Friday, August 31, 2007

The caterpillar story

The noted French naturalist, J. Henri Fabre, studied the processionary caterpillars in great detail. What makes this caterpillar special is its instinct to follow in lock step the caterpillar in front of it. this behavior not only gives the caterpillar its name but a deadly characteristic also.

Fabre demonstrated this unusual behavior with a simple experiment. He took a flowerpot and placed a number of caterpillars in a single rile around the circumference of the pot's rim. each caterpillar's head touched the caterpillar in front of it. Fabre then placed the caterpillars' favorite food, pine needles, in the middle of the circle. each caterpillar followed the one ahead thinking that it was heading for food. Round and round went those silly insects - for seven days! After a week of this mindless activity, the caterpillars dropped dead one by one because of exhaustion and starvation.

Think for a while - all that the caterpillars had to do to avoid death was to stop the senseless circling of the flower pot and head directly toward the food which was less than six inches away. However, the caterpillars were locked into a lifestyle and couldn't disentangle themselves from their mindless behavior.

Think for a while - Do we also follow methods and procedures for no other reason than 'it has always been done that way'? How often do we confuse activity with accomplishment? Do we have the ability to change our direction to get out of ruts which cause us to dysfunction at work?