Swarm insights: Bees and ant colonies follow the principle of harmony

Bees on flowers
They say bees are miraculous creatures. All plants, animals and human beings owe to the bees. Without them we would be extinct. ‘They exist for a reason’ says Melisa our guest author. Her post is below. Image credit: Pixabay

Ants are incredibly hardworking and full of enthusiasm. They are ready for anything for the sake of their collectivities and are a model of an industry for lazy humanity. However, it is a quite one-sided view of the life of insects. Up to 40% of the animal units in their collective are not busy doing something useful. They give the impression of the working process being no principles at all.

Bees swarming at a Beekeeper or Apiarist’s box. A movable box or a honey comb is constructed so that the honey can be harvested without disturbing the entire bee colony. Notice the buzz sound of the honey bees. Video credit: Pixabay

A combined collectivity of scientists-entomologists from Arizona University and Oxford studied an unusual enough thing, unbelievable laziness, and egoism of ants.

Among a huge variety of social insects such as bees, ants or wasps the major part of the colonies lives in accordance with the principle far from hard working. Up to 40% of ants do not work for the lifetime or almost lifetime just wandering around.

Under the direction of Arizonian entomologist, Daniel Charbonneau researchers created an artificial environment for ants. It was easy to follow their movements and work. Every insect was marked with a color marker pen, which made it to where insects were easy to follow and no confusion could be made between them.

Researchers have studied 20 colonies of Temnothorax rugatulus kind of ants for several months and came to the startling conclusions. First of all, many of them do not really work. Secondly, there are truly many of such animal units and all the colony should feed them just because.

The main thing is that they exist for a reason. Taking away active and lazy ants, researchers could make sure that the hardworking ants were replaced with lazy ones at once. In other words, all these 40% of parasites is something like an employment office, ant colony labor power store, which is always ready, standby just having a rest most of the time-saving strength.

Besides that, ants spongers are a genetic capital of the kind. Thus, being lazy does not mean being useless. Calm yourself down thinking this way every time you feel like procrastinating and leaving it to someone else. We all are not spongers at this moment but a proud genetic capital and source of power for big achievements.

At long last, ants are 130 millions of years old and as long as they are still alive, there is something to learn from them.

There are space vehicles, people learned how to fight diseases, which got them frightened before. Despite the amazing achievements, there is still something to strive for. If to speak about bees, these insects have lots of skills and abilities.

There are more than a million of insects but bees and silkworms are useful for humanity. Beekeeping products are consumed as food, used in medicine and for cosmetics production. All the assets of the insects fancifully interweave between each other and as a result of concerted efforts, a required result comes out.

The principle of Harmony

Ants in harmony
Ants in harmony. Image credit: Pixabay

Bees are truly hard working. They work all the time gathering nectar from flowers where all the power of the plants is located. In order to gather one drop of nectar, the insect should spray a thousand of flowers with insecticide dust and overcome a lot of kilometers. Meanwhile, other bees make honey out of the nectar turning sucrose into simple carbohydrates, which are digested by a human body down to the ground.

Have you read?

1. Do ants have brains ? Yes collective intelligence
2. How ant swarms read symbolic information using collective intelligence
3. The symbiotic relationships of coral reefs- A model social network

If to choose one quality, it would probably be a self-organization. Every separate bee knows very well what and when it is to do something. Moreover, she is in worries in case of any obstacles appearing on her way.

Each separately taken insect is able to do any work within the community. This is why during its rather short lifetime, every bee does only that piece of work she is meant to do and the most important at the time. If there are reasons, which make changes to the normal rhythm of a family, such as bad weather or wrong actions by a beekeeper, she reacts immediately and stops gathering nectar. In such a case, an insect brings up young animal units preparing them for swarming.

A bee does not work for herself but due to neighbor principle. Until it is ready to be consumed, the bee is dead. She lives about 30 days in the summer while almost 2 months are needed for honey to be ready. If there is not enough food in the beehive, any bee would share, any bee would give away the final drop of honey and die just to save another. In case there is more than enough, no bee would eat more. Everything will be laid in store.

Bees follow the principle of harmony. Everything they do is admirable. All the insects deserved respect for the hive mind. They are also known for unique memory. After wintering, they buzz a beehive in order to memorize its location. They use different landmarks. Going to gather nectar, a bee is to memorize all the route just as well in order to get back home. A human is unable to memorize that much of details a bee with its tiny brain is.

Also, bees are very good at mathematics completing the most difficult tasks. Scientists found out that bees always find the shortest distance between the flowers at the smallest energy consumption. This task is highly important for Internet work, micro, at town transport network calculation and freight transportation routes. Computers solve these tasks making heavy calculations while it takes few moments only for bees.

The author, Melisa Marzett works for Getessayeditor. Find her profile below.

How social ties make us resilient to trauma

people and social ties

This article was originally published on The Conversation, By Dr Daniel P Aldrich, Professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Director, Security and Resilience Program, Northeastern University.

File 20170523 5743 20ld3i.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Manchester, England, May 23, 2017, the day after the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert that left 22 people dead.
AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Daniel P. Aldrich, Northeastern University

The May 22 suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester, England has claimed at least 22 lives. Once again we find ourselves mourning the loss of innocents and wondering how our societies can find normalcy in a world of suicide attacks, car rammings and mass shootings. Many pundits have already called for the United Kingdom and other societies to increase their levels of security, add more police officers and install security personnel, bag checks and metal detectors in public places.

Hardening our society is one way to make us more resilient to hazards – that is, to allow us to bounce back from adversity more quickly. But we cannot armor our societies against all threats.

Millions of people in cities like Boston, Mumbai, Ghana, Tel Aviv and Tokyo use public transportation systems, attend concerts, go to parks, visit malls and walk in public daily. All of these locations are vulnerable to those who would do us harm, and we cannot police them all. Further, protecting against one type of physical threat, such as an active shooter, does little to shield society against other types of dangers, such as vehicular attacks.

My research on the role of social networks during and after crises provides an alternative approach. Rather than focusing on hardening our physical infrastructure, our societies become more resilient when we deepen and broaden our social infrastructure. Social ties provide emotional support, information and collective action at critical times.

A fan is comforted as she leaves the Park Inn hotel in central Manchester, England, Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
AP Photo/Rui Vieira

We’re here for you

During and after traumatic events, we need other people. Social ties measurably lessen the effects of trauma and allow us to grieve, work through our adversity, and create and offer support.

For example, our ongoing research on evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear power meltdowns has shown that factors such as health and wealth did little to ease survivors’ anxiety over radiation exposure and worries about their livelihoods. Instead, having neighbors and friends who moved along with evacuees as they fled from their homes was the most powerful predictor of reducing post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among residents.

Social ties – especially those mediated through social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and NextDoor – provide information and platforms to connect acts of kindness and solidarity to people in need. Facebook’s Safety Check feature, for instance, allows users to check in and announce they are safe following a natural disaster or terror attack.

In Manchester, residents offered rides, food, water and shelter to all, using social media tags like #roomforManchester. Taxi drivers took people home from the concert arena without charge. Similarly, after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 and Brussels in March 2016, locals offered shelter to stranded survivors with the hashtag #PorteOuverte (open door).

During the agonizing period when parents and spouses were waiting to hear news of loved ones at the concert, the social media tag #missinginManchester helped them seek information. But not all shows of support involved social media. Blood banks around Manchester received so many donations that they started turning people away less than 24 hours after the bombing.

These emergent collective actions were not coordinated by governmental authorities, but instead evolved from feelings of connection and decency. Sometimes they can even inject some humor into grim events. During a four-day lockdown in Brussels in November 2015 while police searched for one of the Paris attackers, residents started tweeting pictures of cats in battle gear.

Strength in numbers

Scholars studying societies that regularly face terror attacks from rockets, shootings and knifings have similarly argued for the importance of social ties in building resilience. One study of Israel illuminated how community ties may be the most powerful way to help people deal with the reality of life as targets.

The ConversationManchester itself has faced bombings before. It was attacked multiple times during World War II, and in 1996 an Irish Republican Army bomb destroyed the downtown shopping district, injuring more than 200 people. Thanks to strong connections and community resilience, the city bounced back from past tragedies. As we struggle to find words to express our shock and sympathy for those who were harmed, we should not forget the healing power of building connections to each other.

Daniel P. Aldrich, Professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Director, Security and Resilience Program, Northeastern University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Creating a more collaborative workplace – 3 ingredients you can’t miss

collaborative workplace
A collaborative workplace requires a certain degree of give and take and works on the essence of shared understanding among employees. Kevin, our guest author shares three ingredients for a successful collaborative workplace from giving freedom to employees to top management commitment. Please find his post below. Image credit : Pixabay

If you’re not fostering collaboration in your business, you will lose to those who do!

For starters, Millennials are taking over the workplace and majority of them (88%) prefer a collaborative culture over a competitive one. But more important, having all moving parts of the office work together simply makes good business sense.

Did you know?

Companies with a collaborative culture increase their productivity by 15%, reduce their time-to-market by 20%, and improve communication by 50%.

On the other hand, creating such an environment is easier said than done.

In particular, highly skilled employees – the nerds and geeks of the office – are not too keen on sharing their expertise and working with others. Many fear they would lose their edge at work by collaborating with co-workers, a point discussed in a post here at Work Monkey Labs.

And let’s admit it:

People, in general, are almost always resistant to change.

So what’s a business leader, like you, to do?

Read the rest of this brief guide and discover the five must-have ingredients for building a work environment where people love to work together.

Strong encouragement from the executive team

Supporting collaboration from the executive level isn’t just about having a mission or vision statement with the word “collaboration” in it. You need to go beyond mere words and show your support through actions.

Let’s take a look at a few ideas.

First on the list is to exhibit the behavior you want employees to adopt, and executives of the Standard Chartered bank do a fine job at it.

Members of the general management committee frequently travel to meet face-to-face and substitute for one another. Not only does this set a fine example for the rest of the company to follow. But doing so also enables executives to fill in for each other whatever the task – whether it’s to plan and run an internal event, start a dialogue with employees, or speak at a conference.

Frequent mentoring and coaching sessions can also encourage employees – both new and seasoned vets – to provide feedback and impart their knowledge. Both of which are crucial to collaboration.

At Nokia, new employees are exposed to the strong coaching culture of the company from the get-go.

Within a few days of stepping into a new job, the manager will meet with the employee and hand over a list of all the people in the organization the newcomer has to meet. The standard next step is for the new employee to set up meetings with people on the list so he or she may learn from them.

Designing an office to increase chance encounters and informal conversations among workers from different departments is another idea you should consider.

Google and Apple have done this masterfully by bringing offices together and adding kitchens and vending machines between teams.

Have you read ?

1. What collaboration is and is not . It is a habit and not a rare species
2.  The computer says yes but can AI really drive happy accidents and social collaboration
3.  How to foster social collaboration at work – Best practices

A suitable platform for collaboration

Make no mistake:

Creating a strong sense of community and having excellent leadership are essential for a collaborative work environment.

However, picking the wrong platform limits your chances of success.

Here’s an extreme example:

Using email to pass around and edit a document. The approach is just tedious and inefficient! A better way to go about editing a document as a team is to use tool like Google Docs where you can invite people, set permissions, and view changes real-time.

Clearly, you need to exercise good judgment when shopping for a social collaboration tool for your business. Fortunately, you have plenty to choose from as far as platforms are concerned, each bringing plenty unique bells and whistles to the table.

For large enterprises, Microsoft, Cisco, and Google lead the way in providing a scalable suite of tools which boast tight integration with each other.

Small to medium-sized businesses, on the other hand, turn to best-of-breed solutions like Trello because of the wide array of third-party applications built around them. Not to mention the affordable rates and low total cost of ownership are also a huge draw.

But the size of your organization isn’t the only consideration when looking into collaboration tools.

More important, you want a platform that solves your collaboration problems.

So instead of swooning over the latest buzz, ask questions like:

  • How do you want employees to work together?
  • What challenges are they facing?
  • What do you want to get out of the tool and the increased collaboration it will bring?

From here, you can create a list of features you will need. Time-tracking and a robust shared calendar, for example, are must-haves for increased productivity in the office. But you will also want to get input from your team, the very people who will use the platform.

If you can find a tool that users love and has all of the features you need, you’re golden!

And lest we forget:

Look into the platform or suite’s security features.

Go for one that offers end-to-end encryption as you don’t want outsiders getting their hands on confidential company information. Multi-factor authentication is another security measure you don’t want to miss.

Let employees do what they ought to do

Directing and micromanaging people may be necessary in some cases – like when training a new member of the staff or coaching an under performing employee. In the long run, however, micromanaging will only kill the motivation and collaborative spirit of your team.

Think about it:

Why encourage collaboration in the first place if you’re going to do all the talking and team members have to follow your instructions down to a tee anyway?

Even worse, however, micromanaging puts your employees health at risk!

In a study involving 2,363 employees, researchers from the Indiana University found that highly demanding jobs which give people little control over the way they work are associated with a 15.4% increase in risk of death.

Autonomy, on the other hand, is the antithesis of micromanagement. Giving workers autonomy means they have some degree of control in how they work and use their skills.

Dan Pink, an NYT and WSJ best-selling author, identified autonomy as one of the key drivers of workplace motivation and performance alongside mastery and purpose. And Gensler’s 2013 Workplace Survey echo Pink’s conclusion.

In the survey, employees with a say in how they work surpass their peers without a choice at work by a large margin:

  • They perform better by 5 percentage points
  • More likely to innovate by 10 percentage points
  • More satisfied with their job by 10 percentage points

Not bad for giving employees a say in the workplace, don’t you think?

If you picked the right team members and have set clear guidelines, success metrics, and objectives for the project, then it’s high time to let your team take the reins so you can focus on the bigger picture.


Social network analysis on informal networks: ‘Who we know’ has a say on ‘What we know’

Informal networks
In some way or the other, we all are part of some informal networks in the organizations where we work. Through these networks, most of us if not some of us, get vital information to get our jobs done. Our collaboration with others becomes much easier when we know who would be right person to deliver the goods on time. Image credit: Pixabay

Note: The words ‘Workplaces’ and “Organizations’ have been used interchangeably within this post and they both mean the same.

Rob cross et all, in their seminal article titled “Making invisible work visible’ talk about the effects of social network analysis on informal networks in organizations. Even though the article was written in 2002, it offers much insight into the analysis of informal working relationships in workplaces and is quite relevant even now. Their analysis and research findings were implemented into many excellent companies across the globe. I have tried to crystallize and infer as much as possible from the first few pages. You can find the article here. Later on in the upcoming posts, I will try to summarize the lessons learned.

Social network analysis on informal networks within organizations has revealed that most of the innovative work happens across cross-functional units that cut across detailed work processes.

Such informal networks are usually not found in formal organizational charts. They are invisible and work in myriad different ways with all the subtleties and nuances embedded in it.

People with similar backgrounds, expertise, and job positions gather to share and grow together. No body forces them to form a group there by forming social capital. They are a high concoction of talent, expertise, and influential information brokers.

Workplaces need to recognize the importance of such informal networks, which can develop the ability to innovate and adapt.

It is a known fact that such informal networks in workplaces often compete with formal structures and work processes. Established HR practices, culture, and leadership styles hardly recognize the existence of such networks. Yet, we know to the core that people often depend upon informal relationships to find information they want.  Social science researchers across the world have consistently pointed out that ‘who we know, has a great say and impact on what and how much we know’.

The understanding is that if we put an organizational chart, the lines and boxes hardly represent the relationships that exist within the workplaces. Informal relationships exist beyond those lines and boxes for carrying out work and are always growing and often not immediately seen.

Informal relationships are compounded when organizations become more flat (typically, the direct reports span for manager increases or when there is widespread retrenchment) and when there is increased virtual remote working across the globe. However, the managers seem to have a good understanding of the immediate social links their direct reports have but they are largely unaware of the social links and connections, employees have across the gamut of the organization.

Now having said that, social network analysis can play a significant role in mapping and assessing key relationships among group members in informal networks as well as making productive interventions in the best interest of the organization as a whole.

There were simultaneous studies on Social network analysis from researchers across different disciplines. From the field of Social Psychology was JL Moreno who was credited with creating the first social network after mapping the city of New York. He created the first Sociogram (A network diagram, depicting relationships among group members).

Cultural anthropology, another discipline developed independent studies on informal networks. Then there was ‘graph theory’ from the field of Mathematics, which provided the foundations for the analytical techniques in social network analysis.

Over the years, all these research studies culminated today to study the effects of informal networks in modern work places through social network analysis.

All this valuable research into social network analysis provided significant inputs for investigating and understanding the conditions necessary for the rise of informal networks in organizations.

Have you read ?

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2.  The human brain helps us make decisions in everyday life social networks
3.  How social networks can add value to innovation in workplaces

Informal networks in organizations are quite common among people who are from similar background and job profile. Firstly, it emphasizes the fact that informal networks thrive from a cognitive standpoint where in employees with similar abilities and job positions communicate more.

Secondly, from a structural standpoint, the organizations design and structure has an impact on the influence and the density of the connections within informal networks. There is every likelihood that informal networks are less dense in formal structures.

Lastly, from a relational standpoint, it emphasizes that trust; motivation and reciprocity are the other important factors, which influence informal networks within workplaces.

Some insight into social network analysis for informal networks

An interesting point which I would like to make is that so far social network analysis has been viewed from a researcher’s point of view and the outcomes of such research and the benefits where never been within the reach of practitioners belonging to the industry. The outcomes and the insight derived out of such analysis need to be accessible for people in workplaces. Moreover, addressing challenges in context can help working relationships. The current conditions and challenges of working relationships in modern workplaces need to assessed and understood in the first place.

Such contextualized approach can give practitioners insight into ‘what is working and not working’ when analyzing the patterns of relationships and make changes and corrections accordingly.

For example, relocating people who are central to the informal networks with respect to decision-making and information control, to other parts of the network can have a positive effect to the group as a whole. This can boost the morale of the employees as well.

Similarly, people who are in the far reaches of the informal networks can be re-assigned so that their expertise and talent does not go underutilized. Their expertise can be leveraged by bringing them closer to the network members.

Finally, analyzing the gaps at the junctures of two independent informal networks can help in understanding what is missing or not working. By making suitable interventions and infusing new talent in those gaps or through introduction of knowledge brokers, disparate groups can be integrated. Such integration can facilitate free flow of information, expertise and know how across the groups in workplaces.




Social network analysis: The rationale behind

Social network analysis
Social networks have existed for a very long time ever since the evolution of human society.  As we dwell into details, social network analysis provides us an understanding of, among many – why people are connected more closely together then before and when there is no logic. Such analysis can make organisations flourish in a modern information economy.  Image credit: Pixabay.

Social relationships are complex. They say. Understanding such complexity requires conceptual tools when you are trying to understand the relationships beyond a small number of people.

Networks can be used to represent social relationships.

A network is simply a graph or a structure, which represents people interacting with each other. Social network analysis examines the relationships among individuals, organizations and other groups as they interact and mingle with each other. The groups’ members and their relationships can be represented in a data set, which can be created exclusively for this purpose.

Social network analysis allows scholars and industry practitioners to study and understand the behavior of network members and their relationships.

Social network analysis asks questions such as ‘who is linked to whom’ and the content of the linkages. It also looks at relationship patterns among the network members based on their behavior.

Understanding these patterns is crucial in understanding the flow of the contagion (which could be information, diseases, love, goods, etc.).

By analyzing social networks, we can understand and measure a community’s social cohesion. Things like why people engage in communities, maintain active or passive social relations, and yet live at arm’s length like in a market or business perspective.

Social network analysis also allows us to understand, how people in a community can broker information to achieve power and status and yet collaborate with others to achieve shared goals. It is a known fact that new communities emerge at the intersections of sub cultures or communities where information brokers reside.

That way, social networks have existed since ancient days and have evolved since then. Modern social networking platforms like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn have generated massive online networks. The ease of use coupled with their widespread availability has raised the need for social network analysis and has greatly expanded its reach and potential in the last few years.

Social network analysis is usually studied through various visualization tools. Gephi is a popular open source software tool for social network analysis. Social network analysis finds its applications in a wide variety of fields from studying food chains in ecosystems, to understanding network traffic and connections for building new tools.Further online social networks use social network analysis to develop and create new proprietary software algorithms for new connection recommendations and targeting niche advertisements.

Have you read?

Designing social media platforms for knowledge sharing
Why social media likes, tweets and shares are best things since cheese burger
Social network of the gods – A primordial soup of carbon atoms and water

Conceptualizing social network relationships

Social networks exist at all levels and in great variety. For example, there are social relations among friends and relatives. These are mostly among equals and then there are employer relationships i.e. between a boss and a subordinate. Further, there is also love and trust among life partners and of course infrequent interactions among people who trade and do business.

Network relationships vary according to certain factors and they are 1. Emotional intensity 2. Trust 3. Time spent. 4. Reciprocity


To be continued…