Learning About Complexity From Bird Feeding

June 8, 2018 — Posted by Al Shalloway
I'm an avid bird feeder. I have 17 feeders, 2 bird baths & use 10 diff kinds of food. I get finches, sparrows, ducks, doves, cow birds, humming birds, Orioles & more. Every wk I learn something new & make some minor adjustment to my setup. There's no best arrangement of this eco-system I’ve created & I manage to continually improve it.
 
Eco-systems are complex, but there are several things within them that are simple:
  • Birds poop anywhere & it falls
  • Diff kinds of birds prefer diff foods
  • Food gets scattered & falls
 
Some things are more complicated
  • What kind of feeder you use for diff foods attracts diff birds
 
There are also chaotic events like opening a door & 20 birds fly away
 
There are patterns-such as they don’t eat as much in the hot part of the day
 
Since it's a complex system all of these interactions makes it difficult, if not impossible to predict exactly what’ll happen when I make changes. But that's not to say I can’t make pretty good guesses. I continuously look for where improvements can be made, compare them against my understanding & run experiments. Sometimes I take an expert's advice or just try things. The point is, in complex systems, experience & models matter. You don't need accurate predictions to make progress.
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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas.



        

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