Three Lockdown Lessons Business Can Learn from Meerkats

The concept of lockdown in an unyielding and unforgiving terrain is not new to the meerkat species. 

Consequently, meerkats have become highly skilled and successful in dealing with lockdowns underground and at navigating their uncharted “business world”. 

There are parallels in the way meerkats handle crises, that could be a lesson to organizations that are trying to find their feet and their voices in an unfamiliar and unknown post Covid-19 commercial environment.

There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has shocked 21st century society to its core. The human, emotional and financial toll has been catastrophic. The resultant lockdown strategy that most countries have employed has led to insecurity, uncertainty, powerlessness and disunity. 

Many people, organizations and countries are struggling and failing to come to grips with the current lockdown reality and the post Covid-19 reality to follow. 

The “marketplace” of meerkats offers a fascinating insight into the behavior required to survive in times of uncertainty. 

Their rigorous teamwork and focus on communication are thought-provoking examples that could be replicated for success in companies and associations. 

Three key strategies help meerkats become more resilient, agile and adaptive so that they survive and thrive. 

These strategies may be a useful guide for organizations to successfully navigate their own journey through lockdown and a post-Covid-19 business environment.

1.  Team Communication

Meerkats lock down for predator threats such as jackals, snakes and eagles.

Environmental perils such as fires, flash floods, dust storms and lightning strikes can also result in lockdowns.

Thus, they must have strong communication protocols if they are to survive. They constantly share information.

Meerkats make reassuring sounds and groom one another to make sure that they each feel safe and to maintain their bond as a team.

They are trained to be alert at all times, sniffing the wind, scanning the horizon and evaluating every sound for danger.

Meerkats look out for one another.

Even though every member of the team is watchful at all times, they add an extra precaution. They post sentries who are hyper vigilant to hazards and do threat assessments.

When meerkats face an uncontrollable threat, they escape down bolt holes and burrows that they have meticulously dug into a network of tunnels.

2.  Strategy-Driven Leadership

Meerkats cannot stay in lockdown for prolonged periods. They need a sound exit strategy or they risk dying of hunger.

They emerge from lockdown with a clear, battle-tested strategy, always directed by a sure-footed matriarch (CEO).  She has a wealth of territorial, institutional and hard-earned knowledge which will guide her team with a “road map” of experience.

Meerkats don’t rush out of their burrows and reclaim their territory. It’s a gradual and systematic process.

They assess risk by popping their heads out of their burrow to check for danger.

The experienced leaders (dominant females and males) guide the path to safety through “managerial” practices such as tail signals, scent-marking and barking sounds.

Once they’re out, they go slow and methodically so that they can make split-second decisions to keep the team safe.

The impact of lockdown is profound.

They must figure out how to protect their “business” resources, adapt to a changed “workplace” and resume “income-generating” activities (foraging). Sometimes they must fight off direct competitors, rival meerkat groups.

3.  Preparation for Future Lockdowns

Meerkats know that the next lockdown is coming so they carefully plan and prepare.

They stay productive and useful. They dig hundreds of holes every day (including the bolt holes where they can quickly escape to a maze of strategically prepared burrows.

Meerkats regularly clean out the burrow and renovate the tunnels for easy movement and safety. They teach their young survival techniques from early on so that they know what to do when there is a lockdown scare.

Their courageous leadership structure helps the team to navigate from uncertainty to certainty. They future-proof their “business” through forward-thinking and by preparing for worst-case scenarios.