1

What can ants teach us about our own corporate ladder?

A new study out of Switzerland finds carpenter ant colonies have some startling similarities to the structure of our own corporate ladder.

Ants may seem like just an annoyance, but they’re actually very sophisticated workers. A new study out of Switzerland finds carpenter ant colonies have some startling similarities with the structure of our own corporate ladder.

"Ants are interesting in that they divide labor according to age. The very youngest ants for the most part tend to take care of the queen and the young," says May Berenbaum, who heads the department of entomology at the University of Illinois. "Then they move into the role of custodians and cleaners. And the oldest most experienced individuals go out into the world and forage for resources."

Berenbaum notes that some ants can even skip rungs on the ladder, moving directly from nurse to forager.

"But the thing about this that may be different from human corporations is you can’t blame nepotism, because they’re all related to each other," Berenbaum says.

To hear more about how ants communicate, ant retirement, and which ant is CEO, click on the audio player above.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.
Log in to post1 Comment

Is the Queen the CEO? No. If the mission statement dictates that the purpose of the organization is to reproduce itself and remain viable, she's the lowliest of the workers. Unlike many of our corporations who do not value their workers and try to pay them as little as possible, ask for help to feed them from outside the organization and only begrudgingly provide safety measures, carpenter ants know to take care of their queen. They heed the "don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg" tenet told to us by Aesop.

With Generous Support From...