Friday, 8 January 2010


Why is it, I wonder, that things seem to have a tendency towards forming clusters?

(Last summer, I already was on about a similar topic here in my blog:

So, clusters.
According to what scientists have managed to glimpse from our universe, clusters happen even on the largest scale, with galaxies appearing to form groups (or clusters) rather than interspersing the infeasibly vast spaces of... well, space.

But I am on about smaller things, that most of you probably observe daily in your lives.

The period between Christmas and New Year as well as this whole first week in the new year has been very quiet (too quiet, in fact) at the office. Sometimes we had one incoming phone call in one hour. On Wednesday, I counted the total, just out of curiosity: 23. Compare this to some days just one of our team getting 75 calls, let alone the whole company.

So, during this quiet period, how come that even those few and far between phone calls came in clusters? Typically, while one of the two or three people present already was on the phone, it rang somewhere else, and then again somewhere else in our big open plan office - only to be totally quiet again for the next half hour or so.

The same is true for people. I walk past a bakery every morning (several, actually), and often, there is not one customer inside. But if there are customers, almost always there is more than one; in fact, a whole bunch of people seem to have come in at the same time, now waiting their turn to be served.

Or take my regular work at tradeshows and fairs. For a while, nothing happens. Nobody comes to the booth to take a closer look at the products we exhibit. Then, someone does stop, and immediately the booth seems to attract the attention of at least another three or four visitors.

While I understand some of the mechanisms that work for people - they see someone looking at something and automatically assume there must be something worth looking at, so they join the first person - , it can not the same for the phenomenon of the phone call clusters.

Unless, of course, our customers conspire :-)
But me not given to conspiration theories in the first place, I dismiss this and just keep wondering at how and why things, events and people tend to cluster.

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