Jun 2, 2012

Guest Post: Lessons of Productivity from the Beehive: The Wisdom of Bees

By Lotifa Begum
Original Source

I was recently fascinated by the 25 powerful lessons put together by Michael O’Malley in his book entitled: `The Wisdom of Bees’; he begins by telling us that bees "have developed a system that rivals ours in complexity and surpasses it in efficiency…"

Unfortunately, many of us can testify to bad experiences of leadership and inefficiency or at least know of those that are inefficient and are dysfunctional. What is even more sad is that this occurs in our Islamic organisations! So when I came across these lessons I remembered the verse in Quran where Allah says in the Chapter called `The Bees’:

"And your Lord revealed to the bee saying: Make hives in the mountains and in the trees and in what they build: Then eat of all the fruits and walk in the ways of your Lord submissively. There comes forth from within it a beverage of many colours, in which there is healing for men; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who reflect.." [Quran, Surah An-Nahl, Chapter 16, Verses 68-69]

This book is a must-read for anyone in a management position; below I share the first 5 productive lessons from the hive, (you’ll have to buy the book to get the other 20!). What I particularly loved about the compilation of this book is that the chapters on each lesson were very short and succinct, and after explaining the theory behind each lesson O’Malley provides a section entitled ‘More Pollen’ which gives the reader practical tips on how they can go about applying those lessons. Filled with amazing lessons of wisdom, I kept thinking of the ayah mentioned above and indeed Allah has made every creation with His Wisdom. Michael explains that the bees are very good at doing two things: they ‘think’ and `communicate’. Seems like a simple lesson really, but in organisations these 2 ingredients are essential for productivity.

Lesson One: Protect the Future
“One teaspoon of honey represents the lifetime work of roughly a dozen bees.”
The first lesson in the hive is to ‘protect the future’. As Muslims, we have a vision and aim when we start anything in our lives, whether it’s a business, a family, a community project. These are created with the future benefit of ourselves and others in mind, thus the bees also start out with a common vision (in honey production). Many managers lose sight of this principle with the pressure of maintaining the organisation working in an ad-hoc manner. Bees teach us on the other hand to work in anticipation of tomorrow which makes them maximizers of their resources.

Lesson Two: Keep the Energy Levels Up
“Like the treads on tires, bee wings don’t last forever.”
Given the sheer hard work taken to produce honey, rule number 2 in the beehive is to keep the energy levels up! How can we translate that into the real world of work where our employees are tired just a couple of hours into work? From a faith perspective, you should start your day with Fajr salah and remembrance of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala), and recitation of verses from the Qur’aan. Some very useful practical tips to help keep the energy of workers up are shared in this chapter.

Lesson Three: Let Merit Be Your Guide
“Honeybee colonies are meritocracies. Unlike the institutions with which we are familiar, favoritism plays little role in the operations of the hive.”
It was interesting to learn this principle occurs even in the beehive. Every good leader is guided by the principle of justice in Islam, chosen on the basis of their knowledge, qualities and competency – which means no room for favoritism in the hive. Among honeybees, females have the key role in tending to the survival and welfare of the hive making it logical to have the queen bee rule. These concepts of leadership by those who are best to fulfil it and to remove the leader by failure of their performance are not unfounded in Islam, therefore just as honeybees are performance orientated, so should we be as Muslims!

Lesson Four: Promoting Community, Sanctioning Self Interest
“The riddle of what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine is neatly settled by the bees.”
Bees organise themselves in the hive so as to spread the good for the whole therefore the community is central to their operations. This reminded me of the hadith where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “None of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (Sahih Muslim) This suggests that our work ethics and environment should always promote goodness of the community.

Lesson Five: Distribute Authority
“The queen couldn’t possibly direct all of the actions in the field from her command post. So, she does what every good leader does: she delegates certain responsibilities to a set of lead bees who act as her agents..”
The idea of good leadership has become somewhat misconstrued in organisations today, we assume the leader has to do and dictate every decision and action. In the beehive, it’s quite the opposite and also the prophetic seerah is testimony to this principle as there are ample examples where he (peace be upon him) would choose the most suitable companion for their expertise in certain areas.

So above we’ve reviewed the first 5 productivity lessons we can take from the beehive, to help you enhance your leadership skills.

In the meantime check out Audio and Video presentations by the author for more information. Share your thoughts on this review or buzz below with your comments!


Post a Comment