The Wisdom of Bees

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 December, 2010, 12:00am

The Wisdom of Bees
by Michael O'Malley
Portfolio, HK$130

Bees are not the 'hardened aggressors' they are made out to be, writes Michael O'Malley, and humans have much to learn from them, especially in the area of business. In The Wisdom of Bees, the Columbia Business School professor underscores the ways in which these creatures plan for the future, for example, by avoiding all-or-none scenarios: the discovery of a source of nectar doesn't prompt a whole colony to rush off blindly to plunder the resource. In the business world, O'Malley explains, 'motivated by an extreme thirst for profits, [many companies] fail to see that the source of plenty eventually disappears'. Other lessons include adopting the meritocratic system of honeybee colonies. They also show the benefits of decentralised authority, simplicity (bees exchange only useful information), staying in touch (they have a feedback system connected to the quality and amount of nectar they gather) and exploiting individual differences (in human terms, special talents). O'Malley's book is quirky enough to create buzz but, as bees would probably advise if they could speak, businesspeople shouldn't rely solely on this book for their research.