The Way We Work

From DIY beehives, to the Bumble app, to Gucci sneakers, bees are having kind of a moment right now. We like the way they gather pollen from flower to flower to save our planet, and the honey they give us to put on our baklava. But one of the most fascinating things about them is probably the way they work. By collaborating with one another, bees use a decision-making process called hive mind – a collective consciousness in which a swarm thinks and acts as a community, sharing its knowledge, thoughts, and resources.

Why is that relevant today? Well, as big issues such as climate change, biodiversity collapse, and food security continue to spread, it has become clear that those challenges are just too complex to be solved using our old industrial top-down, siloed approaches. We need to break the chain of specialization to create a chain of collaboration, and, just like bees, work together in a more open and connected way.

So how can you turn your organization into a collaborative “human swarm”?


Start With Your Culture
Strong foundations are the key to galvanize the collective intelligence of your teams. To do so, make your collaborative values understood by everyone – that is, using plain English, no mumbo-jumbo. And then, walk the talk by adapting your communications accordingly (like changing the pronouns “you” and “they” by “we”) and creating an environment that promotes knowledge sharing. One good example could be to set up regular sessions where cross-functional teams share a piece of knowledge. It could be a compelling article, a book (even a fictional one) or a new research. Whatever. As long as everybody shares something and explain why it’s interesting for the team.


Give A Try to Technologies… After You Understand Them
Open platforms like Slack, Salesforce Chatter, and Google Drive are great lubricant for collaboration. And if you can add an internal newsletter to the mix, even better. But before implementing any new platform, just make sure you understand why it would help your teams achieve their goals, how it would fit within their actual behaviours, and what would be the better agreed-upon norms for using it (like the time of response, where to drop files, etc.).


Include the Decision-Makers, too
Gone are the days when a company was briefed by an organization, disappeared, and then went back a couple of weeks later with a (so-called) business solution. Today’s managers want to be involved. At key stages throughout the process. So, including co-creation sessions in your offering can come in handy, here – helping you build managers’ trust, while ending up creating stuff that is truly useful for them. And not to mention that it’s also an effective way to move upstream in their business, which, turns out, can increase your chance to keep them for the long haul.


Team Up With Other Tribes
Did you go to a Lululemon or a Frank & Oak, lately? If so, you may have noticed that those companies have a very distinctive way to use their physical space – they share it with other companies such as coffee shops, co-working spaces, barber shops, ice cream vendors, and sometimes, even all of them altogether. Within this pure symbiosis, each organization can therefore benefit from the network of the other, which boosts both their revenues and their brand equity. In your workplace, that could mean sharing your office with other companies of the same size as you (from your field or not) or enabling some startups to work on your floor.

While the evolution of our species has always been a balance of competition and cooperation, sounds like our era has a penchant for the latter. The way we work is just representative of the collective growth mindset of our time, which pushes us to question the current ways of doing things in the name of innovation. Wikipedia, TEDx, KickStarter, and other open collaboration models are here to stay as, in a world of widely distributed knowledge, the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.


By Philippe Gagnon, Planner