science | October 25, 2012

From Bees To Silicon Valley: How Edward O. Wilson's Work Translates To Business

What does the work of Edward O. Wilson, one of the world's most distinguished biologists, have to do with startup business culture? "On the surface, biology and technological innovation seem distinctly different," Victor W. Hwang writes in Forbes. "But if we adjust our perspective slightly, it’s remarkable how useful Wilson’s ideas are to understanding Silicon Valley and America’s startup economy."

"E. O. Wilson has spent a lifetime trying to explain the inexplicable, but he may have done even better than he realized," writes Hwang. Wilson has argued that despite the allure of being self-centered, altruism often is the winning character trait when it comes to group-versus-group interaction. A delicate balance exists between the needs of the individual and the best interests of the group, and those who can find that balance are the ones with the, "complex social instincts that enable them to take over much of the planet." A two-time Pulitzer winner, Wilson's work made tremendous contributions to our understanding of biodiversity, and the complexities of biological systems on Earth. These breakthroughs have not only expanded beyond the scientific community (influencing government and religious leaders) but can also be used to understand why some people are successful and productive—and others are not.

In his lectures and talks, the Harvard professor simplifies the complexities of life systems on Earth, while injecting just the right amount of awe-inspiring content to make his audiences want to protect the world we inhabit. While the Forbes article specifically focused on Wilson's work with bee cultures, the ability to draw parallels between bees and humans shows the true magnitude of the work he is doing—and what we can learn from him.