Nature can teach us about Innovation!

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Summer is right around the corner! As I awoke this morning to the chirping birds I could not help but to think about all of the nature around us. Living things are everywhere carving out their existence on many of the same rules that have existed for eons. Sun comes up, sun goes down and life goes on.

Our own human species, thanks to size of our cerebral cortex is credited with the most advanced abilities to drive logical thought and reasoning. In light of this talent we have an advantage that the natural world does not possess – We can create and innovate in order to solve our most pressing needs. This talent has allowed the human race to better its life and extend its life expectancy in ways that no other species has ever done before.

All this being said though there are significant learnings we can take from the world of nature. Learnings that are passed on from generation to generation and foundational for their existence.

From my perspective there is a lot here to think about as we embark on our innovative journeys –

New species thrive after a catastrophic eventvolcano-1031161_1920

Research shows that forests ravaged by catastrophic environmental events recover to  yield tremendous environment diversity – One specific piece of research in Science Daily reinforces this – “The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, for example, has created very diverse post-eruption conditions, and has some of the highest plant and animal diversity in the western Cascades range,”

It turns out that sometimes the only way to reset the ecosystem is to bring everything down to basics and start over again allowing all species a level playing field on which to compete for crucial food and nutrients.

Within business today we also see these catastrophic events when new entrants emerge with a new business model and disrupt our traditional go-to-market ecosystem (i.e. Uber, AirBnb, ApplePay). The key for leaders is to recognize this disruption and leverage it as an opportunity to create a new business model that suits the new environment. Ideas that at one time may have never seen the light will now have ample opportunity to take root and thrive!

Those that cannot adapt often become extinct

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At this point in history we have had approximately 1,000 species of plants and animals become extinct. Outside of a mass extinction event (like that of the dinosaurs) most of these species simply could not adapt to the change in their surroundings. The good news is that as we live through the recent global warming phenomenon we are seeing that many animals can adapt; like polar bears learning to live and even thrive off the ice. These changes may have other repercussions down the chain but adaptability is a key to living things surviving change.

In the business world we are clearly at a crux where the organizational hierarchy and skills of tomorrow will look very different than those of today. Those that are seeking out the knowledge and skills of tomorrow are reinvigorating their careers and finding new passions to follow. Sticking to what you know and what you do is a dangerous decision at this point in time, find your next passion and start learning today!

Symbiotic relationships are essential

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One of the most interesting phenomenon to me in nature is the concept of a “symbiotic relationship” where two living things rely on one another to make their mutual lives beneficial. Remora’s rely on sharks for food and in return they help keep the shark clear of parasites. As humans our gut bacteria relies on us for food and in return protects us from foreign bodies and disease.

In the corporate world solutions are growing increasingly complex in the data they consume, the people that interact with them and the other systems that they interact with. In this new world we will need to build our own “symbiotic relationships” with people, data and things in order to drive maximum value. What will some of those relationships look like for you?

One Team / One Goal

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As a kid I can still clearly remember watching the army of ants out front of driveway working together to hoist a larger insect carcass back to the ant hill. In the ocean we hear of dolphins working together as a team to save folks who have been stranded or to fend of a common enemy. The common thread here is the nature has a clear understanding of the value of teaming as a way to accomplish what could never be done alone.

In the corporate world as we think about Innovation it is more important than ever that keep our teams stay focused (and remunerated) across a common goal. Think about DevOps – How do I ever get my developers and operators acting as “One Team”? It all starts with a common goal like achieving a certain number of successful releases a year or launching key business systems on time, on budget and within appropriate SLAs.

Feel the weather and take cover when appropriate

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As a young fisherman I always found it interesting how the fish seemed to know when a storm was coming. They would feed ravenously as the clouds darkened and then go into hiding for several days. Birds and mammals also disappear and go into hiding when major weather events are afoot. They all feel changes to the barometric pressure as an indicator that weather is changing.

Within the corporate world there is definitely a ton of excitement, energy and enthusiasm about driving digital innovation and new services out to market. That being said we need to ensure that we are listening to the “barometric pressure” of our industry. First to market has its advantages but can also sometimes suffer from being too early. Conversely certain business conditions may require you to protect your traditional business until storm clouds clear.

Enjoy your summer folks and get out into Nature…There is a ton of learnings out there that apply to our daily lives!

 

 

 

 

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