What the animal kingdom can teach us about Business Agility

What the animal kingdom can teach us about Business Agility

Blog post
By Abi Walker | 15 March 2019
After studying animal biology for my bachelor’s degree, and being a big fan of David Attenborough, I have been thinking about what the animal kingdom can teach us homo-sapiens about Business Agility.
Business Agility is the ability of an organisation to:
Adapt quickly to market changes - internally and externally
Respond rapidly and flexibly to customer demands
Adapt and lead change in a productive and cost-effective way without compromising quality
Continuously be at a competitive advantage

animal kingdom - mudskipper

Adapt quickly like a mudskipper…

Mudskippers are fish that have evolved to adapt to a more amphibian lifestyle as they spend periods of time out of water, in or above the ground surface. Mudskippers have developed adaptations to match their unique lifestyle, one of which is terrestrial locomotion using protruded pectoral fins that work like legs! So, this adaptation didn’t happen quickly, but has enabled them to survive in an inconsistent environment. 

What can mudskippers teach us about business agility?

To be agile, it’s important for a business to adapt internally and externally to the ever-changing environment – much like our little friend, the mudskipper. By adopting an agile approach, teams can stay productive, even though the external business environment is changeable.
animal kingdom - meerkat

Respond rapidly and flexibly like meerkats…

Meerkats are one of the few mammals that take on different roles depending on the situation, and this is what makes meerkat mobs incredibly versatile in the wild. Meerkats live in cohesive family groups of up to 40 animals, and among the adults, it is their duty to go on the hunt for food, each taking turns to be on the lookout. With several “lookouts” on duty at one time, there is enough protection for the remaining mob to go about their day to day activities. 

What can Meerkats teach us about business agility?

Agility is about having the ability to respond to change, especially in complex and uncertain environments. Meerkats adjust their individual roles and are able to wear many hats. This happens in both AgilePM and Scrum, where roles may shift between team members or be shared by more than one person.  
animal kingdom - tit

Adapt and lead change without compromising quality like tits…

Did you know that tits dwelling where many people use bird feeders, have developed narrower longer beaks to chip at the nuts and seeds in the feeders? Researchers discovered that the UK tit has a beak up to 0.3mm longer than its European counterparts, as in the UK we spend around twice as much on birdfeed than mainland Europe.
 “We’ve long known that birds’ beak structures are often specially adapted to the food they eat, which has led to the huge variety of distinctive beak shapes and sizes that we see today. In addition to Darwin’s finches, the Hawaiian honeycreeper is another example of the stunning variation in avian beak shapes and sizes amongst closely related birds. But beak specializations in honeycreepers took thousands of years to evolve - but not so, apparently, for British tits.@GrrlScientist for Forbes (article here).

What can tits teach us about business agility?

It’s important to regularly adapt and review your environment and consider whether you are evolving with external changes. This could be technological, political, environmental, industrial or sociological. Is your business adapting for the future? 

Continuously be at a competitive advantage like the impala…

Whilst the impala may not be fast enough to win a race with a cheetah, it does have a trick to put it at a competitive advantage. Instead of running at full speed ahead of the cheetah, the impala will escape the cheetah by slowing down and quickly changing direction. 

What can the impala teach us about business agility?

How can you adopt agile practices and achieve a competitive advantage like the Impala does when fleeing from the cheetah? Competitive advantage is a widely talked about strategy for business growth and agile product development is a major business growth strategy, especially for expansion stage technology companies. 
However, the key to achieving a competitive advantage is mindset, and a growth mindset is one of those simple, but immensely powerful concepts. An organisation where growth mindset is the norm is likely to be more successful in embedding agile principles as an organisational culture. 
Read more about this in our blog, Why Growth Mindset matters for Organisational Agility
“Organisations are required to move at a faster pace and can’t afford to wait for IT to hard code rules changes. Not only that, but customer expectations are rising, requiring a quicker response time. Businesses must deliver more information to more people—and make fewer mistakes along the way.” Said Ning Lim for a 2016 Progress article, Adapting to Rapid Changes Requires Business Agility
If you want to know more about becoming agile, I recommend reading 5 Steps to Business Agility which looks at what it takes to become an agile business.


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