Byron's Babbles

Idea Bee

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Learning Organization, Strategic Planning by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 29, 2014

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/23e/12663085/files/2014/12/img_0625.jpg We have all seen honey bees flitting from plant to plant spreading pollen and gaining much needed nectar for producing honey. As you read this post I also want you to imagine yourself as the leader going from person to person pollinating ideas – being an “Idea Bee.” One mouthful in three of the foods you eat directly or indirectly depends on pollination by honey bees. The value of honey bee pollination to U.S. agriculture is more than $14 billion annually, according to a Cornell University study. Crops from nuts to vegetables and as diverse as alfalfa, apple, cantaloupe, cranberry, pumpkin, and sunflower all require pollinating by honey bees. But the bees’ importance goes far beyond agriculture. They also pollinate more than 16 percent of the flowering plant species, ensuring that we’ll have blooms in our gardens. Of course, there is also the honey. More than $100 million worth of raw honey is produced each year in the United States.

The honey bees interdependence with plants makes them an excellent example of the type of symbiosis known as mutualism, an association between unlike organisms that is beneficial to both parties. We must develop this same type of symbiosis between our customers (in my case students), our different departments, our suppliers, or those we supply. The honey bee is very much like those of us in education; They are imbued with true creative intelligence because their purpose is to produce work that is noble and useful. No matter what organization we lead, should that not be our greater purpose?

Just as the value of the activity of honey bees is important to our agriculture industry and food supply there is also another important leadership lesson that can be taken from the bees. This is the thought that we, as leaders, should imitate the honey bees and go from team or team member to team or team member and pollinate ideas that will go toward the vision and mission of the organization. I call this being an “Idea Bee.” Then we must back away and just as the plant is then responsible for creating the seed, our teams must be responsible for taking the idea through to action. It is not enough just to plant the idea though. As the “Idea Bee” we must also make sure that all of the other team members understand their role in carrying out that part of the vision, mission, or strategy. We must also make sure that our team members have the resources necessary and the technical knowledge to carry out the ideas. Many leaders forget the very import capacity building act of making sure there is the technical knowledge necessary to do the job. It is a very important part of our leadership duties. Without competency there is chaos.

Experiments at Cornell University in the 1990s showed honey bee colonies had striking group-level adaptations that improved foraging efficiency of colonies, including special systems of communication, and feedback control. This research revealed that evolution of honey bees has produced adaptively organized entities at the group level. Think about it. This could could not have happened without there being “Idea Bees” in the hive to make this happen.

We must as leaders be the “Idea Bee” and make sure we are giving the support for the ideas to grow into flourishing organizational structure, processes, and products. We must also encourage all on our teams to become “Idea Bees” as well. Think about what your organization might look like if idea evolution were to produce adaptively organized entities at the group level.

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