Shorten meetings with waggle dancing instead of words: Hive mind management lessons from bees

January 4, 2021
Shorten meetings with waggle dancing - MBA Thought Of The Day - Photo by Kai Wenzel on Unsplash

In the book Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley, we learn many insights into the collective ways bees work together, and which might help us liven up staff meetings and make them worth attending.

Seeley has undertaken decades of research and really gotten into what a “hive mind” really means and I think they’ve delivered a collection of insights so deliciously invaluable that it made me want to lick the book clean!

It turns out, bees, especially scout bees, make observations of the world around them, share thoses observations for others to cross check, and then advocate for their opinions by doing a passionate “waggle dance”.

In this MBA Thought Of The Day, I just want to focus on one aspect of honeybee democracy that I think is the bees knees; the waggle dance.

When a swarm of bees has wandered off with a queen to set up a new colony, the scouts go out looking at locations and then come back to communicate their findings to the group.

And a key part of that reporting is doing a waggle dance that not only shows the direction of the new location but also shows whether it’s a red hot go now opportunity, a moderate opportunity, or a mundane opportunity.

And the measure of the value or priority of a location is directly related to how active and energetic and passionate a scout’s waggle dance is.

Apply this MBA Thought Of The Day to your workplace

So here’s something to try today.

At your next meeting, ask subordinates who are advocating for new ideas or arguing for particular decisions to be taken, to communicate only through waggle dancing.

So, what’s involved in waggling at work? Let’s start with the bees, please.

In this dance, the bee walks in a circle, turns around, then walks the same circle in the opposite direction. She repeats this many times. Sometimes, the bee includes a little waggle as she’s turning around. The duration of this waggle is thought to indicate the quality of the flower patch she has found. – Ask A Biologist at Arizona State University

Therefore, I would suggest that if staff members are able to climb onto the boardroom table on all fours and achieve noticeable movement with their posteriors, they will be able to waggle most persuasively.

For subordinates with limited or no mobility, they should be entitled to choose a fellow employee as their representative, or even have access to a small budget for hiring in a waggler, who might be a dancer or exercise physiologist, or someone from a profession where astute and accurate control of their gluteal muscles.

And before you argue that some people might be self-conscious about dancing in public, I suggest we take that as a great Litmus test for passion; I know when my passions are high I do tend to do things I might otherwise have not had the courage to undertake, hence my “I Miss Oxford” hood tattoo quite close to my inner sanctum.

As you flit about in your buzz-iness today, remember to introduce the Waggle Dance for these three reasons:

  1. You will whittle down ideas and arguments to only those for which staff members are passionate
  2. You will quickly gauge which ideas are more eloquent
  3. And your social media manager will be able to film meetings and craft quite viral video content

This MBA Thought For The Day is yet another reason for contemplating doing A Lunchtime MBA during our Adelaide Fringe 2021 special semester.

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