Business Communications — 14 August 2012
Thrive at this one trait, and so will your career!

It can take intrepid game watchers years of effort to see ‘The Big Five’ in the African bush. Yet I saw all five in the first three hours that I went looking last month. Buffalo, lion, rhino, elephant, leopard. How could this be? The answer encapsulates what you need to have in your armory to survive in your careers today. Seriously. Read on.

Our nine seater open air truck was driven by Ranger Piet, with Tracker Nelson sitting up front. We left the lodge a couple of hours after having arrived in the bush from Johannesburg. Excitement levels were high. Yet we never expected to see all Big Five within three hours of starting out, given the game reserve was the size of Wales.

But it happened. And it happened because Ranger Piet did one thing that epitomizes the most critical skill needed today to survive and thrive in business and in our careers. It’s all about delivering outstanding results to your customers. Piet knew this. So he adopted one habit: a habit vital for today’s business world. Quite simply, Piet is a master at:


That’s it. Piet thrives through collaboration. As do the other 15 or so rangers in that section of the game reserve. They communicate constantly with each other. Even though they work for different, competing lodges, they know they must work together and share to ensure their clients have the most powerful experiences possible.

So when Piet and Nelson took us to three lions, resting under a tree, they were immediately on the walkie talkie briefing all other rangers. Those in the close vicinity then agreed a ‘schedule’ of who would bring their guests, and when, to view this wonderful sight. In turn, Piet would be told about some rhino 5 miles away, or elephant, and so the exchange continued.

The end result — delighted customers, who had a once in a lifetime experience.

It’s the way of the world today. No one organization or executive can have all the answers or skills to deliver to clients in such a fast-changing scene, when we need to mesh creativity and channels with new technology and fast morphing consumers. We have to learn to collaborate, with competitors, with pirates, nutters and positive deviants and to whomever can deliver the outcome our clients need.

At STW Group, our Chief Digital Officer David Trewern calls this something like ‘the emergence of T-shaped executives’. On one level they are highly skilled at what they do and bring, and on the other level they have to be able to collaborate.

They used to talk about ‘change or die.’ I think we all get that message now, and what it is really about, if you want the very best roles and greatest challenges and opportunities, is ‘collaborate or die.’


Here’s a sad story. When Ranger Piet and his other rangers would tell each other what animals they were seeing where, they’d speak in code. Yes, code. Why? Poachers. That’s right. Poachers. Listening in to find out where the rhino, particularly, are to be found. How bloody tragic.


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(2) Readers Comments

  1. Nice one, Chris. Quite enjoyed how you enveloped a lesson on Collaboration in a “Big 5 – wild ranger” story.

    Couldn’t help noticing… how technology (radio-enabled walkie-talkies) plays a critical in enabling collaboration.

    Re: Collaborating with competitors, there’s actually a term for it… Co-opetition. In today’s market, where the customer finds you (not the other way around), working together is a great way to drive customers into the funnel. Once in, you can work jointly on creating/ amplifying the once-in-a-lifetime customer experience!

    ps: Thanks Miles for sharing the story.

  2. What a great story! The challenge faced by the rangers is one that’s being faced by so many corporations as well. How do you continue to deliver a memorable customer experience in the face of mounting competition? The real enemy, after all, isn’t other people who happen to also love doing the work you do, it’s always the poacher equivalent.

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