Fire Ants Can Give A Workshop On Teamwork


I often remark to my workshop participants how amazing it is where we can find life lessons, and who we can learn them from.  Not only can we learn from doctoral-level educators at Ivy League schools, we can learn from people in any walk of life and with little to no formal education.  An article in the May 13, 2011 issue of The Week magazine, “Fire Ants’ Cohesive Genius,” demonstrates that even animals, including insects with infinitesimally small brains, can provide us with serious life lessons.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have discovered that fire ants are teamwork gurus that we should all learn from.

To wit:

When a colony is washed out by flood, thousands of the insects quickly assemble inot a tightly woven pancake-shaped raft that can float for months without a single ant drowning.  ‘Together they form this really complex material’ that water can’t get through, lead researcher Nathan Mlot tells You could even mold the ant cluster ‘into a ball and toss it up in the air, and all the ants would stay together.’

Now, can someone explain to me why homo sapiens don’t do that?  Not only does the ants’ phenomenal feat of teamwork help each individual survive, it helps the COLONY survive harsh environments that would tear us poor humans asunder.  Isn’t survival the ultimate goal of teamwork?  And is that not the very reason why Fortune 500 companies spend significant percentages of their budgets to train their staff on topics as fundamental as teamwork?  So that the COMPANIES themselves can survive in tough times?  And with all that money spent, how do we respond when our society (or our companies) are proverbially tossed into the air?

Think about it.  How did we as a nation respond to Hurricane Katrina?  Did we hold tightly together and fall as a unit?  Or did we, as a whole…fall apart and fall as individuals, weakened by our disassociation with one another?  How did we respond to the earthquake in Haiti?  How did we respond to 9/11?

The short answer: we responded much like the ants would – we stuck together.  All of a sudden, political, cultural and racial barriers failed to keep us from seeing each other as part of one human race, and there was story after story of individuals and groups stepping above and beyond to assist any and all in need.  TEAMWORK.

The long answer: as time wore on, and the novelty of the catastrophe (our being tossed in the air) wore off, we forgot the sublime lessons of connection and oneness.  We fell back into the traps of politics, greed and disassociation: blaming one another for how/when we responded (or if we responded at all).  Money destined for those most in need disappeared into the pockets of…?    And as the memories (and emotions) of the catastrophes faded, we moved on to the next one….

So I invite you…reinvigorate your commitment to all around you.  Realize (if even for the first time) – that a baby born in Sri Lanka this morning is part of our “pancake network,” and helps us grow stronger and survive as a unit as s/he latches on and contributes his/her strength and talents.

And remember – that when we get tossed into the air again (and we will) – we all land safely if we just HANG ON to one another….

Sound Off!

Broadcast Your Inner Champion!


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