Saturday, February 1, 2014

What Animals Have to Teach Us

Going thru the Stand & Deliver curriculum for our upcoming training, I am struck by how often we mention animals. We talk about what geese have to teach us about leadership and teamwork; we talk about "the elephant in the room" and how to deal with it; we talk about prehistoric man and how we revert to our amygdala based protective selves when faced with the sabre-toothed tigers of the board room. 

I wonder how much more poignancy these examples have for people who have spent their lives studying and protecting these animals.

Or maybe we are anthropomorphising too much. If our rationale for protecting elephants and gorillas and whales is that they have as much empathy and intelligence and compassion as humans, maybe that low bar, in comparison, doesn't even begin to touch what we need to understand about them, or what they are capable of teaching us.

Chief Seattle

“If all the beasts were gone,
men would die
from a great loneliness of spirit,
for whatever happens to the beasts
also happens to the man.
All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the Earth
befalls the sons of the Earth.”

- Chief Seattle

Five Lessons From Geese

by Milton Olson 

As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an "uplift" for the bird following. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if the bird flew alone.
Lesson 1: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.
Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the "lifting power" of the bird immediately in front.
Lesson 2: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go (and be willing to accept their help as well as give ours to the others).
When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another flies at the point position.
Lesson 3: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership - with people, as with geese, we are interdependent of each other.
The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Lesson 4: We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging - and not something else.
When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. Theys stay until it is able to fly again or dies. Then they launch out on their own, with another formation, or catch up with the flock.
Lesson 5: If we have as much sense as geese we too will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strongest. 

1 comment:

  1. Bobby, I think that prehistoric man felt a strong kinship to wild animals. When you look at the cave painting in Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave in the Ard├Ęche department of southern France, you can see that they were mesmerized by animals. There is one painting there that combines the body of a woman and a bull. I think that they knew that although they had to kill the animals for food and for clothing, it seems they also saw them as kin and that deserved to be depicted in beautiful artwork, and this was 30,0000 years ago.