As businesses and organizations grow, they must be willing to adapt to the changing economic, political, and commercial climate. Most businesses change certain policies, procedures, and even branding as they mature to maintain credibility and earn success. Even during the hardest times like the 2008 Recession and the more recent COVID-19 pandemic, those businesses that have stayed afloat have done so by utilizing strategic planning and being flexible within every aspect of their organization. 

If you stay in business long enough, disruption is inevitable. As business leaders, we cannot control every situation that may arise, but we can control our reactions to those situations. Research indicates that swarm intelligence can be a helpful tool for businesses to utilize when preparing for this organizational disruption. 

Swarm intelligence refers to the ways in which living things such as ants, birds, bees, and fish behave in their everyday fit to survive. As a business leader, this type of behavior can be inspiring. For example, the ways in which birds search for food or how ants or bees distribute the work that needs to be done to build a surviving colony are not always premeditated and planned. Often, these creatures must work independently to ensure the survival of the rest. They have to be quick to act and react when presented with danger. 

In ant colonies, disruption can happen in an instant. The ants will quickly change tasks and tactics to protect their colony when danger becomes imminent. Swarm intelligence is the innate ability to know when to switch tasks to do what is best for the community at-large without anyone telling you to do so. It is the ability to react and recover from threatening situations. And it is the perfect example businesses should follow for developing a team of self-sufficient and team-oriented individuals.  

Hiring and developing your team can be a daunting task. You want to ensure you have the best for the job, but how can you test the reactivity and survival tactics of these individuals during the hiring process? Quite frankly, you might not be able to. When it comes to organizational disruption, many of us go into fight or flight mode. Planning, however, makes a big difference in how the individuals on your team reacts when disruption hits. 

As business leaders, we must plan and educate our staff to think quickly, become resilient, and take control when faced with unintended consequences. Here are three ways to build a strategic business plan with disruption in mind:

Distribute Leadership

When faced with unexpected disruption, a well-organized business will fall toward an “all hands on deck” approach. Utilize your team and the qualities they possess to overcome any setbacks you may be facing. 

Developing a plan for such a disruption includes cross-training staff to understand other positions within the company. Being able to swap tasks and function productively can improve the success of the organization.

Know Your Faults

Effective leadership means understanding when hierarchy and ego meet. Simply because you may be the leader of your organization, you might not necessarily have the best idea or plan during a time of disruption or crisis. 

Being communicative and open with your leadership team and the rest of the staff can encourage staff members to share their expertise or ideas to help the organization move past whatever hinderance may be in the way. Ask your team for help and work collectively for the greater good of the business.

Get it Done

When push comes to shove, the most important thing to remember is the common goal of the organization. Disruption and crises can arise any any time and, in order to lead an effective and successful organization, you must remember the mission of your work. 

Being an encouraging, hardworking leader can motivate your team to do the same. Discuss the tasks that need to be completed, organize a plan to tackle the obstacles the company is facing, and get your boots on the ground and get to work. 

Swarm intelligence is an effective model in successful business planning. Never being too proud or entitled to work hard to complete a task or accomplish a goal is how organisms survive chaos, and businesses, too, can successfully overcome any obstacle with a great team and continuous planning.