© Associated Press
Honey bees use a complex system of consulting one another before choosing a hive in a process London scientists say could help humans make better decisions.

Swarms send out groups of 'scout bees' to assess the quality of a potential site for a hive. The insects then report back and do a 'dance' to describe the benefits of the site. The study found the swarm then comes to a group decision on the best site by revisiting sites recommended by others until a consensus emerges and all the bees are performing the same 'dance'.

Scientists say that the process could help the business world to come to more informed group decisions.

The study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B developed a computer model to measure the success of different decision-making processes.

The model showed that if the bees relied on the 'cosmic accident' of all the bees eventually stumbling on the same site, it leaves the swarm homeless and vulnerable. On the other hand if the bees blindly following the recommendations of other bees without checking the sites out for themselves there is no guarantee that it will be the best decision.

The study concluded that the system bees use in natures of sending out scouting groups resulted in the best decision.

Professor Christian List, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at The London School of Economics, said the bees natural decision-making process chose the best site.

"The honey bees' decision procedure is remarkably sophisticated," he said. "The swarm manages to block and prevent the kind of "group think" that can bedevil good decision making.

"Humans, for example, demonstrate this kind of bad decision making behaviour when a number of investors, through random accident, buy stock in a company and others rapidly join in with the crowd, thinking that the increased demand for the stock indicates something real. This can result in a market bubble, where the price of the stock goes through the roof for no good reason and often with bad consequences.

"Looking at decision making processes in both humans and animals is very important. The need for collective decision making occurs almost everywhere in complex societies, and a good fundamental understanding of these processes can help design human organisations in ways that encourage good decision making."