The Wolf & The Bear: making adversarial relationships collaborative partnerships

There’s a famous story about a brown bear and a grey wolf who became friends. It turns out, it’s a true story. A nature photographer in Finland spent 10 days capturing a brown bear and a grey wolf hunting together and even sharing meals. Even more surprising – other bears accepted the grey wolf too.

It may seem surprising, but it shouldn’t be. We tend to think of nature in distinct ways – prey/predator, predator vs. predator, survival of the fittest, etc., but quite frequently, we’re wrong. A wolf and a bear can become friends. A lioness can take care of an oryx (as reported in Kenya) or a leopard can cuddle up every night for years with a chained cow (in India).

So, if this happens, if there are incredible stories of partnership and of collaboration in unexpected places, it is surely a lesson we should heed. Think about how this changes our view of the world. If a bear and wolf can be friends, what else is possible? What are we not thinking about because we have preconceived notions?

Often, in business, the consultant and the client are seen at odds with each other. One is the bear; the other the wolf. They compete for resources. They are each in it for themselves and only themselves. They must endure each other.

But then, the bear and the wolf partner. They’re nearly unbeatable. They both bring significant tools and skills to the arrangement. They succeed like no other – better than apart.

This is how consulting should be. We pretend it is, but most consultants serve clients and most clients have an adversarial relationship with their consultants. From the very start, consultants are pitted against each other, and consultants and clients are setup in adversarial relationships where contract terms and conditions are negotiated, agreements are made about pricing, schedules, scopes, and other issues, and both sides sit across the table in attempt to get the better of the other.

Then, it’s time for the project to begin. No wonder there are already issues… we need to flip this on its head. We need to be the bear and the wolf. No one is arguing we shouldn’t have contracts and thorough conversations about expectations and objectives. But the entire situation needs to reconfigured to actually focus on collaboration because that’s where success is possible.

Think about how the bear and the wolf started their relationship. It was probably mutually beneficial – one could help the other and in return, she got something back. Perhaps the wolf used her quickness and the bear used her brute strength.

At Brightwork Consulting, the bear and the wolf paradigm is engrained in our mission and values. Everything we do removes antagonistic situations and focuses on how conflict can become trust. We are collaborators because we never begin a project in negotiations. We begin a project by learning about an organization’s problems and then, collaborating with leadership and user groups to find solutions. We don’t play games. We don’t undersell or oversell. We don’t make promises we can’t keep. We imbed our staff into organizations as experts and we adopt the culture. We turn wolves and bears into partners.

This is how we were founded – we were asked to help a client with the daunting project of changing everything about the organization, from how they operated, to their information technology. We rose to the challenge as their partner – onsite and beside them at the table. We helped them develop RFPs and we helped them chose other consultants and vendors. We acted as them, we had their backs, and we achieved great things.

The wolf and the bear. A team. Two competitors who have come together to make everything better. That’s Brightwork. That’s our focus. That’s who we are. Let us show you how and why our way is better.