Posts Tagged ‘ants’

Corporate lessons from ants

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

I was watching a program about driver ants and they have a lot to teach most corporations that I encounter.  The millions of individuals in a colony each know their role; they know how they add value.  They focus their energy on common goals and support each other.  From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.

They find their food by ceaselessly exploring, and never writing off any avenue for progress without first trying it.  When one succeeds, they communicate their findings and then they co-operate to exploit them.  Where one cannot succeed, many can.  They are the very embodiment of synergy.

They are masters of logistics and transport back 150,000 food items from a single raid with the ants turning themselves into a living rolling road.  The largest ones take the front end, with little guys bringing up the rear, whilst the soldiers guard them and mark the route home.

When the colony gets too big to sustain, it splits, with a young queen (new leader) taking half the colony to literally explore pastures new.  Once ensconced in her new nest, she produces up to 2 million eggs to carry on the work.

They are able to take on superior, seemingly impregnable opponents like crabs by co-operating and exploiting their vulnerabilities.  They attack the crabs joints to gain access to their soft internal parts.  Slugs are covered with sticky slime in which a single ant gets stuck; however the others soon turn up with particles of soil that neutralises and absorb the slime and then the slug becomes ant food.

It all comes down to communication and co-operation.  I recently worked with a company with ambitious growth plans and guess what their issues were?  Maybe they should have hired an ant queen?

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.”  John Donne

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.”  Kenyan Proverb”Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.”  Henry Ford

”None of us is as smart as all of us.”  Ken Blanchard


  1. Stigmergic SystemsStigmergic systems combine information technology with stigmergy and other structures found in nature – to create self-organizing Web sites and low cost knowledge management systems.

Bridging the gap

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Isn’t it interesting, the humble ant can bridge a gap many times its body size with a helping ‘hand’ from its fellows and yet it isn’t uncommon, even  in relatively highly performing teams for people not to receive this kind of support.  Indeed, challenge is seen as something of a virtue, as well as a measure of the size of one’s member!  Clearly it is all about balancing the need for support and challenge and this should be down to the leader to deliver, but too often the cultural norms of the team mirror his or her personal style.

You need to be able to depend on your team mates; to be able to achieve things with their help and support that perhaps are beyond you without them.  This enables the team to synergise.  Looking and listening for what is right in their proposal and building on it rather than trying to attack the faults within it.  Bosses need to look for what is right and praise it rather than simply trying to see mistakes and jumping on them.  A little recognition can go a long way and it is proven that people will work harder and longer for someone who makes them feel special, even if they aren’t earning top dollar.


“’Tis not enough to help the feeble up, but to support them after.”  William Shakespeare

“In a relationship each person should support the other; they should lift each other up.”  Taylor Swift