Teamwork According to Ants

Go to the ant, you sluggard; 

consider its ways and be wise! 

It has no commander, 

no overseer or ruler, 

yet it stores its provisions in summer 

and gathers its food at harvest. 

Proverbs 6:6-8 

A friend and I were talking about working with others. I wasn’t at all surprised when he commented, “I recently heard a podcast about this. It was a study about ants.” I was so intrigued, I had to hear more!  

My friend explained that a German scientist was studying ant colonies’ movement patterns to see if we could learn anything that would apply to automotive traffic jams. While the podcast wasn’t centered around teams, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about two observations related to working with others. 

The scientist observed that ants don’t seem to have egos and they seem okay with accidents. When it comes to egos after they bump into another ant or an obstacle, they just keep going. For the most part, they stay in lines on their path, and they don’t constantly try to get ahead by zooming past the ant in front of them. They don’t seem to spend any time comparing their progress to another ant’s. When it comes to ants seeming okay with accidents, they even seem to anticipate bumping into each other and having setbacks along the way.  

I don’t really like what this causes me to consider. In teaming up with others, I’m rarely ok with accidents, traffic jams, or bumping into others. (I obviously have no ego, so that one certainly doesn’t apply!) 

Since I’m focused and work fast, I have to remind myself of these tips—none of them new, but all of them are vital. I need to: 

  1. Recognize my ego! I do have an ego, and it impacts my ability to work on a team. I’m learning to be more open and honest when I’m struggling with others who have other (often better) ideas, move at a different pace than I do, or get the credit.  
  1. View obstacles as opportunities. This sounds so nice, and in theory, I love it! But Iit’s so challenging for me to keep in mind that we need to be ok with trying and failing.  
  1. Remember people are not obstacles. I wish I could say this goes without saying, I have to remind myself of this often. I can get so focused on the goal that sometimes I see people as obstacles to blocking me.  

I’m practicing a few phrases and questions that help me in these situations: 

  • “I don’t know.” 
  • “I need help.” 
  • “People are more important than the project/deadline.” 
  • What aspects of my reputation am I working hard to protect? What is driving that? What is the Lord saying to me about my reputation? 
  • What it is it about failing that I don’t like? What does failure tempt me to believe about myself?  
  • How am I viewing this person as an obstacle? How does that affect what I believe about them? What does the Lord want to say to me about that?  

So how about you? What can you learn from the ants? What could help you: 

  • Recognize your ego? 
  • View obstacles as opportunities? 
  • Remember people are not obstacles? 

Four things on earth are small, 

yet they are extremely wise: 

Ants are creatures of little strength, 

yet they store up their food in the summer… 

Proverbs 30:24,25 

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