What Can We Learn From Ants?

Ants are insects that can communicate with their team members by leading traces that they leave when find food or anything else useful. Ants are very effective in this way of communication and we can learn it from them by using BrainSwarming technique invented by Tony McCaffrey for ideas generation and solutions obtaining. The method is quite easy to try. You will need a flipchart paper or a board, stickers, markers and some space for the group to work in.

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HowTo:

  1. Gather the group
  2. Define the problem at the top of the list[
  3. Explain the technique rules to the group.
    "No talking is necessary among the group while Brainswarming is going on. Simply write your contribution on a Post-It note (or on the board) and draw a line to what it should be connected to. There are three types of contributions you could make. First, you could break a resource into one of its parts. In this case, put your Post-It note just above the resource and draw a line to the resource. Second, you could make a goal more specific. Ask yourself the How question to make goals more specific and concrete. Third, you could add interactions between several resources or several sub-goals. If the interaction is not clear to people, the contributor can write it in more detail on a different part of the blackboard so as to not clutter up the Brainswarming diagram. Note: if the words on a Post-It note begin with a verb, then the note most likely should go toward the top of the graph. If the words begin with a noun, then the note most likely should go toward the bottom of the graph."
  4. When timebox is finished, enjoy the results.


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“Brain Swarming” Benefits:

  • No more long lists of ideas that can easily be forgotten. A “Brain Swarming” graph keeps track of a visual history of the problem solving activity in a structured manner, so nothing is forgotten;
  • Accommodates both top-down and bottom-up thinking;
  • It is easy to build upon any other person’s work, as it is all on the graph;
  • Contributions happen in parallel, which is much faster than sharing one at a time;
  • Since there is no talking, talkative people cannot dominate the idea generation activity;
  • Writing on Post-It notes keeps the contributions compact and easy to read;
To explore this innovative approach Luxoft Agile Practice organized a workshop for several project members, an “a-ha” task was defined for them to solve: "Sitting on a table are a candle, a box of tacks, and a book of matches. You must attach the candle to the wall so that it can burn upright and won’t drip wax onto the table. How would you solve the problem?"
It was a surprise for me how fast the team was able to find clues. It took them 10 minutes to identify 2 working solutions that we tested right away. For the next workshop we are going to mix different “a-ha” tasks with delivery challenges that we face daily on the projects. If you are located in Kiev and would like to take part in the game and practice this method, let me know in the comments and I will invite you.
Btw, within a couple of months an online platform will be created for “Brain Swarming,” so it will become possible to use it for distributed teams as well.

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