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Managers urged to adopt ‘animal instincts’

26 September 2011

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Managers who blame unexpected events for poor performance can fail to develop strategies for coping with a crisis, according to a report by Cranfield School of Management.

Researchers claim a better understanding of ‘animal instincts’ could improve a company’s chances of business survival.

“It is too easy to blame unexpected events for a company’s poor performance but this is often the response of managers to circumstances beyond their control,” said Dr Tazeeb Rajwani, a lecturer in strategic management at Cranfield and one of the report’s co-authors.

“As a consequence, businesses fail to develop strategies for coping with crisis.

“Animals thrive in environments that are much more deadly than the marketplaces that businesses operate in, so are ideal subjects to learn from.”

Four animal survival strategies were explored in the study.

By employing a ‘bear-like strategy’ it is argued organisations can “embrace their hibernation capabilities” in conserving energy or costs.

Others could choose to mimic the King of the Jungle. A ‘lion-like quality’ can lead them to implement a ‘fighting strategy – the strategy of choice for “aggressive companies”, notes the research.

Such organisations take a proactive role in “going after the weaknesses in competitors” and may adopt “direct and forceful approaches in doing so.”

However, the study warns these companies can also lose their battles depending on the territory. 

Seagulls and business instincts are two words rarely seen in the same sentence, but researchers claim organisations have a lot to learn from the bird’s ‘agile’ and ‘flight’ instincts.

Where lion-type companies would fight, seagull-like companies would take flight – moving away from hostile environments “to avoid specific events”.

The study again notes the pitfalls associated with this type of behaviour, warning that hard decisions are routinely made.

Much like Jaws, companies in hard times can develop shark-like instincts about when to “attack” to reclaim territory and “fight off” competitors.

What animal-like quality does your practice have? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“In our wonderful NHS the attribute that GP practices have is more botanical than zoological – we more often resemble mushrooms!” – Alan Moore, Cheshire

“Depends who we are dealing with! I have adopted lion-like behaviour to get us the grant we were entitled to for building our extension – we hit every critieria but were still messed around by the PCT FOI councillors and MP on board etc etc – we got our £ and have our extension!” – Name and address withheld