5 lessons bees tell us about group selection

I finally grasped the central idea of group selection after reading Thomas Seeley’s wonderful and eminently readable book Honeybee Democracy (2010). In it he illustrates that the fundamental principle of effective group-selected living is to maximize the coordination of the advantages of two or more heads and bodies over one. Leadership is a negative because it causes decisions to be made on the limited biases of just one individual. In the life or death decision of where a hive should relocate, many bees strongly participate in constant open and honest exchanges of opinion about current options, and decisions are made on the basis of quorum as opposed to consensus in order to cut off discussion in a short enough time to act in a timely manner. At the end of his book, Seeley includes a priceless set of lessons he has learned from bees as to how to effectively run an organization (which he assiduously follows in the leadership of his department at Cornell):

Lesson 1. Compose the Decision-Making Group of Individuals with Shared Interests and Mutual Respect.

Lesson 2. Minimize the Leader’s Influence on the Group’s Thinking.

Lesson 3. Seek Diverse Solutions to the Problem.

Lesson 4. Aggregate the Group’s Knowledge Through Debate.

Lesson 5. Use Quorum Responses for Cohesion, Accuracy, and Speed.

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