Book review - Smart Swarm

Emma De Vita reviews Peter Miller's new book Smart Swarm

Book review
Book review

How can bees help to run meetings? That's the question you should really be asking yourself as a third sector manager. According to Peter Miller, a senior editor at National Geographic magazine who has written a book called Smart Swarm, the inner workings of flocks, herds, schools and colonies reveal an intricate group behaviour that can teach humans how to organise, systemise and problem-solve more effectively.

So what can we learn from bees? How about this? Once they've outgrown a home, honey bees need to find a bigger and better location.

So they send out scouts and, once they've found somewhere appropriate, these return to the swarm and do a 'waggle dance' to indicate their enthusiasm for the place. The scouts inspect each others' finds until enough choose one to persuade the whole swarm to move.

What makes this collective decision-making work, explains Miller, is that the bees seek "a diversity of knowledge".

They "encourage a friendly competition of ideas" and then "use an effective mechanism to narrow choices".

So the next time you face a group decision, remember these three things. Just don't expect your colleagues to waggle dance their choice.

- Emma De Vita is books editor of Management Today

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