Smart Bird

Smart Bird
I wrote this post in 2004 when I started blogging. Things have changed quite a bit since then, so it needed a few twitches here & there.

Sometime in the '90s I stumbled upon incredibly inspiring thoughts spread around by Allan Wilson, Professor at University of California at Berkeley. Professor Wilson had established three conditions, which were necessary for a species to improve its abilities in a given environment:

i) the members of the species must flock and move around in herds, rather than sit individually in isolated territories

ii) some of the individuals must have the potential to invent new behaviours and skills

iii) the species must have an established process for transmitting a skill from the individual to the entire community, through direct communication

The story of the different birds. Via the works of Arie de Geus probably triggered other ideas that had been informed in study and work exploring constructivism and systems' thinking a the university, but let's get back to the story of the bird(s).

Two species of birds living in England had a very different approach to learning and sharing socially: the titmouse and the red robin. Both took advantage of the old milk bottles that were left uncapped by the milkmen, to sip a bit of the cream that floated on top of the milk.

Changes in the milking business brought a technology to cap the bottles with seals, which had contrasting effects on the two populations of birds. The titmouse population learned how to pierce the new seals that capped the milk bottles, and "spread the word" because they were social birds.

The robins were territorial birds with a strong inclination to single male leadership, disallowing other males from settling in the proximity, limiting the chances to share knowledge that may have been beneficial to all. They were stuck.

You can follow some other interesting leads such as the above on Arie de Geus's The Living Company , here some quotes from an interview posted on Dialog on Leadership, Sept. 1999, read on 2004 :

"I’m beginning to see more and more loops that strongly reinforce the idea that there are hierarchically, higher placed living systems, higher than the human being. I called them "A Living Company," because basically I talk about the commercial population of the institutional world population. I talk about commercial tribes, but there are many other tribes. ..."

How my avatar came to be

The bird you see above was grabbing bits of toast from my lunch bag, while I sat reading at the Asilomar conference center in Monterey Bay, California, a decade ago. It reminded me of the story.

There were many birds like this smart one, at the MIIS university campus in Monterey Bay, flocking around and grabbing bits here and there. I wondered if they were behaving like the Titmouse birds ... or like the Robins.

The story emerged again much later Spain, when I needed an avatar, upon joining Twitter in 2007. I've lived in Spain for many years now and noticing how resilient we can be in Europe, when faced with changing trends in communications and information media... (well, in some countries more than in others ... ), I cannot but wonder ... will it play like the story of the Titmouse... or more like the one of the Robins?

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