Adaptability – the most important business skill?

dolphin-faceIn my business talks I often make reference to professional sport as a source of inspiration for business. After all, it’s a highly competitive environment so we ought to be able to learn a thing or two about how to survive and thrive. But this pales into insignificance when compared with the ultimate competitive arena – the natural world.

Watching the marvellous BBC series Life (I think Sir David only does ‘marvellous’), I was struck by the amazing adaptability of creatures of all types, when faced with shortened food supplies or threats from predators. In the latest programme we were shown a satellite image of the shallow waters off the coast of Florida. There were strange circles formed in the sea, and it turns out they were made bottlenose dolphins beating their tails hard on the silt below. The lead dolphin in a small group made the silt rise so it formed a wall in the water, and by creating ever decreasing circles it trapped a shoal of fish. As the circles contracted the fish panicked and, in attempting to leap to freedom over the silt wall, flew straight into the mouths of the other dolphins!

Dolphins are among the most intelligent creatures on the planet, and this extraordinary survival strategy underlines their reputation. Humans are normally considered more intelligent than mammals but you’d be hard pressed to find such innovative hunting techniques among the average UK company!

Perhaps it’s because the stakes are so high in the natural world that creatures evolve such extraordinary ways of surviving? Whatever the case, we’ve certainly experienced a more hostile environment in the business world over the last 12 months. With a limited food supply and hungry predators on the loose, it’s a sensible strategy to get smart and adapt.

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