We have all heard the worst interview question in the world, “If you were an animal, which one you would be” but after watching my new PBS obsession – Spy in the Wild – there may be something to this! If you have not seen the series, essentially researchers have ingeniously disguised small cameras as tree stumps, rocks, or even artificial animals (my favorite is spy bush baby!) and placed them in natural habitats to observe animal behavior. Social psychologists have often drawn parallels to animal behavior to that of humans which has got me thinking out loud about how certain human organizations resemble animal groups in terms of behaviors, interactions, ways of operating and solving problems, etc.
The premise is that organizations have unique cultures and cultures are formed, according to consultant and author Dr. Henry Cloud, by what is ALLOWED or CREATED! Whereas not an exhaustive list, here as some prototypical organizations that I believe are common in human habitats!
Chimp Congress – seriously, this is what a group of chimpanzees is called! Chimp groups are characterized by high drama and high emotions. There is a lot of innovation and care within a chimp congress but members can be easily distracted by interpersonal issues. Disputes, resource allocation, and other rewards eventually regulated and refereed by senior members when they begin to tire of the shenanigans!
Wolf Packs – as you can imagine, this is a group made up of predators! Just imagine a rabid group of sales professionals! Pack members have learned the value of cooperation and will skillfully orchestrate their movements and processes to pursue their prey. The problem becomes, however, is that when resources become scarce or they become bored, they will turn on each other to weed out the weak!
Horse Herd – like many herd animals, they consider themselves to be prey. This produces a flee or fight mentality with the “flee” or conflict avoidance usually the standard operating procedure! A herd of horses are led by a dominant leader with little thought as to what they are doing or where they are headed. The reliance on the leader is absolute and independent action is discouraged. The herd will protect weaker members often at the expense of themselves or their efforts. Leadership transition is competitive but open only to internal members.
Meerkat Colony – meerkat colonies are extremely tight knit where compliance and conformity is valued. This creates a social structure where everyone cares for everyone else but the goal is just survival. Subsequently, the colony plays “not to lose” and keeps a low profile in a very competitive environment filled with competing meerkat colonies and predators.
Dolphin Pod – a group or “pod” of dolphins is comprised of complex and fluid social structures. Much like a tech start up, membership in the pod is dynamic with members coming and going as they seem fit or see an advantage. The pod will often “self-regulate” punishing or rewarding members as the pod decides. Leadership is less pronounced and is distributed due to the transient nature of members and tasks. Like members of a start-up, dolphins are highly intelligent and communicate in a highly efficient manner; thus, can innovate quickly.
Much like animal groups, human organizations are a product of their surrounding environments and personal characteristics. They form and operate based upon their function in the kingdom of the marketplace! Unlike our animal friends, however, human organizations are not doomed to their fixed, Darwinian style of evolution. Human organizations can change and adapt to BOTH look after the welfare of their members AND compete effectively in their respective arenas.
So, what type of organization does your enterprise resemble? Back to Dr. Cloud’s assertion that cultures are created by what the leadership ALLOWS or CREATES. So as a leader, if you do not like what you see or hear when you take a good, honest look at your organization, that is a you and you deal!
As always if I can help you and the people you associate with Get Better, Be Ready and LEAD OUT LOUD, I would invite you to email me or to visit my website below and see if any of the training or coaching experiences I offer can provide an impact! Also, as a bonus, if you go to my Out Loud Strategies website (www.outloudinc.com) and enter your contact information, I will send you a FREE guide to establishing a mentoring initiative program in your organization! Such an initiative would be critical to add value to your organization!
Yours in Leadership,
Principal Consultant – Out Loud Strategies, Inc.
Independent Coach, Speaker, and Trainer with the John Maxwell Team TM
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