Studying Ants

I spend a good chunk of time each month writing performance reviews. Last month our company installed a new online review process. But the old system was shut down for nearly four months. I ended up with a backlog of reviews I’d written in Word.

Well, I wasn’t happy when I found out I’d have to transfer the reviews I’d stapleralready written to the new system. This was a tedious process of cut and paste and pray the formatting wasn’t botched. I often ended up writing the entire review over.  

The group I’m responsible for consists of about 20 technicians, but I have another 20 who work part-time during various times of the year. I often feel like an HR manager given the mountains of paperwork I create for each employee. There’s nothing green about my job, that’s for certain.

On my way home from work last week I was thinking about all the time I spend completing paperwork. Every hour I spend pushing papers is one less hour I have to spend with my team. It means less time to train, encourage or just observe how they work together.

And then I flipped on my iPod and began listening to a talk given at the Ted Conference by a women who has spent her career studying ants. Not reading about ants or dissecting them in a lab. She goes to the desert and digs up colonies full of ants. She counts, marks, and teases them in order to learn about their behavior.

I’ll bet the ants gang up and bite her every chance they get. And who can blame them if she’s breaking into their living room each day. It’s only natural they’d be upset and exact revenge.

One fact I learned is half the ants in a colony stand around doing nothing. They are backup ants that seldom get called into service. Kind of like Matt Leinart.  The ants you see carrying leaves and crumbs are foragers. They are hard working colony contributors. But there are just as many lazy ants inside the hill just kicking back with a cold one watching Family Guy.

Suddenly all that paperwork doesn’t seem as tedious. And it’s only a few hours each week. My perspective changed over the course of ten minutes listening to this woman talk about freaking ants.

And so far, not one colleague has bit me.

One thought on “Studying Ants

  1. You and Brian (my hubby) would get along fabulously. This post reminds me of him so much. Not only the TED talk part but the changing your perspective part. He is always finding new and profound ways to look at the world. I am evening view this on my PC. So it isn't about the format this time.


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