Wednesday, 7 October 2015


Most business evolves in a classical evolutionary way. Through slow mutations in their approach to doing business, which leads to the business being more or less successful and in a survival of the fittest way - the strongest mutated variants win through. The most common way businesses “mutate” is through making a whole series of what is know as kaizen innovations – small baby step improvements and changes to increase the efficiency of a business.

Most kaizen improvement are logical evolutionary steps. If we do this we think we will make more money.

All of life evolves in this way, through trial and error. There are some interesting things thought that can happen if you break out of the evolutionary approach to development. Start to create things that never could emerge as a result of “market forces” of the demands of customers.

What do I mean by this, well the example I would like to use to illustrate this is the “unstable jet”.  

Imagine a bird evolving a really really long beak, the longer the beak in theory, the more efficiently the bird could cut through the air and the faster if could fly. The problem with having a really long beak though is you reaches a point of instability, because a tiny fluctuation in the movement of the tip of the beak or a gust of air in a different direction and the beak could be deflected and instantly act like a sale and the bird would flip over its nose. As a result there are no birds with really really long beaks like this as they would be unstable.

However imagine a bird with a really long beak and a the end of it there was a sensor and small computerized navigation system that could make microadjustments to the direct of the “beak” to ensure that its always in a stable position facing directly into the headwind and not deflected off course by a gust of wind and now you have designed what in theory is a bird that can fly faster because it can cut through the air more efficiently. Unfortunately no bird is likely to evolove this extra step because the solution is “non-evolutionary”. It can never get there by baby step "kaizen" mutations.  It takes a major new "non-evolutionary" improvement to get over the hurdle of an unstable beak. 

 Yet Man has been able to make this non evolutionary improvement that would have been impossible in the natural world and we have designed jets now with exactly this feature.

And this is the type of non-evolutionary form or innovation that I am particularly interested in.

Most of the establish businesses that are killed off are by major disruptive innovations like this – business solutions and leaps of improvement that break the classic evolutionary kaizen business development model. The step changes that existing businesses cannot make because it would result in the total cannibalization of their existing business (making them unstable).

To get there businesses need to take a completely different approach to innovation stop thinking about what would make money and start focusing on what is possible. What would happen if....To think more abstractly about what could happen if this other thing happened.  To cross connect ideas. To build field of dreams. To invest in the connecting points.  To look out for the non-evolutionary leaps.

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