The hippo is King of the river, where it has no predators. In the river the hippo moves effortlessly along, its skin cooled by the water. The hippo is sociable in the river and spends as much time as possible bathing.
In Strategies of the Serengeti, Berry uses the hippo to illustrate the term “know your niche”. In other words create the equivalent of the hippo river where you can be the dominant business.
On land, where the hippo must go to graze, it’s a different story. There it is vulnerable, cumbersome and the young are open to attack.
The message for business leaders is “venturing from the niche can be tempting but it is fraught with danger.”
Some years ago I used the hippo metaphor to facilitate a discussion with a group of leaders about the direction of the business. It opened up a thoughtful, intense debate about decisions that were being made that might make the business vulnerable. The business was undisputedly king of its own river. To stray away from that because the grasslands looked appealing put their river niche at risk with no guarantee of success of dominating the grasslands.
What is your niche? Are you dominant in your river? Are you tempted by the grasslands?