Anton van der Walt Solving Problems is hard work and it takes effort

A Dung Beetle walks into a bar and asks… Is this stool taken?

It is fascinating observing Dung Beetles in the wild. These small creatures roll dung (manure) into a round ball, far bigger and heavier than their own body weight. They roll this ball backwards with their hind legs for great distances.

Two beetles, a male and a female create the ball from the original heap of dung. The female attaches herself to the ball while the male rolls it away from the pile of dung as quickly as he can. It is amazing to see the strength and tenacity of these little beetles as they roll the dung over many types of obstacles, often in a straight line. They will push the ball up a steep embankment even though the dung could weigh 50 times their own body weight! Eventually they will find soft soil in which to bury the ball. The female lays her eggs in the ball and the hatching beetle larvae use this as their initial food source, eating their way out of it to freedom. The focus and tenacity shown by these little creatures is quite remarkable.

As with everything in nature, there are always opportunists waiting to get in on the action.  These dung beetle “helpers” will try to steal another beetle’s dung. It sometimes happens that the dung beetle loses their dung ball on a steep embankment and these “helpers” are just waiting to pounce and hijack the ball.

Like the hard work and dedication portrayed in the behavior of the dung beetle, organizations and teams need to display the same tenacity and commitment in order to obtain good results. Nothing just happens by itself. Purposeful planning and execution is required every day. Having a robust review process in place will ensure an understanding on progress. Hard work and dedication is important in problem solving but there is also a need to consider the following:

  • Working together as an effective team – an effective team means we trust one another. We are jointly responsible and committed to the task at hand
  • Everyone has a place – everyone on the team and in the organization has a place and role to play. There is no one member more important than the other. Each has their own responsibility. Each effective individual will ensure the success of the entire team.
  • Watch out for the “helpers” – there is always someone outside of your organization ready to steal your ideas and use them as their own. This does not mean that we are not to share appropriate matters. It means rather that what is confidential in the organization must remain so. This is our competitive advantage. Keeping confidences and security in the organization remains paramount.

The Dung Beetle epitomizes focus, commitment, hard work and team effort. As members of a team or organization, we would do well to remember these traits. These are critical elements in problem solving and in the making of effective teams and successful organizations.

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