The size of your business or budget is not a reliable indicator of its ability to have an impact.
Mosquitos, compared to, say, Great White sharks are ruthlessly efficient killers. They may not be predators at the top of the food chain but are responsible for more human deaths throughout history than any other living creature - it passes on infectious diseases like Malaria, West Nile Virus, Dengue Fever and Yellow Fever as well as parasites like roundworms. All of which should be taken very seriously.
While we are contemplating bugs, bear in mind that ants have bigger brains than humans (relative to their mass), have a better sense of smell than dogs and can lift 50 times their body weight. A queen ant will only mate once in her life, but can keep the sperm within her body alive to produce 300,000,000 more ants over a period of 15 years. Ants are superhuman, for all their miniscule size.
In business today small firms can accomplish more with less than ever before in history. Technology has seen to that. The entire hive of human activity spanning the globe can potentially be reached in an instant by a single tweet. 140 characters of instant messaging that travels faster than the blast of pheromones that alert the soldier of an ant colony to outsider threats.
Big businesses with large budgets can be ignored as easily as anyone else - or worse, can become the target to be chipped away by sniping from more agile upstarts and other competitors.
Big budgets often have a waste factor built in. Some organisations still quaintly allocate marketing budgets based on a percentage increase over the year before. If last year's budget wasn't exhausted then this year's will remain the same or will be reduced. It's obvious that off-loading the cash will be a priority for a manager whose personal and professional prestige is measured by the size of their budget.
For the rest of us extracting every molecule of value is essential - sometimes to growth, sometimes to beating rivals to the punch and, sometimes, to survival.
What can we learn from bugs?
1. Occupy a niche
You can't be all things to all people. Some ants colonise deserts, some adapt to the forest floor and, within colonies some ants are adept in the nursery and others are ferocious soldier ants (you don't want to be bitten by a bullet ant - its sting is said to be the most painful on earth of any insect). It might seem attractive to chase every 'opportunity' that comes your way or just to add another social media platform to your repertoire - but these acitivities sap energy and blur your focus.
2. Communicate relentlessly
As organisations grow they lose touch - not just with their customers, but with employees and suppliers. In some cases with the wider community. Ants and bees continuously communicate. Where is the honey? Is there a threat? Their biological programming - the stored institutional knowledge of being a bee - is in their DNA and communicated without dramatic variation every moment of the nest or hive's existence. Businesses that share information efficiently are going to perform much better than those that hoard knowledge and data in silos - from personal to divisional. Small businesses and brands enjoy the power of unmediated media to communicate with their audiences and stakeholders. Let customers decide what is most important to them - for you it is more important to be accessible and available. The communication doesn't have to be earth-shaking or charismatic. It just has to be useful, interesting and timely.
3. Keep you antennae up
The flip side to the communication story is that it is a two-way process. Use social media to be alert to what is happening in your domain. Sometimes you'll hear a cry for help - or a warning signal. Read the blogs of your competitors and read the comments of their customers. Early detection can be a heck of a lot cheaper than remedial action later.
Small things matter - and not just to small organisations and brands. If you doubt that, then consider the statistically improbable fate of Robbert Wedderburn, credited with the co-creation of the generalised linear model of statistical probability, who was bitten by a small spider and died from anaphylactic shock. Perhaps we can examine the importance of big data another time?
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.