Chinese mobile product giant Huawei is in the news a lot, but many people don’t know that the company has the pretty interesting policy of rotating executives in and out of the CEO position every six months. This approach has only been in place since last year, so it’s pretty new and it may not last. But at the Mobile World Conference last week, current Huawei CEO Guo Ping told Fortune magazine about the inspiration for the system, and it’s not what you’d expect:
Our management model is quite new, but actually it comes from an idea from a book written by an American author, called Flight of the Buffalo. The theory of that book is about how migrant birds fly across the Atlantic Ocean — they always fly in a V-shape but the lead[er] of the team is not always the same bird. So they change and rotate to lead the whole team across the ocean.
Indeed, migratory birds often fly in a V-formation to reduce wind resistance. The bird at the front of the V (the leader) experiences the most wind resistance, so the birds take turns flying in the leading position, which allows the entire flock to fly for a longer period of time than it could with one leader consistently in the front.
It will be interesting to see whether this rotation strategy will be something that Huawei keeps in the long term. But even if it doesn’t, I’ve got to give the executive team some credit for looking to the animal kingdom for inspiration here. Perhaps there is more we can learn from animals about what it takes to build and run a successful company.