Lighting beehive or How our company got inspired by bees

Introduction
Lighting beehive or How our company got inspired by bees

It seems like even nature knows how to run flat companies. I compared the LB* studio to a life of bees.

It has already been a couple of months since I started working at LB*. My journey as a UX designer started pretty quickly and after a few days of education, I suddenly faced my first challenges in several projects as a team member. Very soon, even though I was a bit unsure how to handle all the unknowns, I was positively surprised. I found out that our company’s values are significantly different from any I already knew.

I got a picture of several principles that reminded me of a book by Piotr Socha called Bees, which I bought a few months ago. Well, I admit, this can be a somewhat striking comparison, but I noticed that Beetles from our studio and the bees I read about have much more in common than I would expect. Here are a couple of core values that I find worth mentioning:

Autonomy

Independence and the ability to make our own decisions is what makes the LB* team spirit powerful and effective. Similarly to the bee colony: The head of a bee hive is the queen yet she has no tendency to abuse this position. She takes care of her own task (laying eggs so the colony survives) and trusts others to get their jobs done.

(Illustration by Peter Škrovan)

Working in autonomous, fully allocated multidisciplinary teams, we know what our common goal is – because we picked it ourselves and are identified with it – and we agree on the importance of it. This chance to be self-deciding and self-organising causes us to be fully into what we do and how we accomplish it.

T-shapeness

Another great connection between bees and our company “beehive” I observed is the cross-functionality of our team members. During their lifetime, bees are gradually moving through the professions of nursing, nectar processing, housekeeping, honeycomb builder, hive and flight guard, which bring pollen and nectar to the hive.

In LB*, we have many so-called T-shaped people. The vertical line of the letter T refers to the in depth expertise and experience in a particular field, while the horizontal part represents the ability to cooperate with professionals in other disciplines and the willingness to use the knowledge gained from this collaboration. That means that each team member has expertise in something different, but has an overview of other areas and participates in creating value together.

(Illustration by Peter Škrovan)

Team syncing

Bees never stop communicating. They constantly do several series of movements called a waggle dance and no information is a secret for them. This transparency in their relationships helps them to be effective and successful coworkers. Transparency is also one of the values of LB*: we are honest with people even if we fail and openly take responsibility for what we do. Not having to hide anything makes our lives easier and prevents anger.

Also, we work together mostly at the same place and same time, so that we can keep informed and productive. Even when we cannot spend that time together, at least we update each other during daily standups. Every morning, we briefly let our colleagues know what we managed to do yesterday and what we plan on doing today. In case we have any blockers – something that makes it impossible for us to achieve the goal – we discuss possible solutions.

Agility

Within the same hives, there are variously sensitive bees with different responses to climatic and environmental conditions. Here in LB*, I can see such a diversity within our teams too. They consist of capable people who, as a group, provide the team with a range of perspectives and worldviews.

Furthermore, after a certain time of different generations being active, honeycomb cells shrink. The beehive becomes darker, heavier, less valuable and has to be renewed – otherwise more degeneration would occur. Or, if environmental factors are dangerous and not efficient for bees, they basically relocate to better circumstances. So, bees’ survival depends on their ability to adapt. The same phenomenon I can observe in our studio. Constant adjusting to new trends and conditions makes us much more flexible to business goals of our clients as well as to the current market needs.

(Illustration by Peter Škrovan)

Added value

Honey, as a product of bees contains important biological substances (enzymes and ferments), valuable minerals, and vitamins that positively affect many aspects of our bodies. In short, honey brings value. So do the products of autonomous teams. Moreover, except for honey, there are many useful side products such as propolis or beeswax. Here in LB*, we always try to bring as much added value as possible alongside our main delivery.

Nothing can stop the Bee(tle)s

To wrap it all up, what amazes me most is the flat company structure and how our teams work together. I observed that the aspect of strong autonomy in teams significantly increases personal engagement and satisfaction of each of us. I found myself inspired by this approach to work and many of these principles I have also adapted into my private life – whether in communication or other cooperation with people.

Oh, and one more thing. Did you know that although bees are not colorblind, they cannot see  red? This might be a metaphor, but there’s something about it. Through common values and principles we can work in harmony and nothing can really stop us. I am definitely proud to be one of the Bee(tle)s.

Author

Petra Toszegi

UX designer who loves people. Enjoys small talks, chalk talks, big themes, and sketch-notes. Happy to learn, glad to share knowledge.

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