Do the Same Thing Day in, Day Out in Business and You Will Pay the Price, Just Like an Impala

One of the most fascinating African wildlife ecological case studies to use in business change management lessons where people are faced with grave uncertainties around pending change, is to use the Impala, a well known antelope of the African savannahs. A great friend and very dear mentor of mine, Dr Andrew McKenzie, did a study on Impala in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve of Botswana. He did this research was at the time I was doing my Masters research in the very same Reserve, on elephants.

What Andrew discovered goes as follows. The teeth in the lower jaw of the Impala are loosely socketed and as such when pressure is applied, they open slightly appearing much as do the teeth of a comb. Why would this be? Well, Impala use these teeth to very effectively 'comb out' ticks and other parasites from the hair along its flanks. The accepted scientific name for this is the "Ruminant Dental Grooming Apparatus". Come to think of it, I'm sure you've actually seen Impala in game reserves doing this right before your very eyes but because you didn't know of this behaviour, it had no meaning for you. In some instances, you will see Impala grooming each other necks to remove ticks and parasites. Again, why one asks? Simply, because it is impossible for Impala to groom their own neck. This is a form of mutualism between them - you groom my neck, I groom yours, much like back scratching in business!

This grooming does however come at a cost. As a result of the hair passing between the teeth, individual tooth wear occurs. The teeth (their incisors) in the lower jaw begin to wear away at their base and after years of prolonged grooming the Impala have what appear like 'mushroom shaped teeth' in that the base has worn down and is visibly thin. Eventually these teeth break off just above the gum, leaving behind sharp, knife-like, dental protrusions. Now, the Impala continues to groom because that is all it knows how to do. However, this grooming is no longer of benefit to the Impala. In fact, this now damages the Impala because these knife-life edges just tear at the skin and hack away chunks of hair leaving behind bald patches which soon become open suppurating sores on the animal's flanks. Thing is, this grooming behaviour cannot be stopped. It is hard coded in the Impala because prior to it becoming destructive, it actually served a very real survival purpose by keeping their parasite loads down and maintaining body condition. Within just a few weeks the Impala's body condition drops, it becomes weak and therefore vulnerable to predation. Not long after showing the visible signs of this self inflicted balding process (what we scientifically refer to as 'autogenous alopecia'), it is dead.

So, what's the lesson here? It's actually a very profound one. If we keep on doing the same thing day in and day out in business and in life for that matter, without stopping to think for a moment as to what the consequences of our actions and behaviours are, then we are functioning just like the Impala. At this point, we are no longer making use of all of our higher faculties, we really have ceased to think creatively about pretty much anything and when we stop creating, we start disintegrating. We actually knowingly take ourselves down a path which has a most unpleasant ending and when it does, how on earth can we then turn to others, and ask in a 'victimish way' why this is happening to us? By choosing not to see, think, learn and up-skill yourself, you will end up like an old impala - dead. Best we all embrace change, learn to love all that makes us grow and enjoy applying our minds by thinking into results, the results which we actually do want for ourselves.

Chris Styles is a certified Thinking Into Results Facilitator, Master Life Coach and passionate Wildlife Conservationist with extensive business and life experience. Chris works with individuals, couples and companies in order to extract the very best results for them in that which they are invested in.

Contact Chris: Mobile +27 83 625 6844 Email,

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