Learning From Cheetahs

Every once in a while I find something in the world of science that teaches me something about business. Such was the case the other day as I read an article about cheetahs in the N.Y. Times. No, this isn’t going to be some clever pun about cheetahs never winning (sorry) but about how many businesses can learn something from the cheetah’s hunting tactics.


(Photo credit: fatedsnowfox)

As the article said:

Anyone who has watched a cheetah run down an antelope knows that these cats are impressively fast. But it turns out that speed is not the secret to their prodigious hunting skills: a novel study of how cheetahs chase prey in the wild shows that it is their agility — their skill at leaping sideways, changing directions abruptly and slowing down quickly — that gives those antelope such bad odds.

Cheetahs don’t actually go very fast when they’re hunting,” said Alan M. Wilson, a professor at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London who studied cheetahs in Botswana and published a paper about them on Wednesday in the journal Nature. “The hunt is much more about maneuvering, about acceleration, about ducking and diving to capture the prey.”

How many times have you read something urging businesses to “fail fast?”  I think that’s a misnomer – it’s not about failing; it’s about learning and having the cheetah-like agility to change direction.  Just as cheetahs don’t go full-out fast when hunting (they’re capable of running 65 MPH – they might hunt at 35 MPH), maybe those of us in business need to learn to slow down a tad so we can turn.  I think it’s also about being able to see the landscape more clearly as you’re moving more slowly.  As you know if you’ve ever looked sideways out of a car going 60, things are pretty blurry when you’re moving fast.

There’s an expression in racing – slow down to go fast.  I like that a lot better than “haste makes waste.”  Given the pace of change, it’s important to have the capability to run like the cheetah.  It’s equally important to know when that speed is something to sacrifice in order to have a successful hunt.  You agree?

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1 Comment

Filed under Consulting, Helpful Hints

One response to “Learning From Cheetahs

  1. Agreed, Keith. Another analogy is playing the point guard position in basketball, which is essentially running the offense. It’s great to be able to bring the ball downcourt fast on a fast break, but those opportunities come along only so often. Playing under control and “seeing the court” allows you to be a step or two ahead of everyone else on the floor. That’s smart point guard play and good advice for managers.

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