Researchers in California placed amoebas in two tanks. In one tank, the temperature, humidity, level of water, and other conditions were constantly adjusted to provide the environment most conducive for proliferation of the amoeba. In another tank, the organisms were alternately subjected to extremes in heat and cold, fluid level, protein, etc.
To the researcher’s amazement, the amoebas in the tank meant to induce rapid growth died faster than those subjected to extremes. The researchers theorized that having things too perfect, too set, too comfortable actually causes us to decay and die, while being forced to adapt promotes growth.
I can no longer find the citation for the above story which intrigued me long ago enough to copy the above paragraph – reminds me of stories of those every-morning-bacon-fat eating, smoking, wine-drinking 110+ old women they always seem to find in France being asked their secrets of longevity – while the rest of us shake our heads.
Earlier this year I helped chaperone my sons 6th grade class field trip to Omaha for a visit to a great zoo – the Henry Doorly Zoo.
What I remember the most this time was the orangutans – never had really watched them that much before but it was a windy day, so some of the orangutans were swinging upside down on the outer fence timing their swings with a nearby tree that would sway periodically close enough to them for them to taste fresher or newer leaves than they usually had apparently as they were working hard to get their circus act timed perfectly to snatch at them.
That’s when I noticed this sign next to their pavilion…
And this homage to this rare animal – who certainly seems worth having a statue in his honor
This was a creature that not only learned to adapt but to create – and that’s pretty awesome.
Later this week my team will be getting together to discuss a book that we have been sharing 3 copies of discussing professionalism & software development that our company was passing around. I decided this would be a good thing to have a open discussion about – one of the early chapters brings up career development and something very dear to my heart – the fact that I and only myself am responsible for my career and my continued education after college – while we all hope to work at employers that will foster growth opportunities – those who place their career development in the hands of others are misguided in my opinion. And this topic brings up a common theme for developers that I touch on from time to time – how the pace of technology changing means we have to pick and choose which things we spend our limited “free” time to pursue learning.
Kathleen Dollard put it best in her article titled Pace of Change Leaves No One Competent
I mentioned it a few years back in this post and it still rhymes with me today. I still enjoy Jeff Atwood’s brief post which I keep a copy of near my desk Everything You Know will Be Obsolete in Five Years – especially his analogy to Alice in Wonderland.
Yes – adaptation to changing technology and the desire to stay relevant and valuable takes work and a real plan – and I think could be a great topic for our team to cover in our first “book club” meeting this Thursday. Our environment is always changing but just like the amoeba, its easy to see the payoff in adapting – and if we also find ways to adapt and create just as Fu Man Chu did in Omaha, we’ll probably have more fun along the way as well.