More on that later but let’s talk about termites today. Why you ask? TMG alumni can tell you right away – it’s because of Synectics (from the Decision Making workshop). Synectics is the art of connecting things that are normally unlikely to be connected. For example, the architecture for Sears Tower was inspired by how bee hives are constructed. It seems we have a lot to learn from termites as well.
First some interesting factoids about termites:
- Termites outweigh humans 10 to 1(this is horror movie stuff!!)
- There are 2,600 species of termites – don’t worry, only about 28 of them are invasive
- They build the largest structures by non-humans – relatively speaking, their mound would be 5,400 feet high in human terms (twice as high as the world’s tallest building)
- In one year, 11 pounds of termites will move 364 lbs of dirt and 3,300 pounds of water – that’s 1 lb of dirt and 10 lbs of water every day!!
- The “mound” is not a dwelling but a living breathing organism which functions as breathing apparatus or “lung” for the colony.
- It also serves as a humidifier
All this without any kind of planning but through some kind of magic which occurs when you bring together enough termites – something scientists call “swarm intelligence”. The mound is a “well ordered state” with monarchs, soldiers and laborers. This concept of swarm intelligence is being studied diligently by AI and robotic scientists for application in the real world – using a flock of thousands of small, cheap machines which collectively can accomplish a lot.
Or think about their ability to convert dead plant matter into energy. According to Srinivasan, if we could crack that code, we could produce 100 Billion gallons of bio-fuel a year – thus reducing gasoline emissions by 86%!! I won’t go into the gory details but recent human experiments in fecal transplants factor into the science – the FDA classifies human feces as a drug – ewwwww. Next thing you know we’ll be hooking up a bunch of termites to our cars.
Of course, the military is looking into how learnings from termites can be applied to the battlefield. They would like tiny weapons in massive quantities(swarms) – smart and lethal. Downside is it makes wars a lot easier to wage.
We have lots to learn from termites and the ability to connect non-traditional things. Many believe this is the key to developing new creative solutions. Termites are proof positive that a cooperative and harmonious work environment (even between buyers and sellers!) is far, far more effective than a competitive and aggressive one. You may recall that we also looked at bees and how effective they are in phenomenal decision making. But what does this have to do with the title you may ask? Bee colonies and termite mounds – the most efficient social systems known to exist – are not led by Kings, they are led by Queens!! Need I say more or can I rest my case?