Biomimetic file 202: Torpor

How dormant scheduling can be a powerful business strategy

o-international-space-station-facebookImage: International Space Station. Hibernation* is a state of inactivity and metabolic depression in endotherms. Hibernation refers to a season of heterothermy that is characterized by low body temperature, slow breathing and heart rate, and low metabolic rate.

Highlight: “Given the compelling nature of the hibernation* concept, the European Space Agencies’ (ESA) Advanced Concepts Team has studied the technical feasibility of, and possible performance gains from this technology, with the help of biomedical scientists… There are many mammals, of at least six mammalian orders, which exhibit Torpor (the state of hibernation)….despite still being far from practical human applications, the study has identified a range of high potential aspects: inhibiting the shivering mechanism to lower body temperature; variation in the human metabolism; modulation of cell-nucleus activity (DADLE and hydrogen sulphide); regulation of genes expression…”

Insight: Hibernation is practiced by some species as a mean to escape the winter months. It is not a spontaneous decision but on the other end a well-planned and prepared strategy to adapt to a known regular inconvenient outcome.

In business sometimes a spontaneous immediate reaction to a disruptive event is not the best solution and putting the problem “to sleep” is literally a preferred outcome.

As an illustration let’s imagine that a potato chips company comes up with a great marketing tagline “the world’s best hot spicy crispy potatoes” which works extremely well for a few weeks until an unforeseen political event makes this tagline become inappropriate (and unmarketable): in a burst of anger, a politician has referred to a foreign diplomat as a “hot spicy crispy potato” (obviously a purely unlikely fictional scenario!). Thereafter, the company decides to suspend the marketing campaign for a period of 6 months until the situation becomes favorable again and that their tagline is no longer directly associated with this happening, which has become a temporary media sensation.

In today’s world, the speed at which information flows on media channels will increasingly lead to a need for dynamic corporate statements adjustments. For instance, in this scenario, an immediate problem that may occur is through search engines taglines and keywords: “hot spicy crispy potato” may now show-up primarily as an unwanted political event rather than the companies’ beloved tagline, thus affecting sales…

The “hibernation approach” can lead to a few outcomes:

  • The program is simply put on halt to be reinstated at a later stage;
  • The program is put on hold to be re-evaluated and if need be modified;
  • The program is put on hold and cancelled due to unrecoverable conditions.

Are you anticipating/encountering disruptive change that cannot be solved instantly? If so, perhaps consider a “hibernation approach” and reinstalling the program when/if the external conditions become favourable again. In business as in life, taking a step back and allocating the time to evaluate is a key attribute…

More information here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species or natural systems on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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