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Jul 4, 2018

What can your organization learn from nature? What important lessons does nature have to offer to make your organization better, stronger, faster? Find out on today’s show!


Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker is an Evolutionary Biologist, Biological Innovation and Organizational Consultant, and an Adjunct Professor at Arizona State University’s Biomimicry Center in the School of Life Sciences. She is also the author of Teeming, which introduces proven strategies nature’s ant and honeybee teams use to create lasting and growing value in an unpredictable world.


Dr. Woolley-Barker was working alongside wild baboons as a primatologist in Ethiopia when she came to the realization that humans are more like ants than we are like apes (actually, we really are both). Our social system has made such a big jump and has turned into a more collaborative superorganism where none of us can truly survive on our own, like ants.


When you take a close look at ants, they all have a different job and they all depend on each other to function. Human societies have the same undertones. You did not make all the clothes you’re wearing, you did not grow all your own food, or make your own phone. We are so fundamentally intertwined and depend on each other to work. That’s a radical shift from our closest relatives.


Dr. Woolley-Barker shares some examples of how companies she’s worked with have successfully increased their employee engagement, innovation, and productivity through the use of biomimetics.


Interface, the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpets, asked the question, “How would nature make a carpet?” By going through this thought process, they ended up making the best selling carpet product of all time, and it’s non-toxic! They now have a mission to eliminate any negative impact the company has on the environment by 2020. Productivity shot up by double and that’s because the employees now have a mission they can get behind.


People always ask, “How can we make an organization like an ant team?” Well, if you watch ants, a lot of them are really terrible at what they do. They wander around in circles and are often clueless, but it doesn’t matter! The errors of those individuals cancel out due to the structured process the ant team, as a whole, have put in place. Their process is fool-proof and so everyone succeeds.


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