By Bryan Orr

It has been said that a particular task is “so easy a monkey could do it.”  When you look closer you may be left thinking the animals are the ones who should be teaching us.

Ants (Antifragility)

Ants are nearly indestructible and inhabit every landmass on this planet, save Antarctica. If all the land creatures were gathered together, they would make up an estimated 15% of the total mass.

Take the red imported fire ant that plagues the southern United States. You can stomp a mound and it will be rebuilt in a matter of hours, you can use baits and the mounds will usually die down only to rebuild in a week or so, and if it rains…. if it rains watch out; there will be mounds all over within hours of the rain subsiding. Even when it floods the ants will cling together in balls and float into a new dry area where they can unleash their rein of terror.

Ants not only give us an example work ethic, they display antifragility at work. The more difficult things get for them the more likely they are to expand and grow and come out better for it.

Is your business antifragile like the ants? Or do you allow discouragements and setbacks to keep you from growing and expanding?  

Bees (Communication)

It is a well known fact that honeybees communicate with one another about the locations of food as soon as they return back to the hive after foraging for nectar. Bees use a figure eight pattern dance with an alternating straight line of a quick buzzing waggle that specifies the direction of food in relation to the sun as well as distance from the hive.

Not only do they provide timely and accurate information, they communicate it in a simple and structured format that doesn’t waste anybody’s time and gets everyone working on the project at hand.

In other words, bees know how to give a  quick meeting with an objective that everyone understands.

African Buffalo (Building Consensus)

The African buffalo (or cape buffalo) have a very unusual way of making decisions. Females seem to show a type of “voting behavior.” During resting time, the females will stand up, shuffle around, and lay back down again. They will lay in the direction they think the group should move. After an hour or more of “voting,” the females will travel in the direction the majority decides. This decision is communal and not based on hierarchy or dominance.

While this level of democracy is not always practical in human businesses, getting everyone to weigh in is the first step to consensus building.

Humpback Whale (Teamwork)

Whales are known to be some of the world’s most intelligent animals. The largest animal brain is that of the sperm whale, weighing in at a whopping 16lbs (yours is only about 3lbs).   

One of the most inventive feeding techniques observed in nature is employed by the humpback whale, known as bubble net feeding; a group of up to 12 whales swim in a shrinking circle blowing bubbles below a school of fish. The shrinking ring of bubbles encircles the panicked school and confines it in an ever-smaller cylinder of swirling bubbles. This ring can begin near 100 ft in diameter and slowly taper tighter and tighter.

Using a camera attached to a whale’s back, researchers found that some whales blow the bubbles, some dive deeper to drive fish toward the surface, and others herd prey into the net by vocalizing their distinctive calls. The whales then burst upward through the bubble “net”, mouths wide, swallowing thousands of fish in one gulp.

Each whale must know its specific job and do it well for the entire group to reap a bounty that none could have accomplished individually.

In the same way an organization that can execute “organized self interest” in the form of teamwork, will be much more successful than a group of disorganized free agents.

Next time you are looking for business advice, don’t only consider the suit laden gentlemen. Instead, check in with somebody wearing fur, scales or parading an exoskeleton.