Does Mother Nature Know How To Manage?

Apparently Yes. 

For some time I have promoted the idea that  Maple trees have a way of reproducing that would work in a business, a portfolio or even life as whole.  Start many things.  In a business you merely nourish the survivors and drop the rest.

It is like golf.  How does not matter.  How many does.

Here is another Mother nature analog.

The Harvard Business Review Blog 13 September, has another example of Mother Nature’s skill.  It deals with embracing randomness and is found here.  It is short and insightful.  Click the link.

The point is that ants have simple and rigid behaviors but that simple behavior is not limited.  Eventually the collective behavior is highly organized.  People on the other hand are individually adaptive, creative and organized but collectively, organizations tend towards inflexibility and rule based-structure.

“Why are ant colonies so much better than the sum of their parts, while governments and companies are so much worse?”  Author Andrew Smart thinks it is because ant colonies exploit randomness while human organizations try to minimize it.

Ant biologist Deborah Gordon says it this way, “Elegant top-down designs are appealing, but the robustness of ant algorithms shows that tolerating imperfection sometimes leads to better solutions.”

This is the similar story to N.N. Taleb in “Anti-Fragility”  Worth the read, it will give you some ideas about what kind of surprises will help you and which will hurt you.  Hint:  top-down will likely hurt.

What if human organizations embraced surprises?

This randomness, exploring, finding surprises, behavior as a management process can be described as “Seeking Serendipity.”  Serendipity works to your net advantage if you quit quickly when you are wrong and occasionally say, “That’s odd, I wonder why that happened.”

Watch for it.  As Billy Joel has said,

“So take it from me you’ll learn more from your accidents
Than anything that you could ever learn at school.”

You’re Only Human (Second Wind)    (C) Billy Joel, 1985

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.  |  Twitter @DonShaughnessy  |  Follow by email at moneyFYI

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