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Leadership lessons from ants

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Ants are incredible features. Apart from various inventions such as farming, war strategies etc they also run the largest running organizations on the planet. We have a lot to learn from them. The focus of leaders today should be develope organizational wisdom in whatever they do!

Published in: Business, Technology
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Leadership lessons from ants

  1. 1. Leadership Lessons from Ants Visionary Innovator 2 July 2012 Vivek Vaidya
  2. 2. Vs Highest proportion of brain size Largest brain size Olympic weight-lifter can do 2-3 Lift 20-30 times of body weight times body weight at bestDiscovered farming about 50 million Still learning to strike balance years ago, employ yield between chemistry and biology enhancement techniquesHave developed very sophisticated Still learning… warfare techniques
  3. 3. Ants – 120 million years old specieswith several inventions to their name Psychological Farming Ranchers Warfare Running largest Bloodless Warfare Slavery Organizations
  4. 4. Lifecycle of Ant’s OrganizationQueen ant and male ants get wings Are sent on mating flight Queen Ant Mating Formulate Flight Colony Colonies make colonies Number of Ants Vs Years Colony Individually no ant is capable of reaches Grow performing any of the following 8 threshold colony functions 6 4 size 2 Scout for food 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 Knowledge Transfer Fight Transfer enemy to nest Ant colonies live for decades Build nest Each Ant does not live for 45-60 days
  5. 5. How do ants do it? Defend ? Control mecha Work nism?allocati Queen ant – on? undisputed boss of the organization? Where is the food? Feast & famine ?
  6. 6. Key Learnings• Simple sub-task and multi-tasking ability• Knowledge transfer – Oxygen of the organization• Decentralized, situational, P2P communication based decision making
  7. 7. Ant Organization is quite similar to corporates Farming Conquer •Fulfilment other colonies Finding food Getting it •M&A •Business back Development •Sales Role assignment •Training Birth Fighting •Recruitment enemy •Stay competitive Nest Expand Maintenance colony •Administration •Geographical & house keeping Expansion Waste Management •Maintenance
  8. 8. #1 : Simple sub-tasks and multi-tasking Foragers Nest maintenance Everyone More goes food? foraging Patrolling Midden work Only Midden More workers disturbance? switch roles
  9. 9. Flexibility and multi-tasking makes organization more adaptable hence successful Account Consulting Management Research Marketing
  10. 10. Flexibility  adaptability  strength AMs can take Research can on the role of switch to project consulting Management “Feast” PeriodOverworked Close projects consulting faster - free team Organization bandwidth adapts & becomes stronger Famine Period
  11. 11. Knowledge Transfer is the oxygen of the organization Lifespan of colony87 Lifespan of Individual ant Ants in older colonies are no6 different than younger colonies5 Yet older colonies perform much better43 They are able to handle uncertainties more predictably2 This can be attributed to some1 knowledge transfer mechanism that adds to “Organizational wisdom”0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
  12. 12. What is the system for developing “Organizational Wisdom” ?Successfully solved Organization Knowledge transfer the problem Wisdom• Learnings? • Others anticipated it• How to anticipate? • Others avoided it• How to avoid it? • Others used the• etc learnings
  13. 13. De-Centralized, situational P2Pcommunication based decision making De-centralized Situational P2P communication • No central • Each ant • Chemical command assesses the signals • Each ant situation • Each ant decides what • Based on what communicates to do other ants are directly to doing others
  14. 14. Leverage the collective brain power of the team, empower them…Boss gives the solution; team Team comes up with the solution; implements it Boss facilitates it Boss speaks, Team listens Boss listens first, speaks the last Vertical or hub-spoke Direct, horizontal or lateral communication communication
  15. 15. Leadership Lessons from Ants What is Leader’s Job?• Leader’s job is not just to solve the problem but to Design a system by which the team is able to anticipate, avoid/ solve the problem themselves
  16. 16. Leadership Lessons from Ants What is Leader’s litmus test?• Touchstone of a true leader is training an individual well enough that she is able to start the organization at a new location all by herself
  17. 17. Leadership Lessons from Ants What should be the ultimate goal of a true leader?• Improve Organizational wisdom… everyday
  18. 18. reference• http://www.fourmilab.ch/images/animal_magnetism/fourmis_pucerons.html• http://www.ranker.com/list/10-things-about-ants-you-didn_t-know/analise.dubner?page=2• http://www.huntjudith.com/Popup/Ant%20Nest.jpg• http://www.stanford.edu/~dmgordon/

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