The Tansley Effect

As a repeat reader of Frank Herbert's Dune, I've found myself intrigued by a particular phrase written towards the end of the book.

He set up small unit experiments with regular interchange of data for a swift Tansley Effect, let each group find its own path.

I think that the phrase intrigued me because I'd never heard of the concept before... A rather trivial reason for liking a statement, I know, but I think there is something more to it... Frank Herbert's writing gave me a pretty good idea of what the Tansley Effect was - a testament to his writing.

Attempting a little bit of research into The Tansley Effect will leave you at a lot of loose ends. Many people say that Frank Herbert creatively used a real-life ecologist/botanist's name to provide a 'reality-based', but fictional scientific theory. It's a writing style that I like.

The (Theoretical) Tansley Effect

Alex McClung, another blogger, proposed (here) a version of the Tansley Effect that I like; one that fits the novel and the world in which the characters live in. The Tansley Effect is extrapolated to be:

The cumulative outputs from a group of highly skilled, disciplined professionals all studying the same problem, and routinely sharing their findings. Each new independent finding becomes a common input into everyone else’s process. The Tansley Effect is an endless positive feedback loop. How quickly the solution would reveal itself against such an onslaught!

Some though provoking challenges are proposed:

  1. How do we avoid the waste of duplicated effort?
  2. How do we ensure that information is shared?
  3. How do we eliminate the default competition between parties?

A Real World Application? TEams

I feel like I have a couple of Tansley Effects occurring in my professional circle. The first is with the project team we are working with at the moment. We're all from different backgrounds and have unique, and different approaches to tunnel surveying, navigation and monitoring. In all instances, each of our ideas are correct - history proves that - but combining our ideas with a view to successful execution of this project is an enjoyable, but at times challenging, endeavour.

Can Companies Do it Too?

Geodata and KODA are working hard to foster an environment in which dedicated, aligned and skillful professionals can work together towards common goals, where we recognise that 1) the benefit is greater than the cost, 2) successes and failures are shared, and 3) a healthy, productive version of competition exists.