Smart bees and what humans can learn from them

Art impression ‘The Cooperating Bee’. © Jack Kruf

Thomas Seeley | Harvard Business Review.

For millions of years, the scouts in honey bee swarms have faced the task of selecting proper new homes. Evolution by natural selection has structured these insect search committees in such a way that they make the best possible decisions.

What works well for bee swarms can maybe also work well for human groups? Thomas Seeley studied them extensively.

It seems that we can learn from the bees the following the results of his studies. The list of five guidelines for achieving a high collective IQ is impressive. The guidelines maybe seems simple, but in fact they can be challenging for humans:

  1. Remind the group’s members of their shared interests and foster mutual respect, so they work together productively.
  2. Explore diverse solutions to the problem, to maximize the group’s likelihood of uncovering an excellent option.
  3. Aggregate the group’s knowledge through a frank debate.
  4. Minimize the leader’s influence on the group’s thinking.
  5. Balance interdependence (information sharing) and independence (absence of peer pressure) among the group’s members.

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