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What Whales Can Teach Us About Team

Resilience. Strategy. Teamwork,

As I watched an older episode of NATURE (Deep Thinkers) I couldn’t help but think how we could learn so much from the Whales and the dolphins.

Times have been tough for many these past few years – recession, gas prices, war, natural disasters, and many personal struggles as well. Yet, most of us have also been resilient – finding innovative ways to stay the course or change direction when needed.

The balance between team and standing out has probably never been trickier – especially for those looking for work and small business owners trying to create sustainable operations. As I work a lot with veterans I also notice how truly difficult this can be- promoting self with or even above team.

Then it hit me – the balance – the strategy is right in front of us – it is in nature and what nature can teach us.

In one segment a group of young male dolphins ganged up on a female. Another group of senior male dolphins arrived. Almost immediately the two groups of males began a type of confrontation. However, there was no physical violence. They used synchronized sounds to demonstrate power. The senior males won. After it was over – all males acted almost as if no conflict had occurred. It was a show of teamwork and also of communication. There was an understanding of sorts.

It reminded me of another show I saw on NATURE (Giant Lives) where many whales tried to court one female – they actually began to fight – it was a bit harder to watch as one whale crammed into another like two cars on a freeway colliding. Yet in the end – when the ones left were not the winner – they actually caressed and comforted each other – almost as if to say, “I am sorry brother that we fought – I am sorry we did not win – let’s be friends again.” That part was so beautiful to watch. They slowly calmed each other – the same whales that had initially fought – what could we learn from that? ‘

In another part of the Deep Thinkers episode, a certain group of whales that devised their own specialized process for hunting, otherwise difficult food to find. It is a smooth, powerful and awe-inspiring series of moves that involve:

• Synchronized movements
• Clever attention to details
• Total team effort
• Patience

While I cannot truly do it justice I will attempt to summarize:

  • The group of whales begins communicating with each other when they are hungry.
  • They then (all at once) perform a dance-like move that takes them under the water
  • Using sound they herd a group of small fish and cause the fish to swim upwards
  • The leader is above – creating a trap of bubbles
  • The fish swim into the bubbles and when leader makes it know that it is time –
  • All whales swim to the surface, open their mouths and inhale the fish.

Extraordinary to watch, but also amazing in that this was not known to be normal behavior for these whales. Still, in the area food is scarce. But these tiny fish that could be VERY hard for the gigantic whales to consume are plentiful. With teamwork, leadership, patience and perseverance, along with creativity – these whales have devised a superior plan.

Whales have been hunted for centuries. Whales face many obstacles. Whales are also resilient, and employ critical development of skills to further their goals through teamwork.

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