Security Lessons from Nature – Poison Dart Frogs
Poison dart frogs are, not surprisingly, covered with poison. I could go off at length about how different species have different levels of poison, and how not all of them were used to poison darts and how many of them are going extinct due to a nasty fungus that’s only vulnerable to an eyewash solution… but that would be a bit too rambling even for me.
Instead, I’m going to talk about ants. I’m not going to go off about how they are communal, have some interesting chemical signals or even how they are vulnerable to some very interesting fungi that take over their brains (despite how unbelievably cool that is). No, the important thing is that the frogs eat the ants.
Boring, I know.
See, the poison dart frogs don’t generate the poison themselves. Instead, they eat ants and push the poison from the ants out through their skins. Not only is that an awesome example of how a predator can turn a prey’s defense into a defense for the predator while simultaneously rendering it useless for the prey (smart little froggies!), but it’s also an example of the importance of operations.
See, an interesting side effect of this method of defense, is that if the ants go away, then so does the defense. Domesticated poison dart frogs aren’t poisonous (which would make them dart frogs (which, since they neither throw darts nor are tailors, is a horrible name for them)). In order to keep the defense, they have to keep on acquiring ants.
Which gets me into mergers and acquisitions… which is where I wanted to go the whole time. When you conduct an acquisition, as the acquirer, it is often tempting to go for economies of scale and try to get the acquiree to do things your way. This just makes sense. After all, that’s why you bought them, right?
Unless you bought them to kill them as competitors, they probably bring another value to the table as well. If you buy a poison dart company and then tell them “Now that you’re part of GlobalConglomeratedWidgetCoInternational, you have do things our way… and we eat our own dogfood!” you’ll definitely merge them into your organization… but if they’re eating dogfood, they’re not eating ants and you just have a dart company.
When merging operations, pay close attention to the operations of the other company and try to understand why they do things the way they do. There’s generally a good one. Then the question would be whether the loss they face by doing things your way is outweighed by the operational efficiencies, and whether it’s all that important that the darts be poisoned.