Me First.

Posted by in Conservation, Kenya, Poaching, Wildlife

Yes I will admit I am still naive on Kenya’s wildlife issues, not because I haven’t dedicated the time to read or research about them, but simply because I am not yet there to get my “arms” around the situation and understand the politics of what is truly taking place. That will happen soon enough and a wise person knows that this is absolutely essential to understanding any real state of affairs.

But perhaps being able to be away from the fire so to speak has its advantages. Within a short period of time of research on the issues of poaching and wildlife management, what I am quite certain about is that there is a “paralysis” of sorts within the different “camps” (government, private conservation, and NGO) people who work within the construct of the Kenyan wildlife industry. I suspect that each likely feels that their understanding, way or approach is best and should be considered the standard applied to solving a problem that continues to plague the region. Even though all of these camps have been operating there for years, we still have a crisis of wildlife loss.

And this perspective is outside of the element of corruption that is most certainly a factor for the industry, the country and its people.

In my work as a strategic business consultant, the first thing I learned is that many organizations tend to operate in “silos” – withholding important facts, data, or being reluctant to share information, assets or even corporate effort because they feel it will be a loss of competitive edge. The need to be first, to be the best, most educated, advanced or savvy more often than not stands in the way of making real progress or driving considerable outcomes.

In addition, my experience has taught me that it is quite hard to see and have an effect on the “big picture goal” when one is “heads down” being an expert at any one way of doing something. For example, in my work as a medical clinician, it was dumbfounding to me that I could not use my marketing and PR brain as effectively as I used to when I was in the business industry. I learned that it was almost impossible to collect, absorb and apply the amount of scientific knowledge that I felt was needed to be effective with my patients and have a marketing brain at the same time. In short, I learned that I couldn’t be an extraordinary clinician and marketing guru at the same time. I needed a business manager to assist with this effort, something that I would have had no problem accomplishing by myself only a few years before. Having this perspective solidified my understanding that partners and collaboration is vital to any business. One must work with those who complement your skills and expertise and – importantly – to not be intimidated by this potential. While it is healthy to have collaborators with differing opinions which enables evaluation of multiple options available to pursue the goal at hand, all partners must share the same dedication to a vision and mission. And quite frankly, they must have the ability to drink a beer and share a couple of laughs at the end of the day or when the chips are down because more often than not, big ideas take a herculean amount of effort. And in the case of protecting wildlife, this really does require blood, sweat and tears.

Herein lies the current problem – many organizations working in isolation, feeling their approach is best and rebuffing others with differing opinions. All of them seem to have the same mission and vision – to help save important wildlife in the region. But, rather than work together in a strategic fashion, the choice to stay isolated or conduct business as separate entities seems to be standard operating procedure. If there is a difference of opinion on the best course of action withing the industry, finger-pointing ensues along with stagnation of real collaborative effort and paralysis permeates. I am well aware of organizations who have partnered effectively and been successful with their efforts, but my guess is that what I am suggesting here is not totally uncommon. Meanwhile, the loss of wildlife continues to increase as each year passes, maybe not as much as what could have been, but you get my point.

Collaboration and unification of effort is the only way one can generate a real outcome when it comes to being and remaining a competitive leader in business. And I am sure that this same approach can be effective with wildlife initiatives. No one camp will be first. No one will be the best, the key “industry leader” or the most effective. All of these organizations are vital and have an important role to curb the crisis at hand. The more these organizations become cohesive and work together, the more they can be successful at achieving the “big picture” objective. I sense that if egos and agendas can be put aside, then true progress can be had and results that work in favor of the animals, the people, land and ultimately the economy will be more forthcoming.

Adam Welz’s current article in The Guardian shares some quite interesting perspectives. Take a read if you have some free time.  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/nature-up/2013/aug/28/demand-reduction-protect-rhino-elephant#start-of-comments

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