Submitted Date 02/07/2019

We all know the story of the three little pigs. But other than providing a cozy bedtime tale with a somewhat gruesome ending, what can it teach us about business synergy?

Let’s take a look at the story and find out.

Once upon a time there were three pigs who were somehow related. One pig built a house out of straw; the other pig built his home out of sticks, and the final pig built his abode out of bricks.

Along came a wolf knocking on the door of piggy #1.

“Little pig, little pig, let me in...let me in,” says the wolf in a tone that does not procure an immediate invitation for entry.

The pig of course, issues a famous rejoinder, right up there with some of Shakespeare’s most dramatic monologues:

“Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin.”

At this point, Google would insert a content-guided ad for Norelco into the story, before the wolf responds with typical All-American can-do:

“Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down.”

He proceeds to knock down the home, presumably with his breath. In some versions, he eats the pig, but the version I’d like to use is the more sanitized children’s variant, where the little pig runs squealing to the home of his sibling, who lives in an artisan home of sculpted driftwood.

That home doesn’t fare much better, at least not against hurricane-force breath.

The two little pigs now run to the home of the third and final pig, and the three of them remain safely ensconced in the home of bricks, which the hot-aired fur balloon cannot puff down.

This wolf is not one to give up easily, however, so he climbs up to the roof and attempts to make an entry like Santa Claus. The pigs are ready with a boiling pot of hot water, which proves to be the wolf’s demise.

The Moral of the Story

There are many business morals to draw from the story. One could read it as a precautionary tale about sacrificing quality for profit margin—straw and wood just can’t hold up—but that moral is too obvious, and goes against the popular trend of importing everything from China.

It could also be a moral of trial and error, but it’s not the same pig who builds all three houses.

Maybe it’s something about Darwinian economics?

I propose that the wolf can represent just about anything negative in terms of business: scarcity, competition, bad markets...whatever boogeyman plagues the dreams of entrepreneurs.

The piggies are us, of course. Pigs happen to have anatomies that are very similar to that of humans, and English psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd personified pigs in their album Animals—but I’m not going to go there.

Maybe a piggy bank analogy is a sufficient business connection.

We All have Different Strengths

Or we could say that the pigs represent us and our business interests just simply because they are the protagonists of the story.

Each of us has different strengths. A straw home might not be good in a New England climate, but it sure does the trick in Tahiti. A home of sticks may not hold up to a hurricane, but it will do better in an earthquake than one of concrete blocks.

In this case, it’s the brick home that works best, and all the pigs all end up there together.

They gather around the fireplace, which, in olden times was a simple of community. People gathered around the bricks of the hearth for food, warmth, and light.

It’s there—in that place of togetherness—that the wolf meets his demise.

Businesses do best when each person can contribute their unique strengths.

True, there might be a set of best practices that guide the company—symbolized by the home of bricks—but the ending of the tale suggests that the enemy of success (the wolf) can only meet his demise in a place of successful synergy (the hearth).

A good business person does not operate as a lone wolf. They work with other people who have unique strengths: their fellow neighborhood piggies.

Just remember there may be a time when a house of sticks or straw might work out better than bricks.


P.S. One interesting side note...by coincidence the date of this article happens to fall on the Chinese Lunar New Year, which this year is (drum roll please) the year of the pig.

Double oink!

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  • Andrea Hope 1 week, 1 day ago

    This was funny, and I learned something. I love the point about a straw house being better in Tahiti - brick is not always better, it just was in that scenario with a wolf.