At the Harvard Business Review, Michael O’Malley describes some of the things he’s learned from his chosen hobby of beekeeping. By day, O’Malley is a consultant for large businesses trying to understand how recruiting, compensation, and training policies affect their employees’ choices (and how that affects the company as a whole). He points out that bees are highly adept organizational risk managers and that a focus on the long-term is a strength they’ve leveraged for “100 million years of productivity and growth.”
No queen bee is under pressure for quarterly pollen and nectar targets. The hive is only beholden to the long term. Indeed, beehives appear to underperform at times because they could collect more. But they are not designed to maximize current returns; they are designed to prevent cycles of feast and famine (a death sentence in the natural world). They concentrate their foraging on the most lucrative patches but keep an exploratory force in the field that will ensure future revenue sources when the current ones run dry. This exploratory force (call it an R&D expenditure) increases as conditions worsen.
They also avoid getting “too big to fail,” utilize distributed authority for quick decision-making, and try to make intelligent mistakes (if any).
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