On the train to work this morning, a friend told me about a fascinating phenomenon known as the ’Ant Death Circle’ (also called the ‘Ant Death Spiral’ or ‘Ant Mill’).
What happens is that ants sometimes lose the pheromone track laid down for them to follow, and veer off course. Each ant then follows the ant in front and the group forms a continuously rotating circle. The ants then blindly follow this circular trail until they die of exhaustion.
Pretty depressing stuff huh? Poor ants.
The powerful and emblematic image of the ant death circle made me immediately think of parallels in conventional performance management - the self-perpetuating downward spiral of targets, binary comparisons, internalised peer vs peer competition, and so on. How often do we unquestioningly follow the ‘ant’ in front and do what we’ve always done, for that reason alone? Because it’s the policy. Because it’s how we do things round here. Because the boss says so.
Maybe you’re an ‘ant’ trudging along within the circle, finding it difficult to break away from the norm but wanting to go and look for that pheromone trail. If so, remember time is running out.
Act now before it’s too late.