A report from the zoo

I participated to a business strategy meeting this week. And while taking notes, I realized how many animal idioms we’re actually using in our daily conversations at the office. Here are a few notable ones I picked up from my colleagues’ interventions:

  • Don’t poke the bear. When poked during their hibernation, bears may become quite angry. You shouldn’t poke a bear for your own well-being. As such, poking a bear stands for provoking someone into becoming upset or angry. You may have seen an alternative version, never tickle a sleeping dragon (draco dormiens nunquam titillandus), in Harry Potter as the motto of Hogwarts.
  • Pour blood in the ocean and the sharks will come. Sharks can detect a single drop of blood in the ocean from a mile away. As most of you have probably seen the movie Jaws, you wouldn’t want to attract sharks to share your swimming pool, right? And I’m sure you don’t want to expose your or your company’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities to a competitor either.
  • Like a bull walking into the customer. When someone is like a bull in a china shop, he/she very clumsy and careless in the way that he/she moves or behaves. So, you can imagine the outcome of a salesman walking like a bull into a meeting with a possible customer.
  • Gaining consensus is like herding cats. Cats are not known to be the easiest animal species to manage or control. As such, herding cats is an idiom used to say that trying to organize something, or to control or align a group of people (like students or a company team) can be very difficult. BTW, The Herding Cats is also the name of a fantastic cover band that I saw perform a few times in the past.

It was a good meeting and I’m sure that the mountain didn’t give birth to a mouse. The latter is an expression that we use in Dutch (actually, it has its origin from Horace’s Ars Poetica). Its English equivalent rather sounds like making a mountain out of a molehill.

The Nokia office I work at, when I’m not traveling, is located near the Antwerp Zoo. Next time I am preparing a business meeting or creating a customer presentation, I might pay an inspirational visit to my animal neighbors next door…

PS: there’s another animal idiom (which I kind of invented myself) that I have often used on this blog. If you don’t remember why a business presenter should never feed the chameleons, then have another look at this post: