Coram Deo ~

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Problem Solving Skills We Can Learn from a Squirrel

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We’ve all run into problems that we’ve struggled with, not really knowing how to even begin solving them. The problem we are facing can seem insurmountable. At times, we might ask for help with the problem from a co-worker. My wife Tammy has found watching YOU TUBE videos to be quite helpful in solving some problems. But did you know that we can learn much about problem solving by watching how a squirrel approaches a bird feeder that has been designed to keep him out?

If you’ve ever had a bird feeder, you know that squirrels stealing your bird food can be a big problem. And you are certainly not the first to experience this. Just go to any store that sells bird feeders and you will see any number of feeders that have been designed to keep the squirrels out.

In years past, I’ve tried just about everything to keep the squirrels out – from using a baffle to coating Vaseline on the bird feeder pole – but nothing worked in keeping the squirrels from the bird food. This summer, I finally grew tired of financing the diet of the neighborhood squirrel population, and purchased a few Squirrel X feeders, which are advertised as “your best defense against squirrels.” We’re told that that “Now you can enjoy any number of birds in your yard without the pesky squirrels with our Squirrel-X squirrel proof songbird feeders.” Right. Tell that to the squirrels.

For most of the summer, my new Squirrel X feeders seemed to do the trick. The levers, when pushed down, closed the opening to the feeder, and only allowed small birds access to the food. But recently, the neighborhood squirrels have solved the problem facing them, and are filling their bellies at our expense.

How did they do it? Here are three observations about how the squirrels solved this problem, and what we can learn from them:

Patience and Perseverance. The squirrels have demonstrated patience and perseverance as they studied the problem presented them by the Squirrel X bird feeders. As I mentioned above, for a few months, I thought I had won the battle, as only the birds were enjoying the bird food intended for them. But the squirrels kept at it, trying different things like attempting to open the top of the feeders. We need to do the same, and not give up when we can’t immediately solve a problem we face. We need to consult different sources in our attempt to come up with solutions to our problems. Major problems facing us may take much time to solve.

Courage. The squirrels have been fearless in approaching the bird feeders as they try to access the bird food. I’ve often shooed them away when I see them trying to get access to the food. But that doesn’t seem to bother them at all; the next time I look, they are right back at it. They are bold, and not afraid to fail. We should approach our problems in the same manner. Dee Ann Turner in her book Bet on Talent:  How to Create a Remarkable Culture That Wins the Hearts of Customers, offers some helpful assistance to problem solving. She writes that a remarkable organizational culture is one in which failure is accepted as a way of growing and moving forward. However, we should learn from failure, and not make the same mistake again. So be bold like a squirrel, and show courage as you try to solve problems facing you.

Creativity and Innovation. The Squirrel X bird feeder is designed to keep the squirrels away from the food by using levers that close the access to the food when too much weight is applied to them. In this way, small birds can sit on the lever and get at the food, but large birds and squirrels, will close the lever because they weigh too much. Unfortunately, the squirrels have found an innovative way to access the food. They have demonstrated their creativity by balancing themselves on the pole, sometimes upside down, and sticking their mouths into the feeder, thereby bypassing the lever. We can learn from the squirrel by using our creativity to solve our problems. I don’t like the phrase “thinking outside of the box”, but it accurately describes how we at times need to approach our problems. We can’t just depend on how we have always done things, but we need to demonstrate creativity and innovative ideas to solve our problems.

These are just some of the things we can learn from squirrels about problem solving. What would you add to this list?

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

One thought on “Problem Solving Skills We Can Learn from a Squirrel

  1. I am playing that Bird/squirrel game this summer !

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