• Strategy

Swarms act as intelligent organizations: ants and bees

Private Message X


Ants swarming (original image cropped) / Troy Trolley / LicenseCC-by-nd - Attribution No Derivatives

Colonies of social insects such as ants function efficiently because swarms are flexible, robust, and self-organize.

"In essence, we believe that social insects have been so successful--they are almost everywhere in the ecosphere--because of three characteristics:
  • flexibility (the colony can adapt to a changing environment);
  • robustness (even when one or more individuals fail, the group can still perform its tasks); and
  • self-organization (activities are neither centrally controlled nor locally supervised).
"Business executives relate readily to the first two attributes, but they often balk at the third, which is perhaps the most intriguing. Through self-organization, the behavior of the group emerges from the collective interactions of all the individuals. In fact, a major recurring theme in swarm intelligence (and of complexity science in general) is that even if individuals follow simple rules, the resulting group behavior can be surprisingly complex--and remarkably effective. And, to a large extent, fiexibility and robustness result from self-organization." (Bonabeau and Meyer 2001:108)
Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Optimized energy use systems. Efficient transportation systems. Efficient computer systems such as file sharing, optimization and control algorithms. Efficient call routing systems.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Business, computing, marketing, transportation, communications

Iosystem Corporation
Eric Bonabeau
Bonabeau, E; Dorigo, M; Theraulaz, G. 2000. Inspiration for optimization from social insect behavior. Nature. 406: 39-42.
Learn More at Google Scholar Google Scholar  

Bonabeau, E; Meyer, C. 2002. Swarm intelligence: a new way to think about business. Harvard Business Review. 79(5): 107-114.
Learn More at Google Scholar Google Scholar  

Bonabeau, E; Theraulaz, G. 2000. Swarm smarts. Scientific American. 282(3): 72-79.
Learn More at Google Scholar Google Scholar  


Login to Post a Comment.
over 5 years ago
Yes, there's interest in looking at swarms for lots of purposes. See this entry on range voting: http://www.asknature.org/strategy/209b5fa3de3573d76df73854f1cd9dba
over 5 years ago
Can this concept be used to create a management system? Might a set of simple internalized rules can replace a rigid conventional management structure?
1 to 2 of 2 Comments