Thursday 14 August 2014

I'm not a chicken sexer...

I'm a chicken sexer's son.

OK, so my Dad isn't a chicken sexer, but it's such a great job title.

Chicken Sexing

I started my career in the Home Office, Immigration Department.  My first job included the consideration of applications to enter the UK for various specialist reasons.  This included Chicken Sexers and Moroccan Tumblers.

I never questioned the requirement for these specialisms but I do remember handling one application from a Japanese chicken sexer - which I approved.

David Eagleman refers to the occupation of Chicken Sexer in his book, Incognito.

He explains the reason for the speciality.  When chicks are born in large commercial operations the males and females need to be separated - as they each receive different feeding patterns and have different destinies.  The job of a chicken sexer is to examine each chick and place it in the correct group. So, what's the big deal? The job is NOTORIOUSLY difficult as the chicks look exactly the same.  Experts in the field can accurately divide groups of one day old chicks.

The Japanese invented a particular technique called 'vent sexing'. From the 1930s onwards poultry breeders from around the world travelled to the Zen-Nippon Chicken Sexing School.

The most astonishing thing is that expert chicken sexers could not explain how they performed the task.  It was based on subtle visual cues - but the professionals could not explain what they were.  They simply looked at the chicken's rear and just knew which group to place them in.

The big dilemma was, how could an expert teach someone something they cannot explain?  

The solution was for the Master to stand over the apprentice and watch.  

The students would pick up a chick, examine its rear, and place it in the male or female pen.  The master would give feedback: a simple YES or NO.  After many weeks of this activity, "The student's brain was trained up to masterful - albeit unconscious - levels."

Unconscious Learning

This Unconscious learning is essentially how you have accumulated a great deal of knowledge about the world.

If you can drive a car - it will all be pretty automatic to you. How much effort or conscious brain power does it take to change gear?  When you were first learning it took every ounce of concentration but now it's mainly an unconscious activity.

So what about you responses to particular circumstances or events?  Are you ever frustrated that you always act in a particular way in certain situations?  You can identify that it's not productive but you're unable to stop.

Being conscious that you're in, or about to enter, a pattern is the first step. 

STOP Technique

There is a simple technique (which required lots of practice) called 'STOP'.

When you realise you are entering an unproductive pattern and having negative thoughts then apply the STOP technique, developed by Tim Gallwey.

S = Step back.  Put some distance between yourself and the situation.
T = Think.  What is the truth about what is happening? What's causing you to feel negative or stressed?  What are your priorities/options?
O = Organise your thinking.  What's your plan of action?
P = Proceed.  Move forward with increased clarity and understanding.

The technique is also very valuable to use:
  • at the beginning of each day - to reflect and plan,
  • before you go into a meeting or important conversation,
  • or before you pick up the children from school.
Thanks for reading


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