About Gig-Ant-ic strategies ánd operational excellence

“It is the ant, not the lion, which the elephant fears.” 
― Matshona Dhliwayo

Animals and Strategy – 2

Short notes on how animal traits (or the perception thereof) can be used for Strategic thoughts 

Ants (and Termites) – wow

Leaf Cutter Ants

Ants and termites live and work together, they come with millions, they know their purpose. They have biological gardens. Ants are omnivores and waste very little. They can live in almost all climates. They are willing to specialize and leave other tasks to other ants. They know their enemy. They have excellent communication. They are incredibly strong and can lift up to 100 times their own body weight. They perform amazing engineering feats building housing for tens of millions in one structure up to 30 feet high (equivalent to the 1000-meter new highest human building, the Jeddah tower, 2021). Ants are among the most successful animals around the world. Actually, their biggest enemies are other ants.

Enormous Queen Ant with her workers

There are more than 1 mln times 1 bln (this is called a quadrillion) ants. That’s about 150.000 ants per person. The biggest single colony found is over 3000 miles in size. The queen can live up to 30 years.

Daniel Dennett termite hill next to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia

 Ant and Termite strategies.

What makes these small insects so incredibly successful? They have very clear strategies that all individuals know their own role and they are carried out with the true spirit of operational excellence. Several aspects are:

  • One purpose, clarity of vision – the success of the colony is driving all choices in behavior and talent development (all the way to influencing genetic expression)
  • Clear roles and responsibilities – every individual knows exactly what his/her role is including how to interact with the others
  • Together – the hive is more important than the individual
  • Resilient, never give up – there is no obstacle too big, live bridges, 100 ways to the same end point
  • Extensive redundancy in communication – all senses are used taste, olfactory, visuals, sounds, communication goes along longer chains in two ways
  • Build mutually beneficial networks with others – lice, avids and moulds are used in many different roles for food but also infrastructure and defense 
  • Using natural resources in smart ways – farming approaches going out to certain areas in phased approaches, use bio-based materials – wood, but also local clays and sands
  • Engineering and operational improvements – smart material conversion, heat transfer, specialty chambers air flows, temperature zones, fast repair units, preventive maintenance
  • Agile, adapting to environment – different colony sizes ranging from dozens to millions, 12.000 different species
  • Full spectrum war techniques – managing between defense and offence, using numbers, using technology, chemical warfare, espionage – information gathering
Army ants on the move, building live bridges

Maybe you want to be an Ant colony?

Nobody wants to be seen as an ant, but in many businesses the ant approach is very relevant. 

Think about a company like Google. The huge number (>40.000) of software developers each contribute their own unique part, but almost nobody can oversee the total work. Then there are the innovators or business development teams, agile and adaptive, just like the roving food finding ant armies. Also, Google has built powerful networks with other companies just like the use of other animals by the ants. And who would deny that somewhere inside the company is the queen (question is it the search AI machine, the management or the culture).

Want to learn more or discuss your Gig-ANT-ic situation contact peter.gommers@peter4strategy.com