Biology and Strategy: The Beaver

Beavers vividly exemplify the behavior of a visionary approach to strategy: they envisage a future environment and then invest and persist in building it, creating advantage for themselves.

Have you ever looked at a beaver’s dam in the middle of a river and thought: where on earth did that come from? Like visionary companies, beavers seem to have a plan before they place the first stick, and they certainly persist in shaping their environment, making large, singular bets in the “white space” of a pond or river and reaping large rewards. The dams keep the beaver’s pond accessible even if the surface freezes over—a necessary advantage because beavers don’t hibernate. Dams also flood the surrounding areas, giving their builders easy and safe access to food while keeping competitors and predators at a distance. Finally, the ponds serve as a means by which beavers signal danger to others by tapping their large, flat tails on the water.