Friday, May 1, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - What Honeybees Teach Us About Business

In this current economy, the key is flexibility. Easier said than done, so I have gone looking for examples of successful work flexibility beyond the borders of business school books and analyst reports. My favorite find so far was in today's New York Times in the Opinion column "The Wild Side" about evolutionary biology. The guest columnist, Leon Kreitzman, wrote "Let's Hear it for the Bees", about the remarkable career example that honeybees set for us.

The whole article is a fascinating read. Here are the key points I found most relative to business:

1.) Do the work that needs to be done. Honeybees have an amazing sense to know when a task needs attendance and when a task would be wasted effort. Their sense of efficiency and innate to ability to always make themselves useful is enviable.

2.) Different stages of life call for different types of work. While very young, honeybees care for eggs while older honeybees with be charged to forage for nectar and pollen. And if need be, they'll flip back to tasks they have done before. It's a good lesson in gathering knowledge from the ground up so that it can be called upon when necessary. They don't get stuck seeing themselves in specific roles. Their jobs evolve as they gain experience.

3.) Communication and generosity are keys to a healthy hive. Honeybees are in constant communication with one another. Foragers let each other know where they've found strong supplies of nectar and pollen. They assist one another in a way that brings the saying "many hands make light work" to life. They don't build fiefdoms or silos - they work for the benefit of the hive as a whole.

4.) Awareness of our surroundings and external circumstances inform the actions of our lives. Foraging bees only visit flowers when nectar and pollen counts are at their highest. They do this by synchronizing their internal clocks with a daily floral rhythms of flowers they've visited. This assures that their trips to the flowers are as beneficial as possible, and that they spend other times of their day on more useful activities.

We spend a lot of time buried in paper work at our desks. There is currently a lack of inspiration around the gray cubicles of America. I've been finding that I garner the most motivation by looking outside of business, into areas like science, health, and art. There are teachers and sources of education all around us if only we take the time to look and appreciate the knowledge they have to offer.

The above photo was taken by Kathy Keatley Garvey, University of California, Davis Department of Entomology


Dave said...

Christa, I agree that we should look around us for inspiration. I'm reading Eiffel's Tower, and was interested to discover that the man who built the great Parisian symbol made his fortune on mundane structures such as iron bridges -- and was ridiculed by much of French society for his idea for a tower.
p.s. welcome to Book Blogs; hope you enjoy it.

Christa said...

Hi Dave! Thanks so much for reading my blog and for your comment. I haven't heard of the book Eiffel's Tower. I am totally going to pick it up! Would you be interested in writing a review about it for my blog as a Guest Writer?

And it's on my to-do list today to get going with Book Blogs!

All best,