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管理

向蜜蜂学管理智慧

Ryan Bradley 2012年06月28日

人类养蜂已有千年之久。现在,一些管理大师正在汲取这种小生灵的智慧——这可不是信口开河。

    人类饲养蜜蜂,至今已有几千年的历史了——这时间长到足以令我们对这种生物产生敬佩之情。狗忠诚,猫好奇,而蜜蜂勤劳,正是如今商人的精神写照。蜜蜂是伟大的组织者、风险规避者、分布式决策者。在我们所建立的快节奏、结构复杂的金融蜂巢里,什么样的人既能徜徉其中,又能保持出色的学习能力?在写给《哈佛商业评论》(Harvard Business Review)的一篇博文中,希伯森咨询公司(Sibson Consulting)的人力资本副总裁迈克尔•奥马利说道:

    “从专业角度讲,我的工作是帮助大型企业管理风险,我主要研究他们的招聘、赔偿、培训和其他体系如何鼓励人们的行为。我逐渐发现蜂巢是自然界颇为合理的组织。我养的蜂群有着适合长期持续增长的结构,而且能预防不可知环境变化所带来的严重损失。”

    在蜜蜂掌控风险管理的例子中,奥马利指出,当一个蜂巢大到不够用时,整个蜂群会进行搬家,就像公司一样。蜂巢通过不断派出“田野探索队”来“避免盛宴之后是饥荒的周期”。蜜蜂明智地使用它们的研发预算。在蜂巢要进行重大决策时,持不同观点的蜜蜂通过复杂的舞蹈动作(这叫“摇摆舞”,真的)来“表决”。在奥马利的这篇文章中,我最喜欢的一点是,蜂巢部署了“训练有素的职业发展计划”。这是千真万确的!

    你现在大概知道我对蜜蜂确实略知一二,这主要是因为我那不太爱赶潮流的父亲在几年前开始养蜜蜂——远在许多纽约人决定养蜂之前。我可不想把国家金融资本与蜜蜂数量上升扯上什么关系,我只想透露一下,伦敦的养蜂人更多。

    蜂巢也许是极其复杂的组织,但它也是一个家庭(实际上这一点可能使问题变得更为复杂)。一只蜜蜂在蜂巢中的角色随年龄的变化而变化。这一切从育幼所开始,它由略长的雌蜂们喂养、照顾,然后扮演与她们相同的角色。当另一批蜜蜂诞生时,现在已年纪稍长的蜜蜂会去训练它们。接下来,它的任务是贮存食物、清洁蜂巢,最后,它会飞到外面寻找花粉。当它太老了,无法应付蜂巢外的工作时,它会返回蜂巢,做更多的家务。令人惊奇的是,在这一过程的每一步骤,都是一只较大的蜜蜂照顾一只较小的蜜蜂,教会它整个链条中的某个环节。大型的天主教家庭在结构上也形同此理。

    然而,蜂巢组织与高效企业存在着关键区别(好吧,区别是有很多,但请先听我说),原因有三:首先,每项工作都与蜜蜂的年龄绑定,其次,单个蜜蜂所承担的那些任务在整个蜂巢被重复着成千上万次,最后,每项工作都对蜂巢的持续生存至关重要,但这一切并不牢靠。毁掉一代蜜蜂,没有哺育,没有新一代工蜂,没有清洁,蜂巢将被任何垂涎蜂蜜的动物侵入(主要是蜡螟和蚂蚁);没有花蜜,没有蜂蜜,蜂巢将陷入饥荒。是什么大规模地扰乱了这种一代接一代的工作循环?是我们人类。

    Humans have kept bees for thousands of years -- which is long enough to form some admiring opinions of them. Dogs are loyal; cats are curious; but the industrious bee might just be the spirit animal for the businessperson of today. Bees are great organizers, risk mitigators, and distributed decision-makers. What creature better to learn from while navigating the fast-paced, complexly structured hives of finance we have created? In a blogpost for the Harvard Business Review, Michael O'Malley, vice president of human capital at Sibson Consulting, says as much:

    Professionally, I help large businesses manage risk by focusing on how their recruiting, compensation, training, and other systems encourage people to behave. What I came to recognize was that beehives were organizations that naturally got things right. The honeybee colonies I was cultivating were structured for consistent long-term growth and the prevention of severe loss due to unpredictable environmental surprises.

    As examples of bees' mastery of risk management, O'Malley points to the fact that a hive swarms, literally spinning itself off like a company, when it grows too large for its current digs. Hives are also "designed to prevent cycles of feast and famine" by constantly keeping "an exploratory force in the field." Bees use their R&D budgets wisely. Big decisions in the hive are "voted on" by way of different bees arguing their points via complex dance moves (It's called a "waggle dance" -- I swear.) But my favorite point from his article is that a beehive has in place "a disciplined career development program." It's true!

    As you can probably tell by now, I know a thing or two about bees, mostly because my father, who is generally not on the leading edge of trends, began keeping bees several years ago -- well-before many New Yorkers decided that keeping bees was a thing they should do. I'm not going to draw a correlation between our nation's financial capital and the rise of its bee population, except to point out that there are even more beekeepers in London.

    A beehive may be a massively complex organization, but it's also a family (which might actually further complicate matters). As a bee ages, so does its role in the hive. It begins in the nursery, being fed and tended to by its only slightly older sisters before it graduates to their same role. By the time another set of bees has been born, that the now slightly older bee will train them. Eventually, it graduates to storing food, cleaning the hive, and, finally, flying outside in search for pollen. When it's too old to brave the outdoors, it returns to the hive for more housekeeping. The amazing thing is, every step of the way, an older bee is with a younger bee, teaching it the ropes, on down the line. Large Catholic families have some sense of how this structure works.

    There is, however, a key difference between the organization of a hive and an efficient business (well, OK, there are many, but stay with me for a moment): because each job is tied to the age of a bee, and because these tasks a single bee assumes are repeated, thousands of times over, throughout the hive, and because each job is absolutely vital for the hive's continued survival, well, you have yourself a house of cards. Wipe out one generation and no nursing, no new generation of workers; no cleaning, and the hive will be invaded by any number of creatures desiring the bee's honey (wax moths and ants, mostly); no nectar, no honey, and the hive starves. What disrupts this generational work cycle on a massive scale? We do.

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