Biomimetic file 212: Inductive Thinking

How inductive thinking can lead to strategic risks reductions


Highlight: “In biomimetic or biologically inspired design, designers use analogical reasoning to compare similarities between biological phenomena and design problems, and then transfer analogous strategies to develop design solutions. Researchers observed that although several innovative solutions to engineering problems have been inspired by biological phenomena, challenges still exist in developing generalized methodologies for biomimetic design…a different inductive approach has been proposed…”

Insight: In mathematics, a type of reasoning is called “inductive”. The basics behind such rule of though is simple yet extremely powerful. Basically a typical inductive reasoning would look something like this:

  • An event is true at some point in time;
  • An even is still true at a further point in time;
  • Because the event has been consistently true on many occasions, it is assumed that the event will continue to be true with a high probability of outcome (this probability can be assessed).

The downside of this type of reasoning is to fall within the trap of assuming that the events will always be true or in other words being overconfident. Perfect inductive reasoning while working in certain applications such as micro physics where predominant forces and little disturbances occur does not work flawlessly in our everyday world. Indeed, in business for instance a successful outcome may be replicable many times but there will  be exceptions where the outcome differs because of external disturbances (e.g. economic fluctuations, accidents, unforeseen events…). Noting the above such mathematical reasoning framework is still inspirational when forging business strategies because:

  • If an event is replicable it is worth noticing and adjusting policies based on this high probability of outcome to improve processes;
  • Knowing the probability of success will help forge stronger strategies and manage the risks;

We all use inductive thinking once in a while without being conscious of it. For instance every time we take a plane there is a very small probability that something may happen, yet most of us are willing to take the risks knowing that:

  • This plane/company/aircraft type has been flying for x period of time;
  • So far nothing has ever happen to this fleet;
  • Based on the large number of flights without incidents there is a high probability that nothing will happen on my flight…
  • Therefore, I’m willing to take the risk.

Are you facing difficult decisions that may have outcomes involving a long history? If so, remember to assess the probability of success based on historical records and take decisions after you know the probability of outcome…

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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