Biomimetic file 210: The Matrix Effect

How strategic insertions can reveal corporate secrets

matrix_effect_by_en3rgy16-d4hktcbImage: extract from the motion picture The Matrix, creative commons. The method of *standard addition is a type of quantitative analysis approach often used in analytical chemistry whereby the standard is added directly to the aliquots of analysed sample. This method is used in situations where sample matrix also contributes to the analytical signal, a situation known as the matrix effect, thus making it impossible to compare the analytical signal between sample and standard using the traditional calibration curve approach

Highlight: “A biomimetic sensor has been developed as a promising new analytical method for the determination of cyanide in different samples. The sensor was prepared by modifying a carbon electrode… Recovery studies were carried out using river and drinking water samples and the results obtained demonstrated that it is a reliable alternative method for the detection of this analyte”

Insight: In analytical chemistry, a powerfull technique is called “spiking”. The process of chromatography allows the identification of certain compounds (molecules) in a substance (gaz or liquid). While sometimes the results are oviously identificable, in other instances it is not. Spiking involves tricking the system by voluntarily adding a small amount of a substance to drive a reaction which will clearly indicate the presence or absence of the same substance…

This technique can be applied to business and is a powerful tool to have corporations or individuals reveal details that they would otherwise restrain to tell (e.g. competitiveness issues, sensitive information, non-ethical practices, unlawful practices…) . Indeed, when in confusion it is wise to test an assumption by strategically incorporating a hint in a communication in order to drive a response. In certain cases this will help to clarify the uncertainty. However, this technique must be used cautiously within ethical boundaries and a clear line must be drawn so that the other party does not feel offended  or that they have fallen into a trap. Indeed, lying is not a nice thing to do (and should not be done) to find out an hidden outcome but Spiking is not a lie, it is more of a psychological strategy to drive a voluntary answer from an interlocutor that may reveal a key sought after statement. After all people always have the option to restrain themselves from answering or revealing information they do not which to reveal, it is a basic human right.

For instance lets illustrate the above with the following case study: a businessman has an important meeting with an investment firm interested to acquire part of his business shares. While the businessman has undertaken an in depth background check on this company (its values, financial strengths and stability…) he is still left in the doubt on whether or not the investor is genuine and understands his company’s values and objectives. Besides strong financial performance, this businessman’s Life Sciences company has a long history of doing social good and philanthropy to help communities in need. To continue on his family’s values, the businessman wishes’ that all shareholders understand and respect these values as well. In order to find out, the businessman prepares a range of questions he wishes to asks the investment firm and at one point strategically inserts a well thought statement as a side comment:

“by the way I don’t know if you have heard the news last night but some medical supplies money in Africa has increasingly been diverted to Rwanda to fund the weapons trades which eventually ends up in the hands of local rebels who strait away pressure local communities to slavery, how strange…” 

Seemingly a causal statement well inserted in the context of the conversation about medical supplies in African war zones, at this stage the business is very attentive of every aspects of his interlocutors responses both in his behaviours and answers.

To his surprise the interlocutor does not seem to connect to his statement and quickly moves on with answering the previous question regarding supplies storage.

Through this seemingly small statement the Businessman in a matter of seconds has completely changed his mind regarding this investor and has decided that he will not get this company in because they do not seem sincere about the values of the company.

Are you facing important decision making and unsure about your decisions? If so, perhaps consider a spiking technique and observe responses to the spike. You may be surprised of the outcomes…

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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