Creative Nursing, Volume 15, Number 2, 2009
Strategy of the Dolphin: Scoring a Win in a Chaotic World
Dudley Lynch and Paul L. Kordis. New York: Random House, 1988, 288 pages, $15.95.
Originally published in 1988, Strategy of the Dolphin: Scoring a Win in a Chaotic World
was intended to contrast with the many “swimming with the sharks” business
books so prevalent during the ’80s. Two decades later, the classic book’s relevance
to—and warning of—our 2009 chaos is impressive.
The book starts by categorizing management types into three aquatic creatures:
sharks, carps, and dolphins. This animal metaphor is derived from research on the
learning capacity of dolphins, right-/left-brain theory, and the impact of loboto-
mies on intellectual and emotional capacity. Left-brained sharks hold an extreme
winner/loser view; carps, who are right brainers, don’t want to make waves.
The focus of this book is on dolphins: the “elegant sense-makers.” Their ability
to be ﬂexible, responsive, and accepting allows them to score the ultimate win in
turbulent times. Sharks, accustomed to moving in for the kill, are unable to rec-
ognize or learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others. Carps believe that
the best survival strategy is popularity (avoiding conﬂict). They don’t try to win
so much as to hold on to what they currently have. Both types cling so much to
their single strategy that when they fail, they are incapable of shifting to diﬀerent
Unfortunately, we’ve seen the results when sharks take full advantage of carps.
Naked aggression without proper oversight, intellectual resistance, or moral bal-
ance can lead to a widely destructive meltdown of historic proportion.
The dolphin (a mammal, by the way) can act like a shark or a carp when the