31 Aug Soft skills to learn from the humble ant
As Ants ourselves, we have learned from the wonderful and creatures about perseverance through hard work and determination. However, did you know that there is more inspiration to be taken from the tiny insects? Ants are incredibly versatile creatures who have a range of soft skills that help to ensure the survival of their nests.
So what can the humble ant teach us about the importance of soft skills in our own careers and work environments?
Creativity & Adaptability
Ants are creative problem-solvers by design as they must continuously change their environment to suit their needs. There is no anthill designed like any other, as they involve ants working in tandem to solve complex problems based on outside contexts in which they generally have no control.
Some ants have also been known to build ant rafts in times of flooding – using their own bodies to protect the colony and “float” to safety, while others construct complex ant towers with their own bodies until they are able to establish appropriate safe nests as their home. Many ants have also been known to develop ‘living bridges’ to move safely across the terrain.
In the same way as ants use creative ways to protect their nests and colony from abject danger, we need to be able to adapt to change and help employees and colleagues feel supported, reassured and stable during times of transformation. We can achieve this through creative problem solving and being willing to adapt to specific contexts.
Did you know that ants suffer from peer pressure? While peer pressure is not a positive effect or behaviour we want to instil in the workplace, we can learn from the ant in that persuasion is a key factor in working together successfully (if planned in a positive way). Ants can convince and motivate their fellow ants to change direction, move to new spaces and follow specific paths. In much the same way, we want our team members to feel positively influenced by our own actions and thoughts. Being able to persuade people to be better or do things that will propel a organisation or themselves ultimately helps the “colony” or in this case, your work environment.
It has been scientifically proven that lonely ants have shorter lifespans than their social counterparts. This is because they thrive in working together towards a common goal. Ants are born collaborators – even if they don’t understand the concept – they remind us of the age-old adage that ‘there is no I in team’!
The ability to collaborate is incredibly important in the workplace because we are able to work together towards common goals and to solve complex problems through a shared and invested interest in doing so. Collaboration allows for a diverse skillset to emerge within the individuals of the collaborative team. . which ultimately makes the team, and the individual, stronger.
It may surprise you to realise that the ant is a great communicator. While not having the abilities that humans possess, they are still able to ensure that colonies of millions of ants work in harmony to achieve common objectives and goals. Ants use pheromones, touch, body language and sound to help ensure their survival, their antennae are advanced and hold the key to their communication abilities. The common ant is powerful when motivating with body language and with a simple touch or stroke of the antennae can be propelled to do innumerable tasks. Furthermore, ants have a low frequency way of “talking” with each other and can alert, entice, and recruit through this ability. This is how worker ants (who have been trapped) can alert other ants to free them (from a collapsed burrow for instance).
Just like the ant who needs to communicate for the success of their nest, communication proficiencies are probably one of the most important soft skills that we can have in an organisation. These skills include the ability to listen carefully, back-up statements with facts, avoid tentative language and to communicate with courtesy. Communication can lead to productivity through exchanging ideas effectively all while maintaining social yet professional relationships.