Ant & Food

I was suddently attracted by the species – Ant. It’s very collaborative, distributed, specialized.

They have at least three kinds of needs : reproduction, breeding, food-hunting. There are different ants specilized in those jobs. The ant queen and winged male ants do nothing but eat and mate; one group of the worker ants dedicated to food cultivation; another group take care of their eggs, larvae and pupae.

While ants go out for food, there is no such role called manager who directs the route and orders others working. They follow their discipline – pheromone, it turns to disaster if their discipline was destroyed by e.g. human. They do have speciliazation and cooperation, as indicated in reference[1]."Food Cultivation" or reference[3]."leaves are cut"+"leaf sections are carried away". E.g. the leafcutter ants specilise in task according to their sizes : largest ones cut; smaller ones chew; smallest workers tend. They cares the quality too, if a particular type of leaf is toxic to the fungus the colony will no longer collect it.

The cooperation was a bit amazing to me.

As mentioned in reference[3]."leaf sections are carried away",

  • some worker ants may carry their own leaf fragments back to the colony
  • some will stay near the plant from which they are cutting leaf fragments and dump the leaf fragments in a leaf cache a short way along the trail where they are retrieved by other workers and taken further along the trail
  • Very small workers ("minims") will often ride on the pieces of plant material as they are carried back to the ant nest. They protect the larger workers from a parasitic fly that tries to lay its eggs on the back of the ant’s head while it is carrying leaf fragments, and so unable to defend itself.

I like their learning or say knowledge management system too, as said in reference[1]."Learning".

  • They do interactive teaching. The knowledgable forager leads naive nest-mate through tandem runing, the follower obtains knowledge through its leading tutor, which in my mind is coaching. Both leader and follower are acutely sensitive to the progress of their partner with the leader slowing down when the follower lags, and speeding up when the follower gets too close.
  • Controlled experiments with colonies of Cerapachys biroi suggest that individuals may choose nest roles based on their previous experience. An entire generation of identical workers was divided into two groups whose outcome in food foraging was controlled. One group was continually rewarded with prey, while it was made certain that the other failed. As a result, members of the successful group intensified their foraging attempts while the unsuccessful group ventured out less and less. A month later, the successful foragers continued in their role while the others moved to specialise in brood care.

What Agile says? As in reference[4].

  • we are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

We emphasize the importance of

  1. direct communication, like ants contact each other to obtain information
  2. cooperation, like the speclization which comes from experiments developing own talents, for ants it’s mainly the size which means normally strength, for people it lists the ways of thinking, characteristics, mental focus area, etc.
  3. discipline, like the pheromone keeps ants organized, real Agile people feel nervous and anxious when the builds broke or somebody don’t do TDD…
  4. coaching, knowledge transfer or so-called competence development were done through co-working, and practicing the real job. While we have the form of team, consists knowledge and transfer to new mates, or specifically the pair programming practice in extreme programming.

Oh, which I forget that the ants even have Scrum Masters – soldier ant. They protect the colony from attack, parasite, flood and so on. But wait, where is the Product Owner …

Reference:

About Kaveri, Yi XU

Agile Coach & Consutlant
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