STRATEGY | Predator or Prey?

On a trip to the zoo last weekend, I read this sign on the Tiger Trail that pointed out the differences in eye positions between predators and prey. Predator eyes vs. prey eyes

Eyes on a predator face forward. This allows them to focus their vision on their prey. Because both eyes are pointed in the same direction, their vision is binocular which gives them great depth perception. Eyes on prey are located at the sides of the head giving them good side and rear vision. Their vision is monocular, and they can use their eyes separately seeing two different objects on opposite sides of their body at the same time.

I had never thought about how important such a relatively simple and somewhat obvious characteristic like the placement of the eyes could be. My first reaction was that makes so much sense. Predators need to see different things than prey and vice versa. Then my second reaction was what a powerful metaphor for business strategies. Do you have a predator strategy or a prey strategy?


Are you focused on looking forward? How’s your depth perception? Do you know how far and fast you have to move to achieve your target? Zappos, Southwest, and Apple are all examples of companies that look forward. They don’t care what others are doing to the side or behind them. They focus on their target and move towards solving real needs for their customers. Predators take risks and go for Yahtzee.


Are you focused on to what’s beside and behind you? Are you constantly worried about your competitors and what they are doing? Home Depot and Lowe’s, McDonald’s and Burger King, and Marriott and Hilton all strike me as prey competitors keeping a constant eye on each other. One half develops an innovation, and their pair competitor imitates to follow. They are focused backwards and to their sides.

This distinction reminds me of the difference between Warren Buffett and Eddie Lampert. Buffett’s annual letters tend to be internally focused answering where are they headed. Lampert’s tend to focus more externally describing what’s happening in the market around them. Where would you rather invest your money? Predator or prey?