Monday, March 10, 2008

Self organization and Swarm Intelligence

Recently I read this article about Swarm Intelligence. This article talks about amazing efficiency of the insects like ants, wasps, bees, etc. The scientists have researched the behavior of these insects and, have proposed ideas that could be used in our day to day business. The portion of the article that caught my attention was the 3 characteristics of social insects that is making them successful.

They are

  • Flexibility
  • Robustness
  • Self organization
Flexibility and robustness is influenced by self organization. The articles claims that
Through self organization, the behavior of the group emerges from collective interactions of all individuals

In the case study given in the article, the ants, bees don't have a leader directing day to day activities. The social insects seem to have two key priorities in their life time, finding food and defending against enemies. It seems to be a simple life as compared to human beings :-)
There is no need to have a backlog of tasks to monitor of the ants/bees. They get up in the morning, go in search of food, bring it back to their nests and live happily.

I was wondering why can't we be self organized like them(atleast in our work life) ? Specifically, Agile methods recommend self organizing teams. My take on this is, we as human beings can't be like ants, bees. It is very difficult (even though not impossible) for human beings to self organize themselves at work. We have many needs, desires, characters, emotions. Each of these parameters affect our thought process and decision making ability. We have our own individual identities as opposed to the ants and bees. May be these social insects have their individual identity, but looks like they give higher priority to the group rather than their individual wants/desires. I think we can achieve self organizing teams within our projects, provided we keep aside our individual priorities and work only towards the projects goal.

couple of questions that is coming to my mind..(for readers)
  1. Is your project leader capable enough to create a strong goal that would make you to lower your personal priorities ?
  2. Have you seen any projects with self organizing teams ?
  3. What does it take to become self organized in your project ?
  4. Are you willing to lose your identity for the project's goal ?
So bottom line is, it is easier for ants, bees and other social insects to self organize as compared to us, human beings.

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