Researchers have turned to the world of ants to see how people can improve their collaboration process and increase productivity as a whole. It seems a bit weird that ants would be the inspiration for workplace strategies, but these little insects do know how to get stuff done. They build large colonies, find and share food sources, fight off enemies — and they do so without the help of meetings.
The problem this idea hopes to solve is how to make decisions among a large number of workers with efficiency and accuracy. Kai Yang, a professor at Wayne State University, is one of the scientists working on an ant-inspired model for how businesses can find a balance between the planning and execution stages of product development.
“You need to find the sweet spot of ‘right amount of communication, at right time,’ and ‘good quality’ to make the whole work together seamlessly,” Yang explained.
According to Yang, companies spend a lot of time simply coordinating tasks because managers have to make decisions and decide how much time is spent in meetings. However, the new research is working on a way to minimize the time spent on product development while keeping costs as low as possible.
“Finding the right balance between ‘doing the work’ and ‘communicating with each other’ will achieve wonderful results in job completion time and quality,” he said.
The study, which was published in the International Journal of Production Research, was able to cut project completion times by 17 percent, while raising production costs by 8 percent. They were able to do this by taking tasks that are normally deemed separate parts of the production process into one streamlined parallel process. This type of process creates more efficiency, but it does cost a bit more for companies to manage this way.
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