business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

When it comes to problems - and we all have them - it ends up that we can learn best how to deal with them by thinking like bison and how they behave while roaming the Great Plains.

Quite simply, one should not be cowed by challenges.

I learned this lesson earlier this week while at a local arts center;  my wife and I volunteer there as ushers from time to time, and they called us in at the last minute to help out at a local high school graduation.  That's not normally how I'd want to kill a few hours - my kids graduated from high school a long time ago - but in the end, I was glad I went.

The school headmaster, while addressing the students, urged them not not fear problems but to confront them, to take them on and possibly to deal with them faster.

That's where the bison come in.

When a storm comes up on the Plains, livestock can see it approaching in the distance. Cows' instincts tell them to run away from the storm, he said, but of course the storm eventually catches up with them and they get soaked.  They keep running in that direction, and they keep getting soaked.

But bison have different instincts, he said.  They run toward the approaching storm.  They still get wet, but they end up passing through the rain faster as the storm moves past them.

In other words, by running toward the problem, they mitigate the problem and endure it for less time.

The simple truth is that we all face problems, often many of them each day.  Just here on MNB, we document countless stories about companies and leaders that face and deal with problems.  Sometimes these problems do short-term damage to businesses and reputations, and sometimes they do far worse.

But it is a losing strategy to delay dealing with these issues.  Problems, like storms, are not likely to go away on their own.  The best option - really, the only option - is to take on the challenge head on, confront it quickly and hopefully deal with it as quickly as possible.

That's what the bison do.

And yes, this is a familiar lesson.  It is the same lesson that KC talked about last week in our "The Bigger Picture" conversation, talking about business lessons from "The Hunt For Red October."  In that case it was torpedoes, not storms, but the lesson is the same.  If you go towards the torpedo (which takes time to arm itself), you have the chance to deal with it on your terms.  If you run from it, you're always going to be dealing with it on the torpedo's terms, and it is always going to go better for the torpedo.

As KC pointed out, it’s a reminder that problems, unlike wine, don’t improve with age.

No bull.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

For information about hiring Michael to speak at your next meeting or conference, click here.