The Wild Side of Corporate Strategy
It’s time to get a little wild with your strategy. Not party wild, but literally time to take notes from the wilds of the animal kingdom. Every animal has their survival strategy: fast, strong, smart. Perhaps your business strategy could use a little insight from a wilder world.
There’s a popular fable about a crow and a pitcher. In the story, the crow uses cleverness to get to the prize. Studies have shown that the clever crow is more than a story trope; they actually are capable of solving puzzles. A 2014 study noted that they may be as smart as a seven year old human child. Another study was able to show that crows plan for the future, saving tools and food later use. Research suggests that both apes and crows are capable of improvisational intelligence and are able to devise new solutions to never before seen problems. This improvisational intelligence is exactly what a business strategy needs to see success.
Teamwork seems like an obvious takeaway from the animal kingdom. Which species should we learn from though? Wolves, killer whales, ants? All of these animals are well known for their formidable teamwork. The meerkat, though, slides a bit under the radar.
Feeding time for the meerkat is a prime example of teamwork. One member is assigned the job of guard while the mob (group of meerkats) eats. As soon as they spot any danger, they alert the whole mob who immediately runs for safety. One slip up in alerting the mob can mean death for all. A system that works is built on trust that everyone will perform their task to the best of their ability, and it’s no different for any company who must rely on teamwork to be successful.
Know Your Strengths
In an all out battle, you might assume the fiercest fighters to be lions, bears or some other top predator. We propose a different organism, however, one which you might not even know is an animal at all.
In battle, you should always know your strengths. The marine sponge, known by researchers for its chemical “warfare,” has developed the perfect defense mechanism for its environment. As a simple animal, the sponge cannot move from place to place as most other animals can. However, the foul-tasting toxins they produce mean they have escaped predation by all but a few species. Over time these compounds evolved as chemical weapons for use against other sponges too. The marine sponge is a perfect example of using the tools at your disposal. Sure, hand-to-hand combat would be more exciting…but you’d need to have hands. In other words, your personal strengths might be different than your competitors and may – at first blush – seem to put you in a weaker position. But the right strategic tools can be as, or even more, effective for your industry and your customers than even the biggest competition you face.
The animal world can be a cruel one; they have more to gain and even more to lose. While business strategy isn’t often life and death, the members of the animal kingdom who are most successful and adaptable in their environments can teach us quite a bit about how to survive and thrive in the unrelenting world of business.