Thursday, May 15, 2008

What a safari teaches us about Strategy

Lions, Crocodiles and Buffaloes


I love strategy as much as witty smart disagreements, the kind that break our paradigms.. The first time I faced reinventing strategy and competition was in the 90s, when we
discussed how to manage a shrinking market. I could see that whilst being concern with selling more, we were getting less.
The issue was to sell different. Mind you I was an arrogant brainer, not
that I've changed much to my dismay, on the arrogant part, but I now love to be proven wrong, would that be age? or maybe I miss my kid's teenagery rebeliousness :-). 

The idea of simplistic competition just bothers me, the thought of stream line 'perfect' growth curve boring. Challenges make us thrive and a situation can suddenly change for better or if we manage it. The trick is to find a perfect fit, focus on the best outcome
leveraging what's in and out the company (or yourself), and keep reinventing the wheel.

I want to share with you a paradigm-breaking video of a safari...mind you every few steps ahhh something new happens.
Check the "Battle at Kruger" at if you haven't already done so.. it is soo cool!

Two buffaloes and a baby quietly walk by the savanna, near a pond. Without realizing it, they approach a group of lions. Too late
one of the adult buffaloes becomes aware of the lions and gets frightened, running away. The lions chase them and capture the

Learning 1: If you're going to expose your weaker link, be alert even in an idyllic place. If you're running scared, you lose. That would the simply strategy: one won, one lose,
you do lunch or you are lunch.
Too simple!

Lions fall onto the water with the baby buffalo. It is an unequal fight, without resistance or aggression. Suddenly a crocodile grabs the side of the

Learning 2: If you want to capture a market, better play in a known field or be alert to new competitors. If you are
loosing a battle, don't give up, yet save the energy (resources) in case there is a paradigm shift!

Finally the lions get the baby buffalo out of the water, the crocodile lets go.

Learning 3: Concentrate on where you have the greatest opportunities to succeed. Let the others win without an unnecesary

In the meantime, a large number of buffaloes has gathered, returning to the scene. The lions hold on the baby buffalo but get unease. A buffalo
attacks one lion, which lets go and runs away, being chased,
The crocodile appears no where to be seen.

Learning 4: every one has a weak link, a direct approach might not work best, and in the case of the crocodile, if it is not your market, don't even show up.  

Gradually the lions lose confidence, and release the baby, which is pushed inside the heard and protected. Some buffaloes chase the lions, they loose interest.

Learning 5: If you really want to defend your market, take action quickly while your offer is still alive, look for reinforcements, work as a team and concentrate on the result.
There is always a weak link.

So is the life of an entrepreneur, a new market; a competitor wining customers; surprises and reactions.
Only in fairy tales there are winners and losers. In the commercial arena, there is a 'perfect fit' approach that depends on many circumstances: a weaker baby, a hungrier
crocodile, faster lions, smaller or lower herds. That 'fit' is a moving target, and rethinking the best approach is the healthiest, and most fun, exercise.

The message is clear, each situation brings an opportunity to learn and recreate the story. The pile of broken dishes grows with our
learning if and only if, we decided to go ahead.

Here is to your action,