What boss would not like to have employees as well-trained, responsive and enthusiastic as the dolphins and whales at SeaWorld?
USA TODAY reporter Del Jones asked SeaWorld animal ambassador Julie Scardina for her secrets of animal training and how to make a big splash in the corporate jungle of human management.
Q: What can the leaders of humans learn from the trainers of whales and dolphins?
A: Keep it positive. Use effective communication, encouragement, rewards, creativity, effort and variety. We don’t take a whale’s compliance, motivation or energy for granted. We work hard to create an environment that is interesting, fun and stimulating and draw attention to behavior we want to see repeated.
Q: But at SeaWorld, all you need to motivate is fish.
A: Fish is actually not the reward of choice for whales and dolphins. Each animal has its own favorites, which is also the case with people.
We try to be creative. It can be toys of different sizes, different colors of ice cubes that melt in different ways that they chew, swallow or push around and watch melt.
They like being touched, scratched or rubbed. They like mental stimulation. You can get as complex as you want.
Variety is important. Anybody will become satiated with any reward that they get over and over.
Photo by Robert Hanashiro.