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Published:September 19th, 2007 12:09 EST
Have you Hugged a Hippo Today?

Have you Hugged a Hippo Today?

By Simon Bailey (Mentor/Columnist)

"Hippos are Important Too”

In my work as a Catalyst for Brilliance, I have the opportunity to experience all types of organizations that are impacting the world every day. I love what I do. If you can’t tell that by now, just continue to hang out with me and you’ll see. I consider myself one of the Cheetah Generation and someone who is always open to new ideas that stretch my world view.

Recently, I presented a new program (“Simon Believes…Success Is an Inside Job”) to a very sharp group of intellectuals with MBAs and PhDs who are the rising stars in global corporations. When I introduced the cheetah vs. hippo concept (outlined in last week’s Brilliant Carat - #68), it was as if I’d thrown a live grenade on the table. A tremendous debate ensued around why cheetahs should be celebrated more than hippos.

I love brilliant minds! They push back and don’t necessarily agree with you just because you said something clever. Most will not accept something as the new gospel until it has been dissected and looked at from every conceivable angle.

As the discussion continued, some key points emerged from this group of bright individuals that I just had to share with the thousands of you who read our Brilliant Carats. As Paul Harvey would say, “And now for the rest of the story…”

  1. Organizations recruit cheetahs but often turn them into hippos. Cheetahs come to the organization as change agents with a fresh perspective, full of energy and ready to achieve. But over time, the real message from the organization and its leaders comes through loud and clear: “Go along…get along. Don’t rock the boat. Just do your job.” The once nimble cheetahs shut down, settle in, and simply work for the paycheck.

  2. Some hippos have an inner cheetah that has been caged and tamed by bosses whose management style conditions them to do as they are told instead of thinking for themselves.

  3. Hippos are too often wrongly pushed aside (See Brilliant Carat #67 – “Remoted”) and their contributions devalued. Hippos are tremendously valuable in that they possess institutional knowledge and a historical perspective that is not written down. If they were to walk out the door en masse tomorrow, key insights and wisdom (that the cheetahs may need one day) would be lost.

  4. Every organization needs a balance of cheetahs and hippos to have equilibrium in the workplace. An organization full of hippos is not innovative enough or quick enough to capitalize on changes in the marketplace. On the other hand, an organization full of cheetahs can be too impetuous, recklessly chasing opportunities without much thought to strategy or downstream implications. A balance of cheetahs and hippos is crucial to sustained success. (One of the brilliant participants said, “What happens when you put a cheetah and a hippo together in the same organization? You get a cheepo!” Everyone fell out laughing at that one.)

I’m sure that by now you’re wondering if I am backtracking on my assertive and biased view of cheetahs which I shared last week. The answer is “No.” I’m simply being open to the ideas and beliefs of others, and sharing multiple perspectives instead of one man’s opinion. Has my view of hippos changed somewhat based on the impassioned arguments of my participants? Yes. Would I still rather be a cheetah than a hippo? Absolutely!

It is interesting to note that when it was all said and done, every single person in the room that day agreed that they wanted and needed to rediscover their inner cheetah.

I invite you to consider where you are on the cheetah-hippo continuum. Only you can decide where you fit.

Simon Believes…Everything and everyone in nature has value.

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