Thursday, May 3, 2012

Where did the title Dancing with Elephants come from?

The expression comes from WWII and the guerilla fighters in the Philippines and is used as the title of a new book. It goes something like “When elephants dance the chickens are not safe.”  With a lot of permutations. Similarly the Africans used an expression that “When the elephants fight, it is the grass that loses.”

However, it has been used in business a long time. The elephants are the big players. The rest of us are chickens (or the grass).

We used it a lot at a small company were I was CTO (Unimax) as we partnered with Philips and other very large companies. The expression of an elephant learning to dance was used by financial publications for some time. Most famously, I recall it was used for IBM as it almost went bankrupt and reinvented itself (e.g. elephants can learn to dance).

With publishing the elephants are the big 5 or 6 publishers, with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple all joining the dance. In fact both the dance and fight metaphors work.

Exciting times, but you have to keep dancing and moving or you will get trampled!

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