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Scouting Skills [Management
Posted on August 9, 2016 @ 04:32:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Yesterday I noticed some tent caterpillar nests in an apple tree by my house. I cut the branch it was on out and stomped on the nest. I didn't think too much of this discovery at the time.

Later in the day I was working in a back field and decided to take a ride in my tractor along the edge of the field. I examined some wild apple trees on the border of the field and noticed that the same tent caterpillar nests were on some of those apple trees as well.

After seeing a few nests I returned to my barn, picked up some pruning tools, and returned to deal with the threat - cutting out the branches they inhabited and stomping them. Hopefully this will help to limit the population of these caterpillars which will defoliate an apple tree quickly once they escape the caccoon-like tent they grow up in.

Scouting for threats is not something I think about doing often enough. Today I was simply lucky to notice this potential issue and it was because I was going for a joyride around the edge of a field in my old tractor that it happened. I am coming to the view that scouting is too important to be left to chance and that I should be more systematic in deciding when and where I will scout for threats in the future.

You can also scout for wild food resources as well so scouting can be done both to detect threats and, more positively, to find resources. The effectiveness of scouting can be improved by being more systematic about how, when and where you investigate although there is always some element of chance to what you might encounter as you wander about.

Is scouting a useful skill to develop for your business? Should you take time to simply to explore around to see what threats or resources are out there? Should you be more systematic in how you scout for threats or resources in your business environment? I don't have alot of answers this early in my thinking about scouting but I do know that scouting is not just nice, it is necessary to keep ahead of the threats and to find food resources. Optimal Foraging Theory provides some guidance for thinking about scouting even though it appears to be mostly focused on food foraging. It has been extended to information foraging behavior as well. You can't spend all your time exploiting your current food patch, you also have to spend some time discovering where your next food patch might be. To do this effectively, you need to develop some scouting skills to detect the next patch effectively.

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