Gingrich gleaned from our simian cousins? In 
short, how to win power by forming tactical coalitions and mounting 
fierce psychological attacks on those blocking the way. CHIMPANZEE
POLITICS chronicles a three-month power struggle in which Luit, an 
ambitious male chimp, waged a carefully crafted campaign to overthrow 
Yeroen, the autocratic established leader. To pull it off, Luit played 
the populist by grooming lower-ranking chimps. He also punished Yeroen's 
supporters and refused to greet Yeroen with the polite submissiveness 
usually accorded his rank.

It's a strategy Gingrich aped in his assault on former Speaker Jim 
Wright. For more than a year, Gingrich attacked Wright's ethics while 
cultivating allies. His campaign gained momentum as the widely disliked 
Wright began to crumble under pressure. Wright resigned in 1989, and the 
once obscure Gingrich was established as a major power. "It made 
Gingrich a big man in Republican politics," says John M. Barry, whose 
The Ambition and the Power chronicled Gingrich's tactics and Wright's 
downfall. "Everyone loves a winner, and he [showed] that the way to beat 
these guys is to just tear them up, rip them up, not be a gentleman 
anymore." Gingrich declined comment.

While Gingrich has found de Waal's work instructive in the political 
arena, the scientists observations may be even more applicable to 
corporate behavior. "Corporate life is a male hunting venture," notes de 
Waal. "They hunt for money."

So what lessons from chimp behavior hold true in corporate life? The CEO 
shouldn't be too high-handed, for one thing. "Dominant males are always 
paranoid," de Waal says. But they can't allow themselves to be too 
aggressive or imperious, because then their lieutenants devote 
themselves to finding a chance to get rid of them. Loners are always 
vulnerable, because they have no one to support them in times of crisis. 
And for indications of who is holding and who is losing influence, watch 
whose jokes are laughed at and whose ideas get ignored at meetings. The 
chimp analogue? If low-ranking animals fail to heed the dominant male's 
displays of hooting and charging, it's a sign he's losing status.

So maybe the law of the jungle isn't such a far cry from contract law 
after all. "Once you've seen chimps in action and thought about evolu-
tionary psychology, the way you look at workplace life will forever 
change," notes Robert Wright . . . "Much more than people consciously 
realize, workplaces are full of subtle jockeying and constant 
gamesmanship. Any CEO who reads CHIMPANZEE POLITICS will never forget 

Back to Table of Contents.