Businesses are always looking for any new best practices that can generate them competitive advantages in their industry, the implementation of new trends, the allocation of more and new resources and the investment on R&D initiatives are the daily bread for companies across the globe; but fiercer competition these days has corporations digging deeper than ever, looking for new solutions that create efficiencies others cannot keep on with; and when these companies dig, they do it literally.

Companies are recurring to Mother Nature’s wise advice now more than ever; businesses have realized that they can follow the leading examples of some wild species to successfully compete in the market. And please, before you judge me, please understand that I’m not saying that the best business practice entails the use of monkeys as strategic consultants, but rather to generate algorithms based on animals’ survival behaviors and adapt these behaviors into business environments.

This is true for many business practices already in place; think for example of the wild dog’s hunting behavior, they hunt in groups by approaching herds from several directions and separating the weaker members from the group, which are then targeted, surrounded and well…you know…eaten. This technique allows the wild dog to administer their energy while maximizing their hunting succeed rate; in business terms this is what we know as teamwork, collaboration and synergy creation. This is an already well adopted premise that holds true the fact that practical business ideas can originate from mere observation. Companies are now looking at the value of transferring simple behaviors into complex business environments.

But what other lessons can strategists learn from nature that can be adapted to their supply chain and cost reduction efforts? Well, it was recently commented that every time ants find food, they leave track of the path they followed back to the nest, which generates several alternatives in case any route is disrupted. This behavior can serve as the base for mathematicians and statisticians to generate algorithms that help airlines optimize pathways and cut fuel costs by making flight routes more efficient. An algorithm of similar nature may also be applicable on logistics firms and supermarket chains.

Using mathematical models to find ways to increase the efficiency on supply chain operations, maximize revenues and reduce costs is becoming more popular every day. With today’s accessibility to data and as technology becomes cheaper and increasingly more powerful, companies can base some of their processes on algorithms much more effectively. Some more impressive examples include Netflix’s business model, which is entirely sustained by their customer preference algorithm when recommending movies. And if you are still skeptical towards the power of a well-designed algorithm these days, you can ask Target how they figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her dad did.

This approach is so powerful that not only companies are looking at algorithms as the way to get the edge, but also are entire industries; great examples of this are the stock and derivatives market and the sports industries. Think about it, algorithm based strategies are stronger than ever, mathematical models can now be used to predict market trends, forecast commodity values, track industry patterns and streamline supply chain models.

The great “businessman” and naturalist Charles Darwin summarized this best when he said: “It is neither the strongest nor the most intelligent of the species (companies) that survives, it is the one that is the most adaptable to change”. Today, that change is driven by the mathematical equations hidden in the advantageous behavioral and adaptability models found in the animal kingdom. Think about it now, what can you learn from the wild that will make your business more competitive and how can you translate that into a measurable algorithm or a well-defined business strategy?
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Diego De la Garza

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