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Cry Wolf

Optimize Blog - January 20, 2011 - 0 comments

As management consultants a large part of what we do is to help clients negotiate change and ensure that Change Management becomes a core competence and part of the DNA – the culture – of the company. Only by achieving this can a company truly survive and optimize its strategic assets because change really is a constant and the pace of change will not be slowing down.
It was with interest then that we came across a story of a guy from Britain who demonstrated practically how we as humans can cope with change and how we can adapt to new and different surroundings. Let us explain.
Shaun Ellis grew up in rural Norfolk (is there any other type of Norfolk?) and had a fascination with wolves from an early age. In his twenties he sold everything, packed up and moved to Idaho to work in a wolf research centre. Nothing overtly strange in that and after all rural Idaho and rural Norfolk are both, well, rural. However, this guy took the research further and decided to try and insert himself into the wolf community and live as one of them.
He did this quite successfully for a year assimilating himself into the wolf pack despite his limited ability to mirror their behaviour. For example he was unable to physically keep up with the pack as a hunter. Ellis says “I stayed in a den area, a remote spot where wolves look after their young, and very soon one pack began to trust me. I lived with them day and night, and from the start they accepted me into their group. I ate what they ate, mostly raw deer and elk, which they would often bring back for me, or fruit and berries. I never fell ill and my body adapted quickly to its new diet. It’s easy to look back and think, “What horrible food”, but when you haven’t eaten for a week, it looks appetizing”.
Ellis goes on to say “I felt a tremendous sense of belonging with the wolves. Whenever I began to think about my old life, I would quickly switch my thoughts back; in terms of survival, I had constantly to focus on my new habitat.”
Ellis remained as part of the wolf community for a year whereupon he had to leave for health reasons and the life of a wolf with limited food is not sufficient to sustain a human but nevertheless his time with the wolves under such extreme contrast to his normal surroundings was an experience he cherishes. Indeed the time spent inspired him now to run a centre for wolves back in the UK where he hopes to educate others on the lives and behaviours of wolves and perhaps to remove some of the myths and fears that the rest of us harbour in relation to this wild animal.
Sometimes when we partner with clients there are employees who really consider the changes they are being asked to navigate as being on a par with giving up all they hold dear and moving in with a pack of wolves. Clearly the changes are rarely that extreme but nonetheless the perceptions and fears are no less real. As with Mr. Ellis, adapting behaviours and recognizing the dangers (risks) are critical to navigating the change successfully. We can all learn from this experience with the wolves as if a human can adapt in such extreme circumstances, how much easier then should it be for us to deal with change in the context of our own business situation.
Next time you are faced with a change, maintain some context and recognize how adaptable you can be.

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