Caterpillars as a strategy case study

"Realize that everything connects to everything else." — Leonardo da Vinci

The best lessons often come from the least expected places. This is why diverse sources of knowledge contribute to a more holistic understanding of any subject at hand. Fresh perspective is cleansing, and avoiding self-fulfilling prophecies is a full-time job.

Well, nothing says "fresh" like a video depicting a group of caterpillars' collective travel method. Specially if it teaches us a couple of things about strategy. Watch the video first, via Kottke and Daniel Caeiro:

So what can we learn here? First of all, that science is fucking awesome. But seriously now, two important things the way I see it:

  1. Selfless action can do wonders for the greater good. So when thinking about what is strategically relevant for a brand, we should swiftly balance what matters to that brand and what matters to the people we're communicating with. Selfless action may help smooth things out, avoid sounding too hard-selling and above all truly help people's lives get better. Or in caterpillar lingo, learn to stop and look at how everyone else is doing and as a group you'll probably go further, quicker. Everyone wins.
  2. Building blocks are just that, blocks. What matters is the final result of a specific course of action. So thinking in silos will not work because each silo is but a piece of the whole puzzle, while considering the whole picture will help us truly understand what's at stake and how we can make better use of the available tools. This is why a single superstar caterpillar will always move slower than a well-coordinated group. And why isolating social from email from search from above the line communications will always generate less-than-favorable results. You don't get to edify a temple without knowing what each block actually does for its sustainability.

The wonders of biology are endless when it comes to teaching a couple of things about life. And just like that, the way caterpillars move as a group might just be the best unexpected case study when it comes to strategic thinking.

By the way, da Vinci would have made a great strategist.