Effective Communication? Ask the Ants! (3)

A couple decides to get a divorce for irreconcilable differences. A teenager rebels because she believes her parents don’t understand her. A student fails because he cannot express himself to the satisfaction of his teacher. A staff is fired for failing to effectively carry out his duties. An organization loses its competitive advantage because the staff cannot see the new vision the CEO is driving. An airplane crashes because the pilot loses contact with the control tower.

All the cases above have something in common- ineffective communication. You may wish to take a second look at the cases to see how true! To appreciate the value of communication, imagine you are in a foreign country without any knowledge of their language and with no one who understands yours. Meeting basic needs such as finding direction become herculean.

Sometimes, ineffective communication is not due to lack of comprehension of the message but failure to agree or comply. Problems evolve when everyone wants to have his way. Let’s learn from one of the most effective communities on earth- the ants:

  1. Ants are not governed by a leader but by communication: when an ant goes in search of food, it leaves a broken trail of chemicals by touching the ground with its body. When it finds a rich supply of food, it leaves an unbroken chemical trail on the way back to the colony to guide others to the food. Also, when a colony is destroyed, scout ants fan out to find a new home. The location of the new home is determined by the number of scouts who lay their chemical trails in the same direction. Communication is central to ant-life.
  2. They coordinate effectively: when you see a single ant ‘wandering’, don’t be deceived. Once a food source is found, in just a matter of minutes, several others will join. For instance, Grass Cutter Ants recruit other workers when they find quality food by creating a vibration through their abdomen. Other ants can feel this vibration through their legs from up to a meter away. Ants’ cohesion comes from their communication.

When communication fails, systems fail. A lot of valuable time is wasted when communication is ineffective. The greatest result of effective communication is for all the parties involved to have a unified understanding and purpose. When an organization, no matter how big, operates as a unit, success is inevitable.