What the blue whale can teach us about strategic planning.

A story of sticking to the plan vs taking advantage of opportunities.

Aidan Kenealy
4 min readAug 6, 2019

Studying science at university opened me up to a diverse and disparate range of concepts and ideas, none of which ever seem relevant to the real world at the time.

As I’ve started to dive deeper into thought leadership, however, a number of these scientific concepts are proving to be more than relevant to the world of startups and entrepreneurs.

I was first exposed to one of these concepts during the most memorable lecture I ever had at university. It was a biology lesson in whale courtship and the example given to carry the concept provides an excellent lesson for startup founders.

On the face of it, blue whale courtship is a wholly un-useful process to know. It starts with the mating pairs following a ‘pre-programmed’ courtship ritual, which involves a series of rolls and dives. The ritual is to allow the female to assess the suitability of her potential partner.

At the conclusion of the ritual, if the female is happy with the suitor she will orientate herself ‘right way up’, with her back to the sky to be more accommodating for the act of copulation. If she’s doesn’t want to proceed, she orientates herself ‘upside down’, which makes access hard to achieve.

This detail is important because, while the female may not want to copulate, this often doesn’t stop the male from trying. Regardless of the females’ consent, the male will leverage the length and dexterity of his impressive ‘manhood’ and will attempt tp copulate. He does this by positioning himself next to the female and proceeds to wrap all ten feet of ‘it’ around her body, where it will break the water’s surface and begin aggressively prodding her belly, which is now facing the sky.

So, as the lecture progressed, the professor explained that she and her research colleagues were observing a male blue whale engaging in courtship with a female on a small boat off the coast of New Zealand.

They were witnessing a situation where the female was not interested in the advances of the male and he was becoming aggressive. As the tussle went on, the crew became increasingly concerned…



Aidan Kenealy

Professional startup advisor for founders of high growth startups. More details @ https://aidankenealy.com/