The cooperation of bees
As a beekeeper, Irene Koel sees similarities between the working procedures in hives and corporations. She has put this insight to good use in her own work as an advisor on creative innovation.
“I caught the buzz from my brother Huib, who is a real beekeeper,” she explains. “He showed me how beautifully a swarm operates and I subsequently completed a course in beekeeping at the apiarists society. I’ve been helping my brother ever since.”
Koel spent 15 years at Holland’s largest advertising agency, FHV/BBDO, before she set up her own business, BLOEI Creative Innovation, which helps businesses renew their organization, products or services.
“Bees cooperate in an ingenious manner and have various tasks,” explains Koel. “There’s job rotation within the swarm! But bees only move on to a new task when they are biologically and anatomically ready for it. I use these wonderful similarities as metaphors in my own work.”
Beekeeping also offers Koel refuge from her hectic working life. “The great thing about beekeeping is that it demands tranquility. You need to work silently, listen, move very slowly, and keep a sharp eye on everything. You have to keep your wits about you, otherwise you risk a full attack. So it’s a case of ‘handle with care.’ But that makes it all the more meditative. Beekeeping offers a haven of tranquility in my busy life. It’s also an opportunity to commune with nature and it keeps you in touch with the seasons, which I find a healthy state of being, because you learn to accept that it’s not always spring or summer, and that some things need time to grow.”