Feb. 15, 2023

What Animals Can Teach Us About Team Dynamics

What Animals Can Teach Us About Team Dynamics

This week, Ryan recounts his recent trip to the bush and shares how we can take inspiration from nature when it comes to effective teamwork.

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Ryan Purvis 0:00
Hello and welcome to the digital workspace works Podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines. The problems they face, how they solve them. The areas they're focused on from technology people and processes to the approaches they took that will help you to get to grips with the digital workspace inner workings.

Good morning.

Heather Bicknell 0:32
Hello. Hello.

Ryan Purvis 0:34
How are you?

Heather Bicknell 0:35
I'm doing well. How are you?

Ryan Purvis 0:38
Yeah, very good. Very good. sunburn, a little. sunburned. Hopefully you're out doing occupational risk.

Heather Bicknell 0:52
said hopefully you were out doing something fun.

Ryan Purvis 0:55
Oh, yeah. We spent the weekend in the bush. My dad's birthday last Thursday. It's my kid mom and my last birthday on Thursday. So we flew up to Joburg last week, and drove out to Safari plains, which is one of our favourite. Hotels. Camps. So it's a tented camp. And yeah, we spent a couple days there was a lot of fun.

Heather Bicknell 1:26
Nice. Did you see any cool animals?

Ryan Purvis 1:29
Oh, yeah, yeah, we go. And this does relate to what I want to talk about today. Anyway, so it's, I'll tell you, we saw in our thinking back to what I want to talk about. So we went out got there on Friday afternoon. And we went out and we saw some unusual things, which is the usual things you will see if you go to a park zebras, and you'll see impalas and a lot of Antelope which I mean these are probably be foreign to you. But for a South African or a person who goes to Bush a lot, you know, there's things you'll see all the time. And then it is then and usually when you're going out you're looking for the big five, typically which will be lion, Rhino, Buffalo leopard, and elephant elephant venture big five and then the big five because they're the big five the dangerous to man in that get killed the most people are the reason he didn't have the magnificent eight, which adds on three more, which would be cheetah, wild dog. And hippo. We didn't see elephant this trip. But you know, I'm not fussed about not seeing not seeing elephant because you know, you can go to a lot of parks and see elephant. And to be honest, elephants are very scary prospect if you catch them on the wrong day in the wrong place. Anyway, so we saw on the Friday drive we saw was the lions and antelope. And then we thought Black backed jackal, which is quite unusual to see they're very difficult to see because they're quite small. And then a leopard tortoise, which is also quite difficult to see, because a leopard tortoise is probably the size of a shoebox. And to find that in the bushes is quite hard. And in my mom's had been birder, some sort of larger boots. And we had a pretty good guide, who's also birder birders are a weird people. Foods. And look, they are some magnificent birds and whatever. But you know, spending five minutes talking about a bird, it's not for everyone. So that was good. And then we spent a good three and a half hours, four hours in the bush, which kind of threw some of my stuff out but it was it was good fun. And then Saturday morning, we spent an hour of looking at the lion couldn't find them. So it was a bit of a wash with sorts of other stuff. But but there was we were looking for stuff. In Saturday afternoon, we tried again for lion and couldn't find them. We saw some beautiful cheetah. And it's one of those. For those who've never been on safari, you can you can drive around for hours and see nothing. And then all of a sudden, you can get the sniff of something. And we saw a cheetah like in the distance like you know, maximum range of the binoculars. And they were just lying down. And that's often the case with cats that when you tend to see them during the day, they're just lying around in the shade because they're not they're nocturnal animals and 100. But because we were there in the afternoon, it was quite cool. And bear in mind, we're talking, you know, the region of the country in it's about 38 degrees centigrade, which is over 100 Fahrenheit was pretty hot. Most of the time. It was quite cool for that time of the afternoon. So We'd seen someone else's seen a cheetah. So when we got there, they were still lying down. But we got sort of 10 minutes after we got there, they got up in a sort of walking. So we shot around to where they, we thought they'd come out. And they came out literally in front of us and they walked across, there were maybe five, five metres from us. At one point in in closer at one point was really cool about that part is they were walking towards a herd of wildebeest, which is another common animal you'll see in the parks. And they started stocking them, which I've never seen before. And that's quite a fascinating thing. Because you're normally when you see them lying around, they just lie around when they stalk you see them change the body language. There was a with two brothers. So you could see who is the the alpha male. And as the alpha male did something, the secondary male or whatever they call him on a beta male, I guess, would follow suit, he would he would do and then that, obviously, because it would game vehicles around, I mean, the animals are pretty used to the vehicles because I just see them as a big blob. And then obviously, the noise is they used to the noise. But we think the Ranger ahead of us, stifled the wildebeest. So they changed direction. And we think by changing direction, they smelt the cheetah. So they changed their behaviour. And they started to take a different route. And it was quite interesting to see how the secondary cheetah made an automatic change to change his direction to try and flank them. And they went up the hill, we kind of lost them and we think they were they probably would have chased them. At some point to catch the because there were babies, they probably catch one of the babies. That easy thing about a cheetah is it can go north 110 kilometres an hour, in a few seconds. And that's how they don't normally catch a lot of prey that we have. And that's essentially sensationalised in the documentaries. But they do use it as a mechanism to capture animals. But what they were doing was stalking which was amazing to watch because you actually watch them channel and almost telepathically tell each other what they're doing because the one is flanking automatically, the other one is going straight. So the Ranger records are probably about three or four years old, which means they've got some experience. And it's all learnt experience and was just, you know, just a fascinating thing because there's no language involved or not talking to each other necessarily. Like you'd learn something through someone teaching you. But you think about learning as a kid. It's shown listen, and then do it's the same sort of concept with an animal show first listen and do whether this is a growl, not necessarily words, here, so that was quite cool. And then Sunday morning, we finally found lion to drive to the other end of the reserve. And we're not talking by South African standards or in a bigger reserve at 5000 hectares, which is a 5850 hectares which is about 8.5 million square metres. So the size of a of a large suburb. A really large suburb, you know, if a competitor to Kruger, cougars, which is our biggest park, that's the size of Wales.

Heather Bicknell 8:25
Wow, that puts it in perspective,

Ryan Purvis 8:28
you could drive around for hours and see everything. So we tend to go to the parks where you can see stuff. So a bit is a good one. pilanesberg is another good one. But what I was what I was gonna get back to this, it was quite funny for me, I got we got there late afternoon, I had no of your calls planned. Because it was a trip of my dad and all that stuff. But I was still able to do some work there because there was Wi Fi all over the place. And even in the park, I full full signal. And then normally when you're in the game reserve, you have no signal. But you know, my wife and I were able to do work while we were there because there's parts of you just driving from one spot to another spot, or especially when the thing that found something because it was always on the radio. But when I was thinking about why we're doing all this is that get as much as they tag the animals and then they tag them for conservation reasons and protecting them from from anti poaching and that sort of suspicion the rhinos, because you have those evil people that will hunt the rhino for the horn. And we noticed it's just the same material as your nail. There's no value to it, but that these morons think that they get something out of a rhino or you know, I can't say anything nice about them. But what I will leave it there but you know that they have the telemetry that they tracking with them. And the Rangers aren't allowed to use it. But I was thinking about it that the Rangers could use the check in on each other's vehicles so they could find each other. We drove around for hours trying to find another vehicle that had found the lion and the communicate action wasn't clear where they were the obvious he's trying to whisper that without you know not alerting the lions but but bugging them because you supposed to as quiet as you can, especially with like we had with our kids with us and technically not allowed to have the kids on the drive when theres lions, or any any cat because they'll see them as an opportunity. But it was it was interesting because you know you watched the lions do some stalking as well. So we weren't there was a fence, someone's house in the middle of the park and inside their fences and an eland which is a very big antelope. And there was four lion lions, they're probably about a year or so just bigger than cubs. And they're big slow and you're probably talking couple 100 kilos each. But they can't see the fence with their eyesight, but they can see an eland as an opportunity. But they can't see the fence. So they were stalking this eland, but they're using our vehicles as ways to block line of sight with Eland and eland could see them and he was making all sorts of noises, his normal alert calls to let everyone else know that there's lions around and they were trying to stalk him. And then every time we moved to reposition, they would use the sound of the engine to move faster to get into position. And then they would literally crawl through bushes and stuff to get closer to him. And then they realised that there was something blocking because he was he was waiting, you know, he realised that he was safe. So he was he was kind of making a deal that it was quite funny to watch because you got this like this eland any any sort of barking at them. And he's making all sorts of like a horse would make a head movement doing the same sort of stuff, obviously sort of goading these lions. And the lions are in different positions stalking him, but they can't actually get to him because of the fence. So at one point, they realised it was a fence, but for a long time, they didn't realise that. So they were like, seriously gonna go for him. And we were like this was before. And we were waiting for them to have a strike at the fence. And to see what they would do. They didn't obviously, but but it was, it was quite quite a thing. And, you know, what fascinates me about it is if you think about the, like we had the cheetah and his brother, so the alpha male and his brother, were these four cubs automatic who's the who's in charge, who's leading. And the the other part of the team just falling in with their guidance in that direction. I mean, and that's nature's way. And I was thinking about it, while I was watching it, like it's such a, it's why it's so important when you have team dynamics, to have a clarity on who's leading it. And it was interesting, because it was a couple of things, we discussed them. And obviously, I'm not going to regurgitate the entire four days of driving for game drives over over two days. But the team dynamics was interesting, but also how they manage their energy, and how they look for the best times days to do things, how they have this communication between these animals, and not just the predators going for the prey, but but the prey and how they communicate with each other. So if you think about you're sitting there, you're staring at some lions in the background, you hear a bird chirping. Now the first time you hear that, you just think it's a bird chirping. But if you start connecting the dots, and you start listening to what the Rangers are saying, they've realised over time, and obviously this has happened, you know, lots of research and whatever, that these birds are all communicating as warning system comes to the other animals. And when you look at herds of wildebeest, the bears, because they're always together, they act essentially for each other. And they're complementary to each other. So, you know, it's this diversity that kind of works, different breeds, you know, different species of animals that all work together to keep each other safe. And also coexisted with Willie nature to create this ecosystem. And it kind of made me think about all these things, if you if you look at the technologies we work with, and, and live with how when they all work together and complement each other, you end up with quite a good experience and and all works together when when they don't work together, you end up with this disjointed experience. And that works. But it doesn't work. And that causes a lot of frustration and a lot of a lot of angst for for the people involved.

Heather Bicknell 14:21
It reminds me of an article that came out recently in the New York and the New York Times about the digital workplace, but I think there's something to talking about this, this ecosystem, you know, all of the ways that animals have learned from each other, you know, so many years of evolution to get them to that point. And then you know, you get this silly examples of like when manmade things come into the mix like fences that aren't part of their nature, so they kind of pose you know, they can create funny situations but in the digital world Place, most of the tools that we've been using have been around maybe for a few decades, at most, so we don't have that sort of inherent, second nature experience with a lot of these things yet. And there's still the awkwardness, I think, in part for that reason is we don't necessarily know, you know, what's the best way to signal to my colleague that, you know, x needs to happen, or I'm trying to relate it back to the the animal metaphors. But yeah, I mean, you get what I mean, it's like, it's not quite as natural, I suppose. It's very, you know, we're still trying to figure out how to make working with technology more ingrained and seamless and effective for us.

Ryan Purvis 15:53
Yeah, I mean, that that leads me to another part of this, that the best part of this trip, in some respects, is, I mean, we had we had a quite lucky in a sense when we got there, the so what they do is they because it's quite a small hotel. And normally, depending on number of people, they group them together onto vehicles. So you always have the same Ranger every day, every right. And what was lucky for us the first couple days, because my dad's quite ill, we wanted to have a little bit of freedom, because we were the only ones on on our vehicle. So we can pretty much go anywhere we wanted and leave and go to our speed that kind of thing. And then the one thing about the Buddha where we were, is that don't allow people to drive their own vehicles in the park. So you can only go in with the Ranger, which means the Rangers will take you a little bit further than they would go when they didn't get in most other parks. So for in other parks, you have to stay on the road. Whereas we were a couple of times, you know, we just would drive straight over a patch of of land that was flat, or didn't have, you know, it was possible because he'd seen something and you wanted to go and check it so you get that little bit extra of adventure, I guess, in going in there. Now when we had the other guys with us, you know, now you're gonna be a little more conscious of what they want to see. And like I said, they were great people I mean, they really were great guys to to ride with. But we were actually talking we went from Bush, Braai, on the Saturday night which which literally means they drove us out in the middle of the bush without setup fires and the food all that kind of stuff, a lot of local entertainment. Can you're basically eating surrounded by the bush. So and the only protection you have is, is the fire as a distraction for the animals. So you could have an elephant run through you at any time. So you know, there's a little bit of connection with nature, I guess, in some respects, but we're funnily enough having a chat about zoom and teams and how it impacted them and and they were explaining and these are these are quite senior people how culturally they had to change and bear in mind this is also we always think about from a westernised westernised world point of view. But you, you know, unless you've been exposed to the African culture, you're not going to get the different African culture is different. And we were talking about things like, you know, in, in the tribal views on some of the stuff, you know, being on camera is equivalent to stealing your soul. And even though you've got a very sophisticated person, I mean, you know, the one lady, you know, she studied at Harvard, she's at MIT, she's got some serious credentials. But she had to get a grandmother to use Zoom to talk to her. And her grandmother refused because she said the cameras going to steal her soul. And it took her about six weeks to get it to use it and she was telling me how she had to convince her of you know, the technology is safe and it's not going to do this stuff. And I was you know, I hadn't even thought about it you know, from from what we've been exposed to and and that you know, it's it is a different world completely.

Heather Bicknell 19:01
Yeah, but she she won her over within six weeks it doesn't sound too bad.

Ryan Purvis 19:06
It was very much a case of well, this is the only way we could talk so she started off firstly with cameras off couple times. Then she did a couple calls where her cameras on but again the camera was off. And then after a while, you know, you just see you turn the camera and let's see how we go kind of thing and you know, I'm still here and my soul is not gone. Yeah, just just kind of, you know, slowly letting her get acclimatised to the different stages. You know, something we take for granted here if you if you said someone I'm going to take I mean, I was talking to someone this morning about catching up. So I might actually in in think at the moment but listen to teams. He's like I we can do that. That's fine. You know, a couple of years ago people were going well if you're not in town Wait, let me know when you're in town. So there's that. You know, for some people that shift is very easy. Just use the technology as a is a bridge to do not delay things. But for some people that isn't a big, you know, I listen to a lot of the older people around me. And they moan about getting on a teams core because it feels so complicated. In teams doesn't help anybody with that, because teams is a very complicated interface, but get a they feel like it's a big thing to get onto teams core. Whereas for people coming through generationally now jumping on WhatsApp call or telegram call or teams call or Zoom call, or whatever, whatever, whatever is as normal as in your text message 20 years ago.

Heather Bicknell 20:41
Unfortunately, I do need to run but this has been really cool hearing about your trip. And yeah,

Ryan Purvis 20:47
thanks very much. Talk later. Yeah,

Heather Bicknell 20:50
bye. Bye.

Unknown Speaker 20:54
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