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     Volume 9 Issue 42| October 29, 2010 |

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Lessons from Ants

Tulip Chowdhury

When I was a little girl I would often sat and watched the ants walking in long lines. I lived in a village and so had the advantage to watch small, medium and large ants. The black ones were harmless, never the ones to bite. The little red ones were the ones that could make your skin burn once they got a chance to bite you. The large ones were the ones you never wanted to mess with. One bite from one of them could make you howl with its stinging pain and the bite remained angry and red for days afterwards. However I watched them for their unique ways of movements. They always fascinated me with their unity and diligence.

I often watched the smaller red and black ones walking in lines. No one strayed away. Every time one of them came face to face they touched each other as if to say, “How do you do, friend!” They seemed so social and polite! This habit of ant watching has recently taught me greater lessons. Recently I noticed some ants in action. I observed that when one found food, others immediately gathered to help pull the food to their storage. I decided to disturb the pattern, which unfortunately, resulted in wounding one. Quickly, they came together and evacuated it. Then they re-organised and continued with the line they had created. I saw no form of supervision, yet they were accomplishing tremendous tasks, such as moving pieces of food that were about 30 times their individual sizes.

The ants work as a team: We can form a team, bringing professionals together. United we stand, divided we fall.

The ants trust one another: Quite often we fail to trust one fellow worker. I can do away with the notion that only by working alone can I ensure quality. Trust is necessary to work together for a common cause.

The ants are open: We can share an idea with like-minded people. When I discover a helpful life lesson I must share it with friends and colleagues. When ants discover food, they inform others, who come along and helped.

The ants were partners and of different sizes: When I am working on a project I should not think of it as our work, not “mine”. The ants are superb in working as a team. They draw strength from each other.

The ants are diligent and focused: None of the ants give up on the middle of the way. They keep doing what they must be doing. We can focus on a deadline and keep up our work. The ants never stop on the way to create a block and we cannot afford to either. If we stop, the person behind also has to stop and then the person next to also stops. The result is chaos.

The ants regroup: If disturbed the ants do not stray away and give up. They regroup and start all over again. I will be open to try new ideas if present ones are not working. When I had disintegrated the ants they did not give up but regrouped.

Peter Millar has written that swarming animals like ants can teach us a lot about military strategy and business management. They make decisions in a group and depend on each other to survive. Samuel Halderman had already observed that these small creatures live in unity, are hard-working, prudent and disciplined. It is no wonder the Biblical Solomon rebuked the lazy man: "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” For small business owners there is a special lesson here. By engaging everyone in the organisation and trusting people one has more success. We can give others the chance to succeed or fail and always ask for help. Always forward e-mails instead of hoarding them for days. You never know who will come forward with opportunities for growth and progress. And we can always remember what our ancestor said about ant hills, “Ant hills are not made by elephants but by the collective efforts of the little ants themselves.”



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