Today’s fast moving uncertain business world calls for companies and business leaders to be nimble.
The cheetah offers a fabulous model.
It reveals a secret technique for operational agility that was discovered only in recent studies.
The cheetah of course epitomizes speed.
It is the fastest land animal, reaching speeds of around 70 mph as it chases its prey
But it has many challenges.
First, it is a relatively small carnivore, so it doesn’t have energy for long chases.
Second, it cannot see at night, so it has to hunt in daylight. But in the daytime, its prey can also easily see it.
And, to complicate matters the cheetah hunts on flat land. Again the land does not give it much cover to hide from the prey.
To top it all, the cheetah’s prey typically feeds in herds. Which means that there’s at least one member of the herd who is on the look out, and quickly spots the cheetah.
And yet, the cheetah has a remarkably high success rate in its hunts.
A study from the Serengeti in 2012 found that when the cheetah hunts, a whopping 58% of its chases result in kills.
Compare that to the lion. When the lion hunts alone, it has a success rate of a measly 17-19%.
And even when lions hunt in teams, the team’s success rate marginally improves to 30%.
How does the cheetah achieve this high success rate?
A sneak preview of its secret
For all the talk about speed, the cheetah takes a lot of time in the preparation.
It approaches the prey very slowly.
It uses anthills and the grass for cover, and hugs the ground as it stalks the prey.
Although the chase is typically 20 seconds, never more than a minute, the stalking may take many minutes.
But here’s the surprising agility lesson
During the chase, the cheetah actually slows down to the speed at which the prey is running.
And only because it slows down is it able to adjust to the twists and turns the prey makes as it tries to escape.
The cheetah can’t make those adjustments when it is running at full speed.
So, the cheetah gives us two big lessons for business agility:
- To be really nimble, you must sometimes be slow, and
- To use agility for success, you need to know when to be slow and when to be fast.