What can Bubble Net Feeding teach you?


You can learn some pretty cool things on vacation sometimes.  It’s may be hard to tell, but the picture above is a pod of humpback whales engaged in Bubble Net Feeding (here’s a bigger view).

What is Bubble Net Feeding and how does it apply to business?  Read on and find out!

Bubble Net feeding is a hunting technique that’s unique to humpback whales in South East Alaska (other whales do some similar things but it’s not universal, it’s a learned behavior).

The picture above is a pod of 10 whales (we counted) who all work together to maximize their herring feeding opportunity.  The lead whale will dive first and search out a big group of herring and start circling it deep under the water.  The other whales will follow and they’ll all start blowing bubbles as they swim a ring around the herring.  About this time, one of the whales will also start singing.

The herring get confused by the bubbles and the singing and tend to bunch tightly together in the middle of the ‘net’ and rise towards the surface.  Within a few seconds, the singing stops which is the signal for the whole pod to shoot towards the surface with open mouths, trapping huge amounts of herring along the way.  They spit all of the extra water out (using their baleen to keep the herring in) and enjoy a sizable snack…then they’ll take a few minutes to rest up and do the whole thing over again.

What can you learn from Bubble Net feeding?

Here’s a few things that came to mind that apply to a business setting:

1. It’s good to collaborate

Other humpbacks will feed alone and do fine, but the reason this particular region of whales do this is because it works and it’s more effective than going alone.

2. You have to follow a system

As our guide Jennifer at Gastineau Guiding explained, the whales will repeat this highly coordinated sequence of events many times in the day while they’re in herring rich areas.  Because of the complexity of the operation – success is driven by all the whales in the pod strictly following the process in the same way every time.

3.  Use multiple strategies

Not all of the whale groups sing (we could tell they were singing because our boat put a microphone under the water so we could hear them).  However the singing worked in conjunction with the bubbles to make the herring more confused and more likely to stay in the ‘net’.  You might have success with one marketing strategy, but you’ll have more success with two that work together (done correctly).

Here’s a quick video that shows the concept in more detail – here’s the link.

It was an amazing sight to see.  If you make it up to Juneau in the summer it’s definitely worth checking out.

What cool things did you see on your summer vacation – let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach