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ebdex is a hippo!

Stephen Berry, an alum of Manchester Business School made the following request today.

I have just released a book ‘Strategies of the Serengeti’ which examines the successful strategies used by the giraffe, zebra, crocodile etc (13 in all) and shows how the same strategies can be applied in modern business. On www.StrategiesoftheSerengeti.com there is a assessment / questionnaire which takes about 2 minutes to fill in. It allows me to conclude (for example) that UK businesses are more like the zebra than US businesses, but the warthog is more successful in Europe than the cheetah etc (whatever the data shows).

Please help Stephen complete above research.

As a good sport, I completed the questionnaire. And the result is…ebdex is a hippo. And this was the conclusion…

Your organisation is most like a hippo – it rules a niche…. This huge aquatic mammal is king of the river and fiercely territorial. Their fat reserves protect them from hypothermia and give a specific gravity that enables them to walk underwater on the riverbed. A large mouth with huge canine teeth means that no other river resident, even the giant Serengeti crocodiles, would trouble an adult hippo.  However, out of the water, the same factors that generate their success in the river, become weaknesses outside of it. They are slow moving, clumsy and the broad mouth makes for inefficient grazing. On land they are vulnerable. They are fiercely territorial and will attack any intruder to their domain.

Organisations following the strategies of the hippopotamus tend to have strong advantages within a niche. They are well advised to stay within their specialty rather than seek to expand beyond their ‘river’ onto the grasslands of other markets, where they are likely to be vulnerable and unsuccessful. They should defend their niche fiercely.

This reminds me of a project I completed during my MBA at Manchester Business School. I concluded, Parsons Brinckerhoff, my employer at the time was a blue whale based on the feedback I received. Or was it a white elephant? Sorry, memory is bit of a blurrrr.

While it is all good fun completing the questionnaire, I do not think I would become one of the owners/buyers of your book. However, I do wish all the best. 

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  • Good morning Manoj,

    thanks for taking part – and for feedback.

    My ultimate (grandiose) aim is to change the way we talk in Board rooms – the strategy structures we learnt at MBS and elsewhere are quite ‘dusty’ and as I now lecture in Business Strategy on MBA programmes in 3 countries, I am constantly coming up against dry inapplicable models. I then see books like ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ (maybe your blue whale was in there!) which have one partially thought through model – about 10 pages of content expanded into almost 200 – and none of it bona fide research nor real application – it was all made retrospectively – then I get frustrated with what is on the market and what we give our business leaders.

    I want to give something which is applicable, has real life models and structures that have been tested in the crucible of real business – that is what Strategies of the Serengeti is. The quiz is just an ‘awareness’ campaign which directs people to look further. I only started it yesterday and so far over 150 people have done the quiz – dozens have also downloaded the free ‘taster chapters’, some have even purchased relevant chapters and others the book – there are copies winging their way to Japan, Australia, Belgium, US, Canada and the UK as we speak.

    the Hippo is all about niche development and niche protection – showing how Apple are in my opinion the masters of this technique in the world at the moment – and how Levis completely messed up their business by failing to realise that they should be applying Hippo strategies. Another great example at the moment is Mercedes Benz – they have reached their current position through Hippo strategies and ever since the Chrysler takeover (woops – merger) have abandoned following the Hippo and chased the Wildebeest (as Chrysler have done for decades).

    Anyway – thanks again for taking part – as for Ebdex- stay in the water – don’t stray onto the land – that’s the message for the Hippo !

    very best regards

    Stephen Berry

  • Good morning Manoj,

    thanks for taking part – and for feedback.

    My ultimate (grandiose) aim is to change the way we talk in Board rooms – the strategy structures we learnt at MBS and elsewhere are quite ‘dusty’ and as I now lecture in Business Strategy on MBA programmes in 3 countries, I am constantly coming up against dry inapplicable models. I then see books like ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ (maybe your blue whale was in there!) which have one partially thought through model – about 10 pages of content expanded into almost 200 – and none of it bona fide research nor real application – it was all made retrospectively – then I get frustrated with what is on the market and what we give our business leaders.

    I want to give something which is applicable, has real life models and structures that have been tested in the crucible of real business – that is what Strategies of the Serengeti is. The quiz is just an ‘awareness’ campaign which directs people to look further. I only started it yesterday and so far over 150 people have done the quiz – dozens have also downloaded the free ‘taster chapters’, some have even purchased relevant chapters and others the book – there are copies winging their way to Japan, Australia, Belgium, US, Canada and the UK as we speak.

    the Hippo is all about niche development and niche protection – showing how Apple are in my opinion the masters of this technique in the world at the moment – and how Levis completely messed up their business by failing to realise that they should be applying Hippo strategies. Another great example at the moment is Mercedes Benz – they have reached their current position through Hippo strategies and ever since the Chrysler takeover (woops – merger) have abandoned following the Hippo and chased the Wildebeest (as Chrysler have done for decades).

    Anyway – thanks again for taking part – as for Ebdex- stay in the water – don’t stray onto the land – that’s the message for the Hippo !

    very best regards

    Stephen Berry

  • Strategies of the Serengeti (www.StrategiesoftheSerengeti.com) quiz has now passed 1,000 responses from 37 countries. It is light-hearted and not serious academic research – but the conclusions of the first 1,000 are now causing some good humoured national banter in some organisations!

    Unsurprisingly ( and thankfully ! ) the niche market strategies of the hippo ( like Ebdex) were most popular with small companies of 1-10 employees. This shows that they are operating in their niche ( the river ) and realise the dangers and vulnerabilities they would introduce were they to wander onto the grassland plains. Here, the very things that give them competitive advantages in the river become vulnerabilities and encumbrances on land.

    Small companies have higher levels of giraffe strategies ( 11.35% compared to 8.2% for companies with over 1,000 employees ). This means that the employees feel that they have a greater knowledge of where the organisation is aiming to be – greater percolation of organisational vision into daily activity. Large companies should be concerned about this lack of vision-driven giraffe strategy as their employees can become visionless and merely drift.

    Small companies appear to be using lower levels of ostrich strategies than would possibly be expected. The ostrich, despite being a light boned bird without teeth, will spread its wings, stamp, hiss and flap whilst aggressively advancing towards any threat – the expert exponent of ‘aggressive defence’. The strategy is based on the bird making itself look bigger, more threatening and more fierce than it actually is. For industry – sometimes small companies need to look as if they are significantly larger than they actually are – these are the small company ostrich strategies. UK companies are particularly poor at this ( only slightly better than the Spanish or Irish small companies ) – but the expert ostriches of the small business world from the first 1,000 responses are the Greeks.

    Large ( over 1,000 employees ) companies from Germany are much better at at using the fast reaction and first mover advantage strategies of the cheetah ( 9% ) than their US counterparts ( 6.5% ). This is compounded by the US companies scoring low for ‘warthog strategies’ which are all about protecting their vulnerable butts ! They are therefore unprotected and at risk. This leaves considerable competitor scope for successful strategies of speed and deft changes of direction which the giant US companies, on the basis of this early interim data, may not be able to match. The US large companies seem to tend towards the blanket coverage approach of the wildebeest and are susceptible to both speed ( cheetah ) and stealth ( crocodile ).

    One consequence of this, as the Coca-Cola case study in the book illustrates, is a vulnerability to multiple niche small players each taking a relatively insignificant small ‘bite’ out of the large company markets but collectively taking a potentially fatal bite out of the large organisation. Were this to happen, the large organisation will need to be adept at applying the strategies of the zebra ( ‘approaches to threats’ ). According to the first 1,000 answers, large UK business are marginally better placed to operate zebra strategies with a score of 7.35% compared to the 6.99% zebra strategy score of non-UK companies. Whilst globally the UK would therefore seem to have a marginal advantage, US and Netherlands companies are better users of zebra ‘threat response’ strategies. Looking to them to consider how to be better prepared for threats may be a useful tip !

    Employee respondents in Eire ( Ireland ) are the most negative about their organisational strategy. They see their companies behaving more like the dung beetle than anyone else. The dung beetle ( see the free of charge download chapter on the website ) pointlessly pushes dung across the Serengeti with no idea of where he is going and with the primary aim of impressing others – in his case the female dung beetle. The most optimistic nation with the lowest dung beetle score was India, then the Dutch closely followed by the Greeks and then the Americans. The overall UK dung beetle score was marginally over the global average.

    US companies see themselves as the best co-ordinated with a lion strategy score ( co-ordination of resources and activities ) of 9.51%. In second place were the British, a long way behind at 8.52% with a global average excluding US and UK of 7.23%. The Spanish scored the lowest for co-ordinated strategy at 5.98% followed by the Canadians at 6.29%.

    However, with the highest national warthog score and the highest rhinoceros score, the Canadians are very aware of their vulnerabilities and have sought to protect them, plus they keep pressing on regardless of any barriers in their way – a true rhinoceros charge !

    The powerful combination of being driven by vision ( giraffe ) and the good use of organisational knowledge ( elephant ) is exhibited by the Dutch ( 21.14% combined) , the British ( 19.43% ) and the Americans ( 18.86% ) but the nation with the greatest score for this high potential combination of strong vision and great knowledge is India ( 23.42% ). Add to this India’s exceptionally high hippopotamus score ( 14.06% ) compared to a global average of 10.43% ( 9.6% if small companies with less than 10 employees are excluded ) and we observe vision driven companies, with a strong level of knowledge who are actively developing their niches – Indian organisations are globally in a very powerful competitive position.

    Add to this their stunningly low dung beetle score of 1.97% ( indicating a very positive attitude ) and we conclude that India is the nation to watch !

    Results have come from Government departments from Bahrain, Eire, Finland, India, Singapore, Sudan, UK & USA.

    The Irish Government strategies, as rated by the employees who filled in the assessment gave a dung beetle score of 14.48% (global average 6.26%, global government average 8.88%, UK government 8.26%, USA 8.32% ).

    Low giraffe (vision and direction) scores and low elephant (knowledge) scores compounded the Irish negativity.

    Globally the utility sector had a dung beetle score of 10.06% (the same as the Irish Public Sector, and second only to the Irish Government). The dung beetle is about pointlessness and shovelling dung workloads all your life.

    UK utilities were worse than average at 11.32%.

    Globally, utility giraffe ( vision ) scores were low, rhino ( pressing on regardless ) scores were high and warthog ( actively managing vulnerabilities ) were low.

    UK utilities scored marginally higher that their global counterparts for vision but still not high enough to match any other private sector industry.

    So …. if you took part, thank you for being part of the first 1,000. When I get to 2,000 or 2,500 it will form part of press release material for the book.
    If you did not take part and have been sufficiently interested to read this far – please do the quiz at http://www.StrategiesoftheSerengeti.com

    Many thanks
    Stephen Berry

  • Strategies of the Serengeti (www.StrategiesoftheSerengeti.com) quiz has now passed 1,000 responses from 37 countries. It is light-hearted and not serious academic research – but the conclusions of the first 1,000 are now causing some good humoured national banter in some organisations!

    Unsurprisingly ( and thankfully ! ) the niche market strategies of the hippo ( like Ebdex) were most popular with small companies of 1-10 employees. This shows that they are operating in their niche ( the river ) and realise the dangers and vulnerabilities they would introduce were they to wander onto the grassland plains. Here, the very things that give them competitive advantages in the river become vulnerabilities and encumbrances on land.

    Small companies have higher levels of giraffe strategies ( 11.35% compared to 8.2% for companies with over 1,000 employees ). This means that the employees feel that they have a greater knowledge of where the organisation is aiming to be – greater percolation of organisational vision into daily activity. Large companies should be concerned about this lack of vision-driven giraffe strategy as their employees can become visionless and merely drift.

    Small companies appear to be using lower levels of ostrich strategies than would possibly be expected. The ostrich, despite being a light boned bird without teeth, will spread its wings, stamp, hiss and flap whilst aggressively advancing towards any threat – the expert exponent of ‘aggressive defence’. The strategy is based on the bird making itself look bigger, more threatening and more fierce than it actually is. For industry – sometimes small companies need to look as if they are significantly larger than they actually are – these are the small company ostrich strategies. UK companies are particularly poor at this ( only slightly better than the Spanish or Irish small companies ) – but the expert ostriches of the small business world from the first 1,000 responses are the Greeks.

    Large ( over 1,000 employees ) companies from Germany are much better at at using the fast reaction and first mover advantage strategies of the cheetah ( 9% ) than their US counterparts ( 6.5% ). This is compounded by the US companies scoring low for ‘warthog strategies’ which are all about protecting their vulnerable butts ! They are therefore unprotected and at risk. This leaves considerable competitor scope for successful strategies of speed and deft changes of direction which the giant US companies, on the basis of this early interim data, may not be able to match. The US large companies seem to tend towards the blanket coverage approach of the wildebeest and are susceptible to both speed ( cheetah ) and stealth ( crocodile ).

    One consequence of this, as the Coca-Cola case study in the book illustrates, is a vulnerability to multiple niche small players each taking a relatively insignificant small ‘bite’ out of the large company markets but collectively taking a potentially fatal bite out of the large organisation. Were this to happen, the large organisation will need to be adept at applying the strategies of the zebra ( ‘approaches to threats’ ). According to the first 1,000 answers, large UK business are marginally better placed to operate zebra strategies with a score of 7.35% compared to the 6.99% zebra strategy score of non-UK companies. Whilst globally the UK would therefore seem to have a marginal advantage, US and Netherlands companies are better users of zebra ‘threat response’ strategies. Looking to them to consider how to be better prepared for threats may be a useful tip !

    Employee respondents in Eire ( Ireland ) are the most negative about their organisational strategy. They see their companies behaving more like the dung beetle than anyone else. The dung beetle ( see the free of charge download chapter on the website ) pointlessly pushes dung across the Serengeti with no idea of where he is going and with the primary aim of impressing others – in his case the female dung beetle. The most optimistic nation with the lowest dung beetle score was India, then the Dutch closely followed by the Greeks and then the Americans. The overall UK dung beetle score was marginally over the global average.

    US companies see themselves as the best co-ordinated with a lion strategy score ( co-ordination of resources and activities ) of 9.51%. In second place were the British, a long way behind at 8.52% with a global average excluding US and UK of 7.23%. The Spanish scored the lowest for co-ordinated strategy at 5.98% followed by the Canadians at 6.29%.

    However, with the highest national warthog score and the highest rhinoceros score, the Canadians are very aware of their vulnerabilities and have sought to protect them, plus they keep pressing on regardless of any barriers in their way – a true rhinoceros charge !

    The powerful combination of being driven by vision ( giraffe ) and the good use of organisational knowledge ( elephant ) is exhibited by the Dutch ( 21.14% combined) , the British ( 19.43% ) and the Americans ( 18.86% ) but the nation with the greatest score for this high potential combination of strong vision and great knowledge is India ( 23.42% ). Add to this India’s exceptionally high hippopotamus score ( 14.06% ) compared to a global average of 10.43% ( 9.6% if small companies with less than 10 employees are excluded ) and we observe vision driven companies, with a strong level of knowledge who are actively developing their niches – Indian organisations are globally in a very powerful competitive position.

    Add to this their stunningly low dung beetle score of 1.97% ( indicating a very positive attitude ) and we conclude that India is the nation to watch !

    Results have come from Government departments from Bahrain, Eire, Finland, India, Singapore, Sudan, UK & USA.

    The Irish Government strategies, as rated by the employees who filled in the assessment gave a dung beetle score of 14.48% (global average 6.26%, global government average 8.88%, UK government 8.26%, USA 8.32% ).

    Low giraffe (vision and direction) scores and low elephant (knowledge) scores compounded the Irish negativity.

    Globally the utility sector had a dung beetle score of 10.06% (the same as the Irish Public Sector, and second only to the Irish Government). The dung beetle is about pointlessness and shovelling dung workloads all your life.

    UK utilities were worse than average at 11.32%.

    Globally, utility giraffe ( vision ) scores were low, rhino ( pressing on regardless ) scores were high and warthog ( actively managing vulnerabilities ) were low.

    UK utilities scored marginally higher that their global counterparts for vision but still not high enough to match any other private sector industry.

    So …. if you took part, thank you for being part of the first 1,000. When I get to 2,000 or 2,500 it will form part of press release material for the book.
    If you did not take part and have been sufficiently interested to read this far – please do the quiz at http://www.StrategiesoftheSerengeti.com

    Many thanks
    Stephen Berry