The Hunt Is On For Your Inner Animal
The last five years in business have taken nature's edict of "survival of the fittest" and put it to a considerable test. Author, entrepreneur and Kenya native Stefan Swanepoel believes that business leaders can apply lessons from Africa's Serengeti and the animals that thrive on its demanding terrain. His book Surviving Your Serengeti: 7 Skills to Master Business and Life helps readers strengthen their resolve and endure the difficulties that are a part of any successful enterprise.
Swanepoel's book is the latest in a string of business titles that blend storytelling and practical advice. Whether the word "business" is followed by "fable," "parable," or "story," this genre attempts to connect with audiences by using a more engaging instructional method. Surviving Your Serengeti is one of the more colorful books to embrace the fable concept. It does not suffer from the forced attempts at making the story fit the lessons that Swanepoel wants to impart. As a result, readers should find little trouble following his narrative.
Identifying Your Animal
Surviving Your Serengeti follows the story of Sean Spencer, an entrepreneur who heads a renewable energy solutions company. Spencer's wife wins a sales contest with the top prize of a trip to an exotic location. This lands the couple in Africa's Serengeti region just as Spencer's company is in the midst of wrangling a major deal back in California. Cut-off from all communications with his company, Spencer is hardly enjoying the trip. However, a chance encounter with a figure from Spencer's past leads the couple on a journey of self-discovery set against the backdrop of the area with the world's largest concentration of wildlife.
The animals that inhabit the Serengeti serve as symbols of personal qualities that help someone find his or her way through a crisis. Readers follow Spencer as he learns about each creature and attempts to determine which of the seven animals is his best match. Swanepoel's use of animals native to the Serengeti serves the dual purpose of providing a memorable metaphor for personal character while allowing him the chance to spotlight conservation efforts in the region.
Applying the Parable
One of the most unique lessons provided in Surviving Your Serengeti is that most individuals will only exhibit one of the seven survival skills. This idea may be troubling to some executives who feel that they possess elements of each of the seven skills. Swanepoel counters by stating that during times of crisis humans, like the animals of the Serengeti, rely on one core strength to ensure their survival.
The book suggests that recognition and mastery of one core skill marks the beginning of a journey. Where the reader goes from that point is in his or her own hands. Some may attempt to strengthen their use of the other six skills. Others may find it more effective to, as Swanepoel suggests, build teams that include at least one member who exhibits each of the remaining strengths. Swanepoel takes a bit of a leap by suggesting that his audience has the ability to admit its own limitations. However, his suggestion about the best way to build a strong team is one which any executive would be wise to follow.
When evaluating any business parable, the two primary criteria are the strength of the story and the applicability of the lessons. From a story standpoint, Surviving Your Serengeti genuinely entertains. A character described as a "man of intrigue" plays the traditional role of spirit-guide and communicates the takeaways for the reader. The use of animals to represent business survival skills is a unique twist and gives common advice a much-needed polish.
Swanepoel's biggest aid to readers is the conclusion of each chapter. He summarizes the qualities that define the skill, then maps out a plan of action to allow the reader to maximize it. Several of these discussions include advice about pitfalls that an executive should avoid at all costs.
The skill maps provide an efficient way for readers to identify their personal survival strength and are a nice alternative for anyone who gets bogged down reading the fiction segments.
Executives looking for a more creative approach to professional development will enjoy Surviving Your Serengeti. The benefit to readers as they discover their strengths is no work of fiction.