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Have you ever thought of this? We speak Zoology language in management. We have more animals that one would have expected statistically. Do we think we have a zoo?

Elephants (on the room): there are but we refuse to see them, to talk about them. But there are just big elephants in front of us

Sacred cows: can’t touch them! Applied to people, ideas, whole departments or products.

Boiling frogs: two ways to boil a frog, (a) cold water, the frog has a nice swim, does not feel any problem, suddenly is warmer, suddenly is boiled; (b) thrown into hot water, the frog jumps out and saves himself. This is ‘of course’ a Employee Engagement analogy

Tortoises: yes we do have

Monkeys, as in pass the monkey. Yes we do, we send problems down and up. Usually up

Laggards: they don’t like change, slow to move, slow to adopt

Hedgehog s and foxes.. The fox knows many things. The fox is a very astute ‘able to devise a myriad of complex strategies to sneak attack upon hedgehog’. ‘The hedgehog knows one big thing, rolling up into a perfect little ball thus becoming a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions. The hedgehog always wins despite the different tactics the fox uses’.

Snakes, oh yes, we do have snakes

I suspect the list is far for comprehensive

Funny enough I did not incorporate Zoology into the new Disciplines of Management. Am I missing something?



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  1. Lisa Dawson

    I’ve been “herding cats” all my life! Now I know it’s because I’ve been working in a “zoo” – great post! Next post: how to be a zoo keeper!?

  2. Scott Fahlman

    And don’t forget the financial bulls and bears, the web-builders, the alpha dogs, the worker bees, the chameleons, the octopuses blinding you with a cloud of ink while they sneak away, and the cockroaches that keep coming back, no matter how many times you kill them. It’s lucky that we have so many familiar animals to use as metaphors, since we need LOTS of metaphors.

    I think there are two kinds of animals in our discourse: There are more or less zoologically correct analogies (worker bees, alpha dogs) and fable-animals who do things like talking and building brick houses to keep the hungry wolf out. Both have their uses as metaphors and as aids to analogical thinking, but it’s useful not to confuse the two types.

    Metaphorical animals often draw their salient features more from convention and folklore than from zoology. Real zoological pigs are not particularly dirty unless confined in dirty spaces by humans, and they are no more greedy than other social animals. Real-world bears are not very pessimistic or risk-averse. Real-world bulls are sometimes blindly aggressive, especially after being jabbed a few times by picadors. I suppose stock-market bubbles are caused an excess of picadors.

    I’ve always found it interesting that parables and fables often seem more acceptable when populated by non-human animals. (Aesop knew this well, but it goes farther back than that, into the folk tales of our pre-literate past.) I guess that life-lessons are less threatening when more indirect, seeming to talk about turtles and hares rather than types of people. We can laugh and agree — and only later realize that the story applies to us.

    And, of course, inverse-anthropomorphization gives us a way to anonymize the story: Chicken Little is running around, worried that the sky falling — not the company’s VP of market research.

    • Leandro Herrero

      Scott, thanks for your contribution to Corporate Zoology. Planning an extension of the zoo already

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