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:

Three inspirational quotes from along the roads

Try searching Google for ‘inspirational quotes’, and you’ll get a gazillion returns with meaningless celebrity quotes, cheesy images, and prosaic memes. As you may remember from my ‘Cut the crap’ post, I’m not a big fan of banal graphic material taken from the internet. But then I started browsing my personal photo archive…

If you’re a frequent reader of my blog, you also know that I like travelling – city tripping as well as nature hiking. While making this photo trip down memory lane, I rediscovered the roads I walked along and the places I visited before. And, I identified creative opportunities to combine the power of an authentic picture with a sharp message into an inspirational visual.

Below are my three favorite creations (click on the pictures to enlarge).

I shot this first picture almost 10 years ago along the landwash of the French Île de Ré. At first sight, it’s a gloomy image. But when you put the right words on it, the fish corpse suddenly gets (well, kind of) lively and inspirational. In this case I added a quote by the English writer Malcolm Muggeridge, “Only dead fish swim with the stream.” The text teaches us that life is about taking risks, not about playing safe all the time. In a business context, it expresses a similar message to Steve Jobs’ “Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?” I just haven’t run into a buccaneer that agreed to be photographed by me yet…

My second photo features a popular (though anonymous) Wall Street expression: “Trees don’t grow straight to heaven.” It articulates that stock markets are volatile. Or, more general, that there are no wins without losses. No gains without pain. The picture dates from 2016, when my wife and I were on a city trip in Copenhagen.

No need to explain the origin of this third quote. Everybody knows the Lennon & McCartney song I borrowed it from. There’s no need to explain the meaning of the words either. Or to tell you why they are inspirational. “All you need is love, love, love is all you need.” We ran into this couple of kissing trees in the woods of the beautiful Belgian Eifel region, near the town of Sankt Vith. And my humble camera phone did the rest.

Feel free to reuse my artwork in your presentations. Or stick the posters on your office or bedroom wall.