Anyone who read my book ‘Teaching an Anthill to Fetch‘ will know that I have a fondness for these little critters. In my view they offer a promise of how selfless we may actually become as a species- given enough time. An article in the NY Times is a fascinating peek into the ways ants collaborate for the benefit of a the entire nest. From the article…

The reason may be that the ants have had a lot more time to adapt to living in big groups. “We haven’t evolved in the societies we currently live in,” Dr. Couzin said.

In fact thought they don’t mention it in the article – ants have had a lot more practice. They have been living in colonies for over 40 million years. So we have a little work to do to catch up on with them it would seem from this article.

From ‘Teaching an Anthill to Fetch‘…..

Ants, and all other insects that live in colonies, appear to be hard-wired to serve. By doing so, they ensure their survival. An anthill can survive and feed itself in some of the most hostile environments. No single ant knows how it all works – nor does it need to. Individually, ants are not that smart; together they are very intelligent. The ant serves the anthill, which in turn serves the ant. The community that the ants create and work to support is well equipped to cope with the challenge of change. In other words, the ant and the colony it belongs to is a good example of high level of collaborative intelligence (CQ).

Collaborative Intelligence (CQ) is defined as the capacity to harness the intelligence in networks of relationships.

Jim Doheney was the CEO of Capital One, the credit card company, when he coined the phrase “You can’t teach an anthill to fetch”. He was referring to the task of helping his organization of 1800 people adapt and respond to a very competitive and rapidly changing marketplace. The challenge facing Doheney was how to focus the attention of the entire organization around vital business objectives.