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Thursday, 20 January 2011

Why are too many social enterprises like warthogs?

I recently came home from a visit to my daughter. She lives in Uganda so inevitably, I found myself out in the bush watching the wildlife. Game drives are a big money spinner in East Africa. Eco-Lodges are popping up in the game reserves attracting Europeans and Americans happy to pay top dollar for a far from authentic African experience.

One day, my daughter and I encountered a lone Warthog on a grassy track. He didn't seem keen to see us and was clearly undecided about what to do. Should he charge and frightens away or should he be doing the running? You could see the indecision as he made ready to run one way then the other. In the end he wandered off, still unsure what to do.

Someone told me a great warthog story that evening. It seems they are not the brightest animal in the bush and when confronted by a lion, they'll run without looking back for a kilometre or more. Here's the story. Having run away from a lion, tail in the air and feet pounding until out of breath a warthog stopped for a rest. Having stopped, it promptly forgot why it had been running and started to graze. The lion however, had followed and was waiting. It had not forgotten at all why it was chasing the warthog and soon pounced on hapless beast, that now was blissfully unaware of the danger.

Too many social enterprises also have a tendency to flee at the first sign of danger. Then they find something nice and forget why they fled. The corporate lions on the other hand know exactly what they're doing. Many will play a clever game and just when it's least expected, will pounce on and consume the unprepared social enterprise.

The moral of the story is this: if you decide to flee from adversity, make sure you keep looking over your shoulder and watch what your rival is doing. Mindless flight inevitably leads to needless defeat!