Have you ever found yourself contemplating the idiom “to kill two birds with one stone”? There is a more modern and politically correct version that goes “to feed two birds with one feeder”.
I get corrected all the time if/when I use the former in place of the latter.
When you hear the term, “kill two birds with one stone” you might think of accomplishments and efficiency. Often this expression is given when examining a business process with the intent to stress that when something is “efficient” it usually eliminates steps, in some cases by literally doing two or more things at once.
For example, consider the humble shipping department in a factory, a place often overlooked when it comes time to innovate.
However, some enterprising companies analyzed their shipping processes and determined that they could be improved by installing scales on their conveyor systems so that as boxes are packed they are also weighed.
This simple modification to a process allowed the package weight to be checked and rechecked programmatically throughout the packing process, thus ensuring that the contents of the package were correct at each phase, nothing added or left out by mistake.
Auto weighing allows for the projection of what the weight of the package “should be” and if the variance between the actual weight and the projection is greater than some allowable percentage, say 0.5% – 2% depending on the goods being shipped, then human investigation might be warranted to account for the variation. Perhaps the boxes contain an unusually high moisture content, perhaps the bubble wrap and packaging material was recently changed and the algorithm was not updated, perhaps something else entirely.
If everything checks out then a shipping label can be automatically generated while the box is in transit and either applied to the package by the shipping employee or auto labeled by a machine prior to palatalization (which can also be automated).
In the end this one little change allowed for a lot of additional innovation that improved a process across the board and for all stake holders!
The employees had a simpler time by not having to spend as much time verifying box contents and manually weighing them etc. and the companies employing these types of systems benefit by having happier employees as well as improved throughput. Customers benefit by receiving the goods they ordered on time and with fewer mistakes!
This is a classic example where “killing two birds with one stone” can be used.
I would argue however that there is a much more fundamental concept that is glossed over with such a cursory examination of the idiom.
For example, I think by changing the idiom to “to feed two birds with one feeder” at the very least implies agriculture which to me seems to rob the idiom of its full meaning.
Let me explain, in order to “feed” the birds they must have been caught & domesticated over several generations. This means that the hypothetical society in question has invested precious resources into the development of animal husbandry a technology that takes time and specialized knowledge to develop as well as an infrastructure capable of supporting the animal and we need not be talking about animals raised specifically for food either. As would be the case with animals classified as “work” animals, that is to say animals raised because they can perform work on our behalf, like the strength of a horse, ox or elephant for example.
To domesticate an animal as a food source or work animal (or both) you must first familiarize yourself with the animal to be domesticated. Initially this starts by assessing an animal and determining that it is in fact a good candidate to domesticate. You must establish a system to produce the necessary cereal crops used in the “feed” of the animals in sufficient quantities before your civilization can attempt to undertake the domestication of the animal. You must determine what the optimal growth conditions are as well as any harmful conditions that might doom the undertaking. You must develop sufficient medical knowledge to treat any illness of the animal or any diseases that the animals may confer on your population as a result of your workers close proximity to the animals.
Today we have expanded on the ideas of agriculture and animal husbandry so that global food supply chains have been created and there is generally an abundance of food in so called “modernized” parts of the world. My point being that you and I, most people in fact, are far removed from the production of the food we eat, and yet we eat! We’ve developed such efficient means of production that most of us don’t have to be concerned with hunting or farming for our subsistence.
Consider, instead the meaning of “killing two birds with one stone” to someone in a “pre-agrarian” civilization, maybe one of the “ancestors” from my Ancestor Simulations series or one of the few remaining Uncontacted Tribes around the world who quite literally have to eat from “the fat of the land” because come “feast or famine” they rely on what nature can provide.
Humor me and envision yourself in this scenario for a moment… Imagine living in one of those ancient societies and being faced with a rough hunting season. Imagine not having eaten in days… perhaps the young children of your tribe haven’t eaten in days! There is a gnawing pain in your gut that drives you forward and the bitter realization that precious lives rest in your hands, you NEED to bring food home. Not for prestige, not for bragging rights on social media, but because if you don’t the little ones will go hungry and suffer!
In that moment you hear rustling in the bushes directly in front of you and you reach for the last stone in your purse and place it deliberately in the square of your sling.
As your eyes catch movement you instinctively let the stone crack forth. Your patience and dedication have been rewarded with not one but “two birds”, not in the bush but “in the hand”!
To me the “two birds with one stone” idiom evokes the idea of necessity and our daily struggles.
It is out of necessity that the hunter hunts, the farmer farms and the office worker studiously commutes! 😛
It is true that thankfully most of us don’t have to hunt to feed our families however it is of no less importance that we accomplish our daily labors, it’s how we feed our families!
I can tell you that if you look for ways to get “two birds” where you previously would have gained only one or even none, then you will find them!
Your “two birds” might be an improvement on the income of your business allowing you to hire more employees or to pay the ones you have more than you previously could or maybe its finding ways to commute less so you can have more time with your loved ones.
You see, to me the “two birds” represent more than just “birds”, or a lesson about business, they represent the future and how we have a duty to strive to be as efficient as possible so that we don’t find ourselves in the same position of want and need that the tribe in our story found themselves!
Now before you go please be aware that I will be posting less this week than I have the past two weeks while I conduct research for future projects and take care of my little Xavier.
Further, I realize that there are precious few minutes that my readers have to spend reading my content so if I have managed to inform or entertain you then I have succeeded in doing my job, in which case, please consider supporting me over on Patreon or donating to my anonymous Bitcoin Tip Jar.
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I will see you all in my next post!