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In the fast-moving landscape of modern organizations, it can be difficult to keep pace with competitors and adapt strategically. Companies, however, may be able to find inspiration from an unexpected place: the animal kingdom.
In the wild, animal movement types consist of station keeping, ranging, and migration. Migration is a unique kind of movement, with many counterintuitive behavioral oddities. When migrating, animals often pass by seemingly suitable locations with abundant resources on the way to a more optimal destination that serves a larger purpose for the species. The intuition and sense of mission typified by migration is what attracts us to the movements of sandhill cranes, humpback whales, monarch butterflies, and many other species.
Companies exhibit similar behaviors related to strategy. Some companies are content with the status quo, foraging within their home area and pursuing established strategies (station keeping). Others may recognize the need to depart from the home range and quickly accept the closest viable environment in which to compete — adopting a strategy of expending minimal cost and effort to locate a new environment (ranging). Still other companies exhibit the characteristics of true migration — driven by a vision and sense of higher purpose, they forgo suitable, tangential changes and short-term profits for an optimal, long-term solution. Companies can make such strategic migrations more successful by applying insights from nature.
The concept of migration in business has been thought of as synonymous with movement: customers moving between channels and competitors, companies moving into new geographic markets, and workers moving between organizations. However, while all migration entails movement, not all movement is migration. On one end of the spectrum, companies can exhibit station keeping or ranging movement, yet fail to move far enough afield to find an optimal fit for the organization. On the other end, they may move too far afield and aimlessly bound from market to market. The six principles of effective migration from the animal kingdom identified here can improve business strategy in your company.
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Principle 1: Depart at the Right Time
In the wild, it’s imperative that animals recognize the appropriate time for departure, as poorly timed migration — either too early or too late — can adversely affect individual animals and their species in aggregate.