The Wisdom of Ants

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I was struck recently by an article that begins with a statement about ants by Stanford biologist Deborah Gordon. “Ants aren’t smart,” she wrote in a National Geographic article; “ant colonies are.” Today more and more people are recognizing the “wisdom of crowds” in which collective thought and action by groups are superior to the individual ability of even their most gifted members.

I thought about this as someone was telling me about a high school football team that consistently wins championships even though few of their players go on to compete at the college level. Their players are not top recruits for major colleges because the players on this team tend to be smaller than is required for big college football. Keep in mind that colleges recruit individual players, not teams. So here is an outstanding team but few individual outstanding players.

Today more and more people are recognizing the “wisdom of crowds” in which collective thought and action by groups are superior to the individual ability of even their most gifted members.

Their accomplishments without the benefit of star individual players come from a plan involving vision, teamwork, and leader development. It begins in the middle schools that feed into the high school, with the middle school coaches all being assistant coaches for the high school team. Therefore, from the time they begin football, the players are learning plays and formations, as well as values, that will continue through high school. When they join the high school team from their various middle schools, they continue with the same football philosophy and system.

The result is that a good football vision and game plan, consistency, and years of player development result in teams that are superior without necessarily having superior individual athletes.

As you begin the new year, consider whether your congregation has its vision, team, values, and goals in alignment. If so, you have a good chance of accomplishing in 2010 far more than you can even imagine now. If this sounds familiar, it should. The writer of Ephesians said it long ago: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine . . . .” (3:20)

Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

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About Author

Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Lovett H. Weems Jr. is senior consultant at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, distinguished professor of church leadership emeritus at Wesley Theological Seminary, and author of several books on leadership.


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