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What We Can Learn From Piranha (or at least the myth of the Piranha)

by David Brock on June 19th, 2008

Virtually every major animal has been used as a metaphor in explaining success in business. We have Elephants, Eagles, Leopards, Bulls and Bears, Lions, and Tigers- Oh My! We have Purple Cows, Monkey Business, Black Swans, Swimming With Sharks, and Top Dogs. Blue Oceans encompass lots of animals! I have even heard sales people referred to as Snakes.

It seems the little Piranha has been under appreciated in business. I’d like to advocate the study of this fish and applying it’s success principles to business. For example:

Much has been said about “Eating the Elephant.” You can’t eat the elephant in a few bites. It strikes me the Piranha is terribly efficient. They take lots of little bites—but they do so incessantly, and furiously. In a short time, taking lots of little bites, rather than a few large ones, they devour something huge. Maybe if we executed our strategies by taking lots of little bites or little steps, but executed them furiously we can accomplish very big goals.

Piranha are most effective in working in teams. Working by themselves, they can’t eat very much–though a single bite can be very painful. In fact research indicates some vulnerability, particularly to larger predators. Working in teams or “shoals,” they are tremendously effective. As mentioned before, they can devour large objects very quickly. Working in teams, they can also defend themselves against large predators. It seems as though there is a business lesson or two that can be derived from this.

There are problems–Piranha have been reported to eat their mates and children—I’m having trouble drawing a positive business analogy from this—I’ll think about it a little.

I’ll be thinking about this—I know business needs just one more animal metaphor!

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