All I Need to Know about Business I Learned from a Duck

Archive for March, 2012

An Important Business Lesson From Your Closest Living Relative

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Ten years ago (2002) it was my honor and privilege to help launch the Great Ape Trust (known back then as the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary). What impressed me then, and continues to inspire me today is the conviction both Ted Townsend, Founder and Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh , Lead Research Scientist had for “the cause”. Back then, understanding the cognitive and communication capabilities of Kanzi and other bono chimpanzees was new territory in the discipline of language research; it took true courage to ignore the scientific community’s criticism and skepticism and create the most advanced, non-invasive ape research facility on Earth.

Meanwhile, in a research facility on the island of Maui, Dr. Penny Patterson was also studying interspecies communication with her star student Koko. Unlike Kanzi, who uses graphical symbols called lexigrams to communicate with humans, Koko, a western lowlands gorilla became fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).

Shortly after viewing many videos of both Kanzi, Koko and other great apes, I began to give consideration to the idea that if we would only slow down and pay attention, apes (as well as other critters) might not only reawaken humanities’ respect for other life forms, but they might also provide us with insights and lessons on how we might improve our lives and possibly even redefine what it means to be human.

Would you like to see an example? Please click on video, below.

Gorillas share 97.7 percent of their DNA with humans. So it’s not surprising that Koko turned her back to the TV screen when she anticipated a sad and painful scene from the movie. Most people, including business owners and managers, go to extraordinary measures to avoid pain in their lives, which is why many businesses underperform or fail. Whether it’s delaying the firing of an employee who, after numerous warnings and additional training simply isn’t measuring up to company standards or if it is admitting that a long standing marketing strategy simply isn’t working anymore, mustering up the bravery to objectively examine the situation and make changes within an organization takes courage.

Peter Drucker, who is the founder of modern business management theory, said it best, “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” So I’ll close by asking you a few questions. When was the last time you made a truly courageous business decision? What information or dysfunctional behavior(s) are you turning your back on because you don’t want to deal with uncomfortable or unpleasant consequences? What is the lack of courage costing you, both personally and professionally?

(For more information about the Great Ape Trust and The Gorilla Foundation click HERE and HERE.)