Learning innovation from… ants!

Zuloaga ImatgeArtículos, Blog English, Fran ChuánLeave a Comment

As we have already said before, innovation takes place within communities. It is for this reason that, when we explore new territories looking for new markets, new ideas, new solutions… having a “lingua franca” of innovation in our community becomes fundamental. So, if we do not have it yet, we should start working in order to create it.

And… what can ants teach us about this?

Well, a lot of things. For example, when the explorer ants go out in search of food they follow a ritual (methodology) and they also have a “lingua franca”. Let me describe in short the ants’ way of acting (biologists, please, do not scandalize).

To begin with, a lot of collector ants leave at the same time, and in many directions. Then, they may find food or not:

  1. If they find food:
    1. They come back to the anthill with a sample of it and they also leave a track of a chemical substance called pheromone in their way back that serves as a guide route to food for the other ants.
    2. All the available collectors ants start following the track to food, leaving at the same time more pheromones to mark the path, so it does not disappear.
  2. If they do not find it, they come back to the anthill and incorporate to the pheromone track left by their successful colleagues.

When food is over, ants stop moving to the source of it, so the track stops being reinforced too and slowly dissipates.


Ants assume two things that are very difficult for humans. The first one is that not all the paths taken in search of food (innovation) succeed. And the second one is that, in order to make some attempts successful, many attempts (in parallel) should be undertaken, knowing that most of them will be… unsuccessful.

To conclude I may say that, to date, it has not been detected that the anthill penalizes unsuccessful ants or that becoming part of the success of others is being seen as a problem.

Fran Chuán

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