In 1960, Jane Goodall went to Eastern Africa (one of the first women ever to venture into an African forest, risking malaria or injury) to start what would become the most intimate and insightful collections of research ever done on chimpanzees. Her discoveries filled volumes, including:
- She found the first animals besides humans to use tools.
- She discovered that chimpanzees have wars, and that they adopt unrelated children.
- She discovered they ate meat.
- She forced us to reconsider what “man” means.
Goodall didn’t force her way into the group. She spent months sitting in a spot she called “the peak” learning by watching with her binoculars. From this distance, she noted patterns, such as the hierarchy of the community and slowly earned the trust of the skittish Gombe chimps.
One day a male chimp approached the camp, leaping, screaming, and running in circles. It was terrifying, and most of us would have either ran or taken a defensive posture. But Goodall had learned enough to see through the dramatic display and stayed calm. After a few tense moments, it became clear why it was there. The male chimp only wanted a banana that had been hanging in the camp. Goodall gave it to him, and history was made.
The rest of the community saw what the first chimp had done, and that Goodall had not harmed them, and the trust spread. Over the following years, she became the only known person to be fully accepted into a Chimpanzee community. If she and her team had been assertive, insensitive or clumsy, the community would have sounded a warning cry and a very tall wall of defense would have been erected.
The “Goodall Effect” allowed integration into the social fabric of the Gombe community, and could be a good metaphor for educating traditional brand managers about integrating into the fabric of social networks.
Listen first, learn, offer something of value, learn the culture, and never ever betray the trust.
Photo taken by user:Jeek in w:Hong Kong University, Hong Kong on 24 October 2004.