Massively multiplayer online games typically allow individuals to spontaneously form, join, or leave a formal group called a guild. The design of the game encourages players to form such groups (...). Millions of people worldwide log on to the world’s largest online game (...). Indeed, online games are one of the largest collective human activities on the planet and hence of interest from the perspectives of global commerce, security, and even epidemiology. A seemingly unrelated social phenomenon that is also of great concern is urban gangs. Urban gangs have been gaining in popularity among young people both nationally and internationally. There are obvious differences in the settings and history of online guilds and ofﬂine gangs, however, the empirical data sets that we have compiled enable us to perform a unique comparative study of their respective grouping dynamics.
Speciﬁcally, we used detailed empirical data sets to show that the observed dynamics in two very distinct forms of human activity—one ofﬂine activity which is widely considered as a public threat and one online activity which is by contrast considered as relatively harmless—can be reproduced using the same, simple model of individuals seeking groups with complementary attributes; i.e., they want to form a team as opposed to seeking groups with similar attributes (homophilic kinship). Just as different ethnicities may have different types of gangs in the same city in terms of their number, size, and stability, the same holds for the different computer servers on which online players play a given game.
This study got me thinking about small unit organisation from a different angle; self organisation.
The conventional way to build a small unit uses a top-down approach - or even a 'management' approach in which someone completely unrelated to the unit (or even a software) assigns individuals to the unit.
We don't let small units self-organise bottom-up. Temporary small units based on the principle of volunteering are the closest thing to self-organizing small units afaik.
It seems that additional research into self-organising (sociology) at military universities would be well-justified. A "natural" organization or small unit might have significant advantages over one that was built by a bureaucracy. There seems to be a rather innate human predisposition for certain forms of self-organisation even in the modern, urban and Western youth.
Tribal warbands don't have the best reputation for military efficiency, but they have certain strengths nevertheless - and we don't have a ceteris paribus example for a comparison of efficiency between a self-organized military team and a bureaucratically created military team yet.
This area of research could become really, really interesting.