The lemming effect

November 23, 2007

I like the word “lemmings” (it just sounds funny!) and use it on a fairly regular basis. Lemmings have all the usual trappings of cuteness (furry & round) and it turns out that some of my interest in lemmings is the result of myths about mass lemming suicides!

“While many people believe that lemmings commit mass suicide when they migrate, this is not the case. Driven by strong biological urges, they will migrate in large groups when population density becomes too great. Lemmings can and do swim and may choose to cross a body of water in search of a new habitat. On occasion, and particularly in the case of the Norway lemmings in Scandinavia, large migrating groups will reach a cliff overlooking the ocean. They will stop until the urge to press on causes them to jump off the cliff and start swimming, sometimes to exhaustion and death. Lemmings are also often pushed into the sea as more and more lemmings arrive at the shore.”

So anyway, lemmings became a metaphor for people who go along unquestioningly with popular opinion, with potentially dangerous or fatal consequences. And at a talk on technology clusters yesterday, I learnt that it can be extended to the term “The Lemming Effect” (the act of following the crowd into an investment that will inevitably head for disaster). It is the idea that in the boom, the VCs would invest in 25 startups with each expecting 25% market share.

Ye-ah. The lemming effect.

(Does anyone else think this is hilarious?! )


One Response to “The lemming effect”

  1. […] back in the limelight.  It’s just flat-out sad that so many people fall victim to the lemming effect, becoming brain dead zombies of a mind numbing cult that they treat like a […]

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