During my career I’ve often used animal stories to help illustrate specific points, reinforce behaviors, or to provide colorful rallying cries. Whether it’s elephants, monkeys, or camels, stories about animals are easy to remember and therefore more likely to be repeated. The heart of good communication is repetition.
When I originally introduced the story of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant, I was hoping to help people think beyond their normal point of view to take into account other peoples’ perspective. In my experience, most people understand their own function, group, or business unit but almost never know how they fit into the overall organization or how their actions impact others. As a result, people unintentionally hurt overall performance when they make decisions that optimize their own portion of the elephant.
While the story is memorable, it may not emphasize the downside of silo thinking. To make that point, I introduced the 6th century Aesop fable of the Four Oxen and the Lion:
A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell.
Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them.
At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field.
Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.
It’s a vivid reminder of the consequence of operating in silos: united we stand, divided we fall.
The ancients left us a lot of lessons to be learned by “modern man”.