Bo Peabody, Village Ventures

Bo Peabody, co-founder and chairman of Village Ventures, headquartered in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is one of those young guns of the dot-com era who is experiencing his first duel with bad economic times. So where does he look for inspiration? To ant colonies and beehives. In Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software (Simon & Schuster Trade), Steven Johnson examines how interconnections between many simple individual entities can form smart, highly adaptive systems. There is a lesson about teamwork, says Peabody, in the mystery of self-organization.

Ants? Johnson’s book suggests that with ant colonies, with cities, or with the human brain, one ant or one street or one neuron is not an intelligent entity. But a group of these entities becomes very intelligent. It’s an important message today. Ego is the number one killer of good decision-making processes within companies.

What’s your biggest take-away? Teams work better when individual members check their egos at the door. I’m not proposing that we should be automatons, but if we all had a little less ego, the overall system would work much better than it does.

Essentially, we’re so smart, we do dumb things? Or we think we’re smarter than we are. The brightest individual doesn’t necessarily make the best decision. The smarter decision usually comes from a team of people working together whose members recognize what they know and what they don’t know.