Are Leading Entrepreneurs Considering the Ants? (Segment IV)

Preface: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”  Quote from Michael Jordan

Are Leading Entrepreneurs Considering the Ants? (Segment IV)

Credit: Donald J. Sauder, CPA | CVA


Ants, like robots, have an innate talent to work admirably as a team. Ants carry upwards of an incredible fifty times their weight. Ants travel in large numbers when hunting or farming, and this gives them a significant probability of warding off risks that individually would be insurmountable. Again, together ants can accomplish what would impossible individually, from defending the colony to vast territory hunting and farming collection activities. Ants very infrequently can join a new colony. If an ant colony is destroyed or an ant is separated from their native colony, most new colonies will reject the foreigners. However, infrequently, if the captive orphan ant can contribute successfully towards the new colonies’ progress, they will be adopted. This gives ants fierce loyalty to their fellow members and teammates in their native settlement. Ants understand and appreciate their position and responsibilities in their colony and peacefully conduct their activities unless threats occur to the colony’s status quo.

Google is a ubiquitously known organization in both households and businesses, and one quest that they continually invest in is to understand teams better. Project Aristotle was one such specific initiative for this purpose. Many Google executives believed that building the best business team was to assemble the best people into a group. You combine the best engineers, MBA’s and Ph.D.’s, and you’ve automatically created the best team for a business.

The collaborative research resulted in struggling with the lenses in ideas and practices to determine a great team’s characteristics leading to a conclusive five key points that top teams exhibit. 1.) Dependability: A successful team member must be dependable and get things done on time and within expectation. 2.) Structure and Clarity: High-performing teams have clear goals and well-defined roles within the group. 3.) Meaning: The work has personal significance for each member. 4.) Impact: the group believes their work is purposeful and positively impact the greater good. 5) Psychological Safety: the Project discovered unnervingly that quantitative data alone, as may be hoped, was not the core platform of great teams, such as superior IQ, credentials, and education.

Google discovered with Project Aristotle that they began to make noticeable breakthrough progress when they started looking at specific intangibles of the teams, such as group norms. The researchers’ recurring progress was in part from analyzing the existing research theme from earlier psychologists and sociologists that reflected on “group norms” – the traditions, behavioral standards, and unwritten rules that govern how teams function when they gather.

Group norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound. Therefore, business teams assembled with safe zones for employees, where they feel secure from seeming incompetence, or other fears of risk in voicing their opinions, or asking judgment-free questions or other danger(s) and insecurities from a lack of shared group norms, was the underlying foundational component for a business to a building and excel with a dream team.

In entrepreneurship, shared “group norms” are one of the big secrets to great teamwork.

Ants also exemplify perfectly one of the greatest secrets of successful and champion teamwork aligned and similar to “group norms”– the right chemistry. The “Miracle on Ice” U.S Hockey team of 1980 was chosen based on chemistry and not talent alone. We can learn from Malcolm Merkin who wrote the following in his article How Teamwork Led Mike Eruzione to Olympic Victory 

(In the 1980 Winter Olympic Games), Twenty-five-year old captain Mike Eruzione played a prominent role in bringing home the gold for the USA (and from) Soviet professionals. Eruzione’s parents taught him to pursue and expect success, but not to take anything for granted. Sporting his older sister’s white hand-me-down figure skates, the future gold medallist learned to skate on the sand traps of a nearby golf course.

Since his mother would not allow young Michael out on the lake with the older kids, iced-over sand traps provided an excellent training ground for a small but determined, Eruzione. By the age of eight, he had demonstrated that he was committed to becoming a hockey player, so, with saved up S&H green stamps, his mother bought him a pair of bona fide hockey skates. “The only rule that we had around the house was that if you signed up for something, you had to commit yourself to work hard and stay with it.

You couldn’t quit the team or pout if you didn’t score any goals. It was a case of playing because you wanted to enjoy yourself.”…. I wouldn’t come home and say `I’m the best player on the team,’ or `I’m going to be a pro player because I’m better than the next guy.’ I always took things in stride and was part of a team. To me, the team was always more important than how well I was playing.”

Both Olympic teams in the famous US Olympic victory were chosen for their teamwork chemistry instead of individual sheer talent. Ants excel at shared group norms and importantly the chemistry feature of teamwork. The ants have no personal ego, pride, or other individual motives in their endeavors, because of supposed superior ability.

The worker ant’s dedicated teamwork focus is on the commitment to the successful furtherance of their colony. That teamwork approach has helped them successfully thrive for millenniums. This is team “chemistry” and “group norms” core component is genuinely most clearly evident among successful family entrepreneurial teams. Likewise, when (entrepreneurial) teams are procured with the right chemistry, amazing things happen that talent alone cannot achieve.


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