June 23rd 2014

Alpha leader| pack | cockerel | peacock

Findings of behavioral research for management and leadership.
Michael Martys, Director of Innsbruck's Alpine Zoo

On Saturday morning, Michael Martys, Director of Innsbruck’s Alpine Zoo, provided interesting insights into behavioral research in the animal world.

He began by pointing to the dangers of the anthropomorphization of animals. “It can merely serve to make concepts more easily understood; it should not serve as a reference to the animal in the human being.”

Even though human beings are zoological creatures, they cannot be treated on a level with animals; human thought and action are shaped by processes of socialization and decision-making and involve a greater degree of responsibility.

Animals live in a space-time system based on incentives and enticements. They are the true homo oeconomicus, as animal behavior tends always to take account of the cost-benefit ratio. At the end of the day, the yield must be greater than the energy input, failing which the animal will not survive.

Animals employ various strategies in the interest of survival for themselves and their progeny:

If you are big, you need to fight. If you are small, you must deceive. Or the weaker animals enter into coalitions to ensure survival. There is also a constant give and take in the animal world. The example of the wolf pack shows that it is not always the biggest and strongest that is the leader but the individual with the most commanding manner and the best character.

Even though Martys refused to equate human beings with animals, he was able to draw fascinating parallels between human and animal behavior.

The talk was chaired by Johannes Dickel. With lively discussions in a relaxed atmosphere and a substantial buffet lunch after the presentation, this year’s Alumni Weekend came to a worthy finish.