On 15 September 2012 by admin

Honeycomb - hexagonal architectureI somehow stumbled upon Dr Michael O’Malley’s book The Wisdom of Bees: What the hive can teach business about leadership, efficiency and growth and between the lines, I watched this lecture from the London School of Economics.

Published in 2010, the book was a light hearted and somewhat unusual read for me (an account of the honeybee) – and an initial thought might be aptly described as the “allegorical use of bees as a window into the management of our own social organizations may appear on first impression to be a stretch” (p. 3).  However, O’Malley – a social psychologist and management consultant by trade – offers some very thoughtful principles on organisational success and good management.  And these insights through the lens of a bee-keeper were engaging enough to fruitfully take up my commuting time for a week or two.

The industrious nature of honeybees in action is succinctly described in “25 lessons” and although I simply read the book sequentially, the clear titles will also support readers who prefer to read in doses – dipping in and out of topics of interest.

Seven nuggets from the text are shared below:

Lesson 1 – Protect the future.  Innovation requires continuity of learning – the more people experiment, learn and grow, the more inventive staff will be (pp. 16-17).

Lesson 3 – Let merit be your guide (p. 24).

Lesson 5 – Distribute authority.  Those closest to the information, should make the decisions – and resources for projects and follow up progress should be discussed openly (pp. 41-42).

Lesson 13 – Keep your balance.  Diversity is critical and teams can flourish with individuals possessing a range of talents, perspectives and worldviews (p. 93).

Lesson 14 – Discover and use the specialized talents of your employees.  This may involve a process of self-discovery and in taking the time to understand individuals’ strengths and weaknesses (p. 97).

Lesson 15 – Develop your team.  This may involve promoting growth experiences and broad exposure to higher order tasks (pp. 104-106).

Lesson 24 – Create beautiful, functional spaces.  An architectural perspective on the hexagonal mesh of the comb is highlighted here (p. 167) – workplaces that inspire!



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