Hummingbird: Frenetic Networkers Drive Fertility

1024 618 Roddy Carter

Do you work with somebody that moves so fast that you feel exhausted? You know, the kind of person that has their hands in everything, handles a thousand things at once, touching each lightly before darting onto the next. How do you best apply this personality on your team and in your organization?

We engage a wide range of personalities at work. As a manager, it is especially important to appreciate style diversity. At its worst, misalignment of style and expectations creates mutual misery. At its best, recognizing and blending diverse styles on a team and matching each with unique purpose optimizes performance (and happiness). Mother Nature provides us with two avian examples that may help us to appreciate the purpose of opposing styles. The hummingbird is frenetically active, feeding and moving at great speed. The eagle is a strategic intermittent feeder, known for big hits. Both are highly successful and occupy specific niches in the wild and at work. This article discusses the hummingbird; the sister blog explores the eagle. I hope they help you appreciate and engage your work colleagues better.

Hummingbirds are relatively young species – they have been around for a little over 20 million years! They inhabit the “New World”, including the Americas. They are amongst the smallest birds on the planet, and get their name from the humming noise they make with their wings as they hover and fly. They are extraordinary athletes, and can fly forwards, backwards, upwards, downwards and upside down! They are best recognized for their ability to hover as they suck nectar from blooming flowers. They can stop and accelerate instantly and spend their days darting between flowers at speeds as fast as 34 mph, or 54 km/h. In order to achieve this they beat their wings at a phenomenal rate of 50 to 75 times per second, with a peak recorded speed around 200 beats per second! I feel tired even writing this.

Hummingbirds have evolved a superfast metabolism to support this frenetic lifestyle. Their heart beats 1260 times per minute (21 per second). That’s almost 20 times faster than our own lumbering hearts! They breathe 250 times per minute, even when sleeping. Their oxygen consumption per gram of muscle is 10 times higher than that of the most elite human athletes. They have several adaptations that make their work more efficient such as hollow bones and fused vertebrae and pelvic bones to reduce the weight of bone, muscle and ligaments. Despite this, they require a constant stream of energy, and the hummingbird feeds throughout the day, consuming its own body weight in nectar every day in hundreds of tiny sips. They rapidly cycle ingested sugar into their blood, making the energy available within 40 minutes of feeding.

At any moment in time, the hummingbird is only just keeping up with its energy requirements, and spends its life only a few hours away from starvation. It has just enough energy stored to survive overnight!

What is Mother Nature’s purpose in this beautiful, metabolically fragile bird with its exhausting modus operandi? It’s all about cross-pollination. As the little birds visit thousands of flowers each day to feed on sweet nectar, they distribute pollen, each species with a bill evolved to match specific flower shapes. The urgent little gardeners are potent drivers of floral fertility.

What can we learn from Nature’s design? It’s simple. Your high-speed colleagues can be powerful drivers of organizational fertility. Rather than clipping their wings, asking them to focus on only a few objectives, use their speed and metabolic disposition to rapidly share ideas across your organization. If you ask them to sit still for too long, they will starve! They desperately need this rapid flow of ideas and social contact to meet their personal needs. And if you are one of these beautiful creatures, know that we can never keep up with you and often get tired just watching you. But know also that we appreciate the value you bring to our organizational garden. Make it your business, even as you satisfy you own voracious hunger, to spread the pollen and drive systemic fertility!

Have fun,

Roddy

(Roddy Carter is an executive consultant who uses nature to provide analogues for human organizational structure and function. Through the BioSimilar Programs he helps organizations select and learn from a species or environment that closely resembles their own circumstances. This is a fun way to build and implement strategy and to enhance performance. Please reach out through the connect tab at Body-Corporate.org if you’d like to explore a BioSimilar Program in your organization.)

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