In the early 1970s a new generation of scientists using early computer technology started to make some amazing and challenging discoveries about how our world works. This new science, called Complexity Science has made huge strides in understanding nature, or the living world.
Some of these discoveries have been used by companies in the US and Europe to improve their competitiveness. Ants foraging patterns, for example, have been copied to improve supply chain logistics, telecoms routing and huge warehousing operations.
Using other insights, a number of companies have been brought back from the edge of extinction and others have transformed themselves into more democratic, more profitable and more sustainable enterprises.
Our planet was not designed using command and control principles, yet they still underpin much of today’s management practice. This approach is now 300 years behind the times!
The ability to spontaneously self-organise and adapt to challenges and changes in the surrounding landscape has enabled species to flourish and survive for millennia. Nowhere is this ability more evident than in communities of social insects such as ants and termites. Termites, for example, self-organise and construct the most amazing free form nests that are perfectly adapted to the requirements of the colony and the landscape around them, whilst making best use of the raw materials available locally.
These tiny blind creatures are not led by some charismatic leader with a grand vision of the future of the colony, nor a top management team that instructs them on how best to proceed. Instead they operate in a spontaneous and opportunistic fashion, guided in all they do by a strong sense of purpose and direction. If these simple insects are able to create air conditioned homes, that in termite terms are several miles high, without all the paraphernalia of modern management practice, then surely there is much we could learn from them ?