What can we learn from ants?

Posted by hualoon 0 Comments

Okay, not everybody loves the ant. Some even go all the way out to kill them. But let’s take a moment away from our already formed perceptions, and set out fresh with an open and ready mind to explore and receive what we can learn from these tiny, yet so ever fascinating, creatures.

Lessons from ants have been taught since time memorial. From the proverb instructing us to

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
provideth her meat in the summer,
and gathereth her food in the harvest”

to Aesop’s fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, ants have appeared throughout our life stories (and on our dining tables!).

Yet it is with the latest scientific studies of these amazing ants that we are learning ever so much more from them. One such study is from the Ant Lab at the University of Bristol, England where researchers have observed that the Temnothorax Albipennis species of ants appeared to have both followers and leaders in seeking food.

When the foraging leader ants find a new source of food, they will haste back to the colony to tell the good news and lead other ants to the source. It is interesting to observe these leader ants teaching the follower ants as they journey along together.

Watch these amazing videos taken by the researchers at the University of Bristol of the leader and follower ants tandem running process:

As the follower ants learn the new route by recognising and remembering landmarks, they would be slower along the path than the leader ants. It was observed that the leader ants would actually slow down their journey to allow the follower ants to catch up with them.

In all aspects of training and instruction therefore, the leader ants appeared to be teaching the followers. In fact, it was shown that if the leader ants raced directly to the food on their own, they would arrive four times faster. Occasionally some leader ants grabbed the followers by the mouth and dragged them to the source of the food! This was three times faster than having a follower tag along.

Leading and teaching the followers to memorize landmarks and to communicate by tapping their antennae was a much slower process. Yet most of the time, the leader ants appeared willing to teach the followers at the personal cost of slowing down their own efficiency and effectiveness.

The leader and follower ants were running together in tandem and this action also involved bidirectional feedback between mentor and mentee. If the gap between the leader and follower was too close, the leader accelerated its pace. If the gap was too far, the leader slowed down. Meanwhile, the follower ants were also seen to tap the leaders with their antennae when they caught up, seemingly providing acknowledgement and encouragement to proceed to the next step.

So what lessons about communication, teamwork and leadership can we learn from these ants?

From the ant to the zebra… from the acacia to the zucchini… there are so many lessons that we can learn from animals and plants about growing our character and leadership strengths.

Join us on an amazing journey of discovery and reflection with our Leadership of Nature™ series as we see and hear inspirational stories from nature, as well as put into practice life changing applications for success in our lives!

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(article by Ling Hua Loon: hualoon@mindlifesuccess.com)

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