What can we learn about business from ants? 


At Tribe York, we’re always trying to find ways to support local start ups, social enterprises and businesses with co-working space, training, events, business advice and anything else we think might be useful. The business advice element can come from a variety of sources, and today, it is coming from ants!

The BBC recently published a video that explored how ant colonies work and some of the comparisons we can make with the world of business. Here’s the top three things we took from this in relation to the small, grassroots start-ups Tribe York supports:

1. Scrap hierarchy and ego!

In an ant colony there are no CEOs or Managers - everyone is working towards a common goal. If one ant finds a trace of food, that ant will become, in that moment, a leader and get everyone else to come to that food source. Modern organisations are obsessed with hierarchy, manager roles and where you are on the pay scale.

By stripping away this structure, you empower your staff, unleash their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit and, as a result, increase productivity.

2. Listen to those at the coalface

Ants lay pheromones to allow other ants to find food sources. This simple process of positive feedback is surprisingly effective at finding the shortest path. Getting the data from the very people who are on the coalface makes sense - they're the ones with the rich, qualitative data who can feed back into the decision making.

In a small start-up, this relates to doing your market research! What are others doing (well and not so well)? What do your potential customers want? What do your existing customers think of you? And if you have a small team – are you consulting and listening to them (see point 1 above!)?

3. Adapt or Die

Ants are nomadic, and if their environment becomes threatened or their food source diminishes, they will move to ensure survival. 

Organisations too must be able to adapt to change to survive. If you’ve some experience of the workplace, you might have inherited bad habits and intransient cultures that will stifle your success. Your new business must be agile and fast to respond. You should ensure you always have one eye on the horizon – scanning for opportunities or threats. Procrastination is not the small business owners friend – whilst you sit deciding, your competitors will have moved in.

Want to find out more about how Tribe York can support your business to grow? Please get in touch and book a free tour.