Why Should You Be More Like Dolphins?

Photo by Ranae Smith on Unsplash

You may think of dolphins as those aquatic mammals that kiss women and are cute.

And, you’d be partially correct.

But there’s a lot more to dolphins than that. So allow us to take you on a journey into this majestic marine mammal’s mind.

As you may know, they are among the most collaborative creatures on the planet. And they have been leading the way for centuries.

According to a report in the New Scientist, which tested the ability of Bottlenose dolphins to open a canister of food, collaboration was at play.

The dolphins managed to open the canister simultaneously by pulling a rope at either end.

The report had even more surprising twists (almost like an M.Night Shymalan’s movie). Not only were the dolphins successful at opening the canister, but they were also communicating and collaborating to discuss the best way forward.

So what exactly can we learn from dolphins (apart from how to be fun, cute and awesome swimmers, of course)?

Photo by darin ashby on Unsplash

How To Be Precise And Clear In Our Communication

Successful collaboration and synergy to achieve a particular result can only begin with transparent and open communication channels.

In the study mentioned earlier, the dolphins communicated clearly about their objectives, processes, and methods and ensured everyone knew to pull together in the same direction.

Without clear, open, precise communication, collaboration is just the mere activity of several people working in silos.

In such a case, everyone works on different aspects, or sometimes even the same project elements, without a holistic understanding of the overall goal.

The key lesson to learn from this:

Clearly outline objectives, processes and responsibilities. Ensure everyone involved with the project is certain about the parts they have to play to reach the end goal.

How To Achieve Focused Communication

In the New Scientist report, the Bottlenose dolphins made increased and varied vocalisations when trying to open the canister compared to the vocalisations they typically made during social banter.

And it’s simple.

They chose a this-is-serious-business voice, tone and language when they needed it.

When it comes to you and your team, you need to do the same. Find that special sauce that indicates you mean business.

Be open with your team about how everyone would prefer to communicate and collaborate, especially at crucial times. You’ll find that some people may choose face-to-face dialogue, while others might be fine with remote communication.

The key lesson to learn from this:

Take time to find out how your team members prefer to communicate and implement a solution that works for everyone.

How To Work Together & Solve Forever

When it comes to our favourite mammals, working together means success is more likely. The bottlenose dolphins were most successful at opening the canister when they worked together.

But, you might ask: could they have opened it individually as well?

The answer is “yes”.

But the difference here is that they had limited time to open the canister. So they had to work together.

True, this might sound like an obvious thing, but it’s worth remembering that the very essence of collaboration is working in harmony.

Every team can possibly work together. But not every team can work in harmony.

So it’s crucial to choose a team you know will work well together. Just because you bring together a group of people doesn’t mean they will automatically collaborate.

You’ll need to consider how the different personalities will interact in a work environment and how exactly they’ll find their synergy as one team.

The key lesson to learn from this:

Take time to consider what mixture of personalities, skills or temperaments your team needs. Once together, ensure everyone brings their best selves to work.

How To Go Beyond The “Collaboration” Buzzword

As more and more companies navigate the effects of the pandemic and the inevitable remote working route, we are witnessing many changes in what we used to call our “work-life”.

According to TrustRadius, there was a 500% increase in search impressions for web and video conferencing software in the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic. And accompanying those searches came the now almost infamous word we might all be tired of hearing: collaboration.

It is easily one of those words we say so easily and do so difficultly.

That means it’s hardly surprising that Harvard Business Review found out that 75% of cross-functional teams are actually dysfunctional.

And now, especially since we have all the collaboration platforms possible, we need to dig deeper.

Collaboration is more than just a well-thought-out presentation. It’s more than simply using excellent software or creating endless groups chats on instant messaging apps.

Collaboration is about realigning your entire company culture and work ethos.

Yes, you read that right.

As the adage goes, practice makes perfect. So having to collaborate more is bound to make you the master ninja at collaboration.

But what does all of this have to do with dolphins?

Well, dolphins, as you already know, collaborate with humans too.

In a documentary by the BBC in Laguna, Brazil, you’ll be happy to find out that fishermen and dolphins have been working together for 150 years!

The dolphins help the fishermen by leading the fish towards them and even sending signals about when to cast their nets. The fishermen then cast their nets and get ready to haul in their catch. In such a case, the fish panic and break their formation, thus making them easier to catch.

That is the pinnacle of true collaboration between the most intelligent mammals on the planet!

The key lesson to learn from this:

Collaboration needn’t be limited to teams of people in the same department or even people you would naturally expect to work together.

Think outside the box in terms of who can work with whom, when and where, and you’ll be surprised at what you find.

Happy collaborating!

And yes, you can be like the dolphins!



  1. Marino L. Dolphin cognition. Curr Biol. 2004 Nov 9;14(21):R910–1. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2004.10.010. PMID: 15530377.
  2. Harley H. E. (2013). Consciousness in dolphins? A review of recent evidence. Journal of comparative physiology. A, Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology, 199(6), 565–582. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00359-013-0816-8
  3. Hart D, Whitlow JW Jr. The experience of self in the bottlenose dolphin. Conscious Cogn. 1995 Jun;4(2):244–7. doi: 10.1006/ccog.1995.1032. PMID: 8521264.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store