Biomimetic file 198: Lords of War

Why setting appropriate business defenses is increasingly becoming a priority

sea-battlePicture: Sea Battle scene, Sheet from the album of Adrian van der Salm, 1707

Highlight: “One of the parade examples of agent coordination through a shared environment is the use of chemical markers, or pheromones, for path planning in insect colonies…Researchers have developed a digital analog of this mechanism that is well suited to problems such as the control of unmanned robotic vehicles…several promising mechanisms have been developed for general agent coordination and air combat missions…”

Insight: Social insects can teach us a great deal about defense strategies that can be applied to business. In order to defend their elaborate nests and colonies, certain species of ants have developed remarkable behaviors that are marvels of logistical adaptation.

In today’s world, businesses are increasingly facing harsh competition and threats from multiple angles which can at any time jeopardize the entire organization and its future to operate. Threats can be in the form of digital breach (hacking), physical (e.g. terrorist) or most often ethical wars (stealing of information and copyright infringements).

A  key strategic framework can be summarized in three phases:

a) Prepare: Be aware of the potential threats. This is a constant effort that needs to be flexible and adaptable to the dynamic conditions of the world. Like in a war situation room, major businesses should always be on their guards and on the look-out for potential developing threats;

b) Sense: It is not enough to be aware that a threat is out there, one must also be able to sense a potential attack. Setting-up defenses is key to the business integrity, whether it is firewalls for IT infrastructures, facilities check points or trackers to identify legal breach;

c) React: In times of crisis, if caught by surprise, one does not have time to prepare an appropriate defense and is likely to react the wrong way, causing major and lasting damages to the business (this is often underestimated and realized too late). That is why it is so crucial to anticipate and have a defense ready in case;

In the end, running a business is not much different then fighting a war in that strategic planning and readiness are key to success. Are you fighting a business war? If so, perhaps remember the “PSR approach” and that readiness is key to sustainable success…

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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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Biomimetic file 197: Quantum motion

How Probability Charts can be Powerful Business Tools

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Image source: Lithium atom electronic wave, CNRS. *Note: The Schrodinger equation is used to find the allowed energy levels of quantum mechanical systems (such as atoms, or transistors). The associated wavefunction gives the probability of finding the particle at a certain position.

Highlight: “Researchers have studied natural photosynthesis processes in a range of species from terrestrial plants to aquatic algae in order to specifically better understand the micro processes involved and to apply the findings to fields such as Photonics using quantum theories…”

Insight: In the field of Quantum Physics scientists have to deal with happenings that are impossible to see without high tech instruments. However, the field has managed to develop robust mathematical tools to predict the behaviors of these systems with a remarkable high level of confidence.

For instance, the Schrodinger equation* (personally my favorite of all equations), allows to predict the position of a subatomic particle at a given point in time. It is not possible to know exactly where it is but what this tool provides is a powerful prediction of its position range illustrated as a probability of occurrence within a narrow space and following specific patterns given the dynamic conditions.

This ideology is applicable to businesses especially large corporations which have to deal with complex prediction models. There are a range of factors which cannot be seen or known for sure but using the right tools and assumptions can give a good idea.

As an illustration, lets say a large agribusiness is facing production losses from insect invasions on its fields and would like to apply an Eco-friendly spray (that is just me being optimist) to control it. Since insects migrations are non static and have a high degree of unpredictability in their patterns, it is not possible to know for sure where exactly the impacts will be. However, models based on a number of realistic assumptions such as previous events or weather conditions can help to chart a probable path of these events to prepare a meaningful action plan which would be more economically viable.

Are you facing situations which require mapping an invisible complex happening? If so, perhaps consider mapping the outcome on a probability chart as this will set a strong basis for strategic decision making and risk management.

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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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http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

shrodinger

Biomimetic file 196: Exponential Disruptions

How an Understanding of Exponential Behaviors Can Benefit Businesses

main-qimg-7c47724e131d532d5b6986453f82b291

Exponential growth occurs when the growth rate of the value of a mathematical function is proportional to the function’s current value, resulting in its growth with time being an exponential function. Exponential decay occurs in the same way when the growth rate is negative

Highlight: “Population growth or decay tend to follow exponential curves…Researchers at the University of Michigan have explored reproduction patterns in micro-organisms to further understand this remarkable outcome…One of the research finding is that  in a population the effective intrinsic rate of increase actually changes as the density of the population changes… a new biological concept was used in developing this theory — the carrying capacity…”

Insight: In nature it is not uncommon to encounter systems behaviors which follow exponential growth patterns. Examples would include certain populations growth or decline. The point is that what starts as a small insignificant trend can sometimes escalate tremendously fast to become a major dominant outcome.

This behavior is important in the business world as well for instance when anticipating changes, managing risks or making strategic decisions. While most tend to plan based on linear  uninterrupted flow assumptions, anticipating such possible patterns and incorporating them in planning is crucial because they have the potential to completely alter all other plans.

There are complex mathematical models which can incorporate, to some extent, this type of behaviors in planning strategies but perhaps an easier way around it is simply to accept that it is a possible outcome and to have a plan B ready in case. Plan B would typically drastically differ from plan A in that the exponential outcome would have completely reshuffled priorities.

For instance lets say that a new product is being tested on the market and it turns out that its sales significantly grow following exponential curves. Thereafter, this new product  suddenly becomes the company’s main sales strategy and requires full attention over other aspects which were until then prioritized. This type of situation, while seemingly a great news for the company, can in fact turn out disastrous if unplanned and managed inappropriately because the new focus could turn out to be destructive to other operations…

Are you already established and planning for new releases or changes? If so perhaps anticipate potential exponential outcomes and prepare yourself accordingly in order to prevent this disruption from creating an hazardous unbalance in your business…

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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http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

Biomimetic file 195: The Great Migrations

How Mobility and Flexibility will Define Future Leading Businesses

2209582828_123c913f37_oImage Source: BirdLife International

Highlight: “Nowadays, stress has become an integral part of our day-to-day life and hence everyone of us has to face it in one way or another. The stress is created by various factors known as stressors… They may be, environmental, physiological, social or cognitive…A critical study of the behaviors of some long-migrating birds provides some basic principles involved in the successful management of stress… Researchers have identified the basic principles as: 1. Principle of avoidance, 2. Principle of adaptation and 3. Principle of acceptance…”

Insight: Many species live a nomadic lifestyle constantly adapting to changing environments and moving with resources availability. In a similar way, businesses will increasingly be required to be mobile and adaptable in order to keep-up with the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the global economic landscape.

The traditional business settings which have prevailed most of the 20th century are becoming obsolete. That is the type of businesses with well established and preset employee behaviors as well as expensive fixed facilities and office spaces. Instead, the new leaders are quickly arising as enterprises with a mobile workforce and open mindset on employees geography and work arrangements.

There are many roles out there (especially anything to do with some type of consulting) which only require employees to hold a laptop computer and be constantly on the move and available. After all we live in the era of long distance communications where many new options have become possible and efficient. All is required is strong self discipline and trust between employers and employees.

A simple yet robust framework can be set:

  1. Set up a client work plan involving clear deliverables and deadlines;
  2. Always submit work on time and within the expected standards (or else be subject to disciplinary actions: a) a verbal warning, b) a written warning c) dismissal from the company);
  3. Make yourself available for face to face meetings when required and given a reasonable notice;
  4. Keep people you need in the loop (e.g. your employer/clients) on communications such as email exchanges ;
  5. all others, up to you and following a “that is not my problem” mindset, whether you do the work in your bathtub , at the beach, at a cafe or from home, as long as rule 2 is stringently met…

Too many companies (including large corporations) have gotten their priorities wrong still strongly stuck with hold fashion concepts such as the belief that staying in an office from 8am to 6pm daily is synonymous with productivity (this is especially apparent in Asia) ! A number of successful startups are already applying “new age”  frameworks but few if any have really applied the concept to its full potential. An obvious limitation is that many people still require the comfort of an office or are in desperate need of social interactions; so offering a choice to talented employees between a small smart office setting or a fully flexible work plan is still advised.

Are you planning to set up a business? If so perhaps consider a next generation business model described above, you may be surprised of the outcome. However in the end, regardless of new or old business model, success comes down to the trust (it can only be confirmed with time) you put in the people you hire and their ability to deliver; make smart choices…

On a last note BlueStrike wishes all its followers a merry Christmas and a happy new year 2017!

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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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http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

Biomimetic file 194: Gauss Curves

How an understanding of Gaussian distribution can benefit business strategies

main-qimg-2fe1a237ae44004c798bc4c004793c8d-c

Picture: a typical normal distribution: A normal distribution is an arrangement of a data set in which most values cluster in the middle of the range and the rest taper off symmetrically toward either extreme.

Highlight: “Researchers have recently taken visual solutions present in nature to incorporate them in a computer algorithm that radically improves the quality of sequences collected in dim light…This was made possible by studying nocturnal insects which are uniquely adapted to a life in dim light..these adaptations were discovered by recording the responses of photo-receptors to Gaussian-distributed white noise light stimuli in nocturnal insects…”

Insight: In nature many systems follow Gaussian distributions. It is one of the best mathematical representations (along perhaps with exponential growth) to describe the behaviors of natural systems. Factors such as populations dynamics, follow such patterns.

Gaussian distributions go beyond natural systems and are also a good assumption to many phenomenons which involve large amounts of data. In business for instance, the behavior of consumers towards a particular product or marketing campaigns outcomes would typically follow Gaussian distributions.

While there are many statistical tools that can be used to make assumptions with various degrees of certitude, keeping in mind the easy to visualize bell shaped curve can really help to forge robust business strategies through realistic risk management in anticipation of failure rates.

Basically what it hints is that in an outcome involving large numbers, the  majority would be spread around the mean while a narrow few would go towards the extremes which in this case would be defined as failure or success; In other words the probability of a very successful/unsuccessful outcome will be small while average outcomes would be largely predominant…

Are you working on a plan that involves large numbers? If so, perhaps verify if the distribution would be favorable for Gaussian outcomes (there are statistical tools to help making this assumption) and anticipate accordingly. Keeping in mind the Gaussian distribution, one success strategy is to aim for the largest possible numbers (e.g potential customers) in order to maximize the chances of successful 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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http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

Biomimetic file 193: Leapfrogging

How innovation increments management is crucial to keeping a competitive edge

0ce4fd4d779cadcb75369a350b538d20Image source: pinterest.com

Highlight: “To improve the maneuverability and agility of jumping robots, several researchers have studied steerable jumping mechanisms…This steering ability enables robots to reach a particular target by controlling their jumping direction… The key design principles were adopted from the frog-hopper’s power-producing hind legs and the moment cancellation accomplished by synchronized leg operation…”

Insight: Frogs are known for their ability to move by making significant jumps. Unlike many species which would use a more energy saving linear type of motion, frogs focus their energy on a few but distance covering moves to secure their escape from preys.

This type of leaping motion is inspirational and can be applied to business innovation strategies. Indeed, the need to innovate is a constant battle for corporations that need to keep themselves ahead of the competition. There are three possible options: to make regular small improvements to their existing products (the most commonly seen), to make very significant improvements (or even provide a completely new approach) but at less regular intervals or sometimes a mix of the two.

The reality is that true innovations can only come from significant leapfrogging improvements which in terms push others to top-up their games. Game changers are less common and industrial wars through practices such as reverse engineering are all too common leading to the small increments (low innovation) model that we observe in the market place.

Are you planning to release an upgrade? If so, perhaps think of your strategic objective; if the idea is only to keep yourself competitive and follow the flow, than choose the small increments strategy. However, if you intend to be a game changer go towards the leapfrogging alternative. Noteworthy is that revolutionary improvements are also associated with a significantly higher risk factor as they will disrupt and possibly confuse the consumers as opposed to the much safer small increments strategy which appeals to an already convinced customer pool…

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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http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

Biomimetic file 192: Anger Management

How containing frustration is key to ones business integrity

octopus-inkImage source: creative commons

Highlight: “Octopuses are widely admired for their intelligence, their skill as escape artists, and their extraordinary ability to camouflage themselves…Materials scientists are also taken by the adhesive properties of their tentacles. By controlling the pressure in their suckers, the Cephalopods can rapidly grab onto and then release themselves from just about any surface they come across as they make their way along the ocean floor…researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea have made octopus-inspired adhesives…the adhesives can be used in the transfer printing of nanomaterials to make flexible electronics and compound-semiconductor devices on silicon…”

Insight: The common octopus when in sense of danger has a rather drastic reaction, it releases an ink like substance that allows it to escape quickly while temporarily blinding its surrounding occupants. On the other end other octopus species adopt a very different strategy by mimicking (skin colors/patterns and behaviors) their environment in order to blend in…

These two very different cases of stress adaptations within the Cephalopods provide inspiration to yet another key business philosophy. While we all once in a while face situations where we feel like a quick escape, in business that is rarely a good idea. Indeed, containing ones frustrations is a key asset that will allow to overcome most situations. As a matter of fact in the business world frustrations and challenges are omnipresent and learning to contain and hide negative emotions can only be beneficial in the short and long term. Blending, in order to  escape smoothly, is a rather good strategy even if it means to temporarily accept situations that go against ones beliefs…

Are you facing difficulties at work and feel frustrated to the point of “slapping the door” ? If so perhaps adopt the strategy of a mimic octopus rather than that of a short tempered ink escapee!

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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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http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

 

 

Biomimetic file 191: the art of attraction

How familiarity and likeness are key attributes to business marketing strategies

02-01sm-640x426Image source: Scienceline. Attraction*: the action or power of evoking interest in or liking for someone or something

Highlight: “Carnivorous plants, among them tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes spp.), have always fascinated people due to their remarkable ability to attract* and feed on animals…these plants are now used as model systems for various biomimetic applications…a current cooperative project between the Zoological Institute at the Kiel University and the Institute of Chemistry of New Materials at the University of Osnabrueck aims at the development of hierarchical anti-adhesive materials by mimicking the slippery zone in N. alata pitchers…”

Insight: An interesting aspect of carnivorous plants is their remarkable ability to attract animal prays despite their obvious disadvantage of being mostly static as opposed to their highly mobile prays. It appears that one key strategy besides having developed various ingenious physiological traps is the art to attract prays in the first place. For instance certain species make use of sugary solutions to attract such substance loving insects…

These species adaptations offer an inspiration for business marketing strategies. Indeed, in order to attract customers a proven successful strategy is to develop products that have an obvious similarity (or clearly assimilates) to something which people are already known to like and be familiar with. As a matter of fact the reference to specific species or wildlife traits is omnipresent in products marketing and branding campaigns such as various luxury car brands built on fast and powerful animals…

Are you planning to launch a new product? If so, perhaps ensuring that it reflects obvious similarities to something that people straight away recognize and like could give a significant hedge over the competition. It appears to be basic customer psychology that in order to attract one must first inspire confidence and likeness; products that are “too innovative” and drive a sense of confusion rarely succeed…

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…

bluestrike logo

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

 

Biomimetic file 190: Polarized vision

How perception can drastically influence business decisions

634bc15a53c38c3d7807e548390c3b44Image source:  Electron microscopic view of the eye of a fly; pinterest.com

Highlight: “Many organisms have photosensitive sensors which enable them to respond to various light phenomenons…while most insects are sensitive to a particular occurrence of polarization, most primates are not…a team of researchers have gained inspiration from studying these natural sensors to develop a range of simple instruments that make possible to reveal what was previously hidden…”

Insight: Species in the animal kingdom perceive the world very differently than we do. Indeed, almost all the spectrum of light radiations is represented and species have developed very specialized eyes or other reception organs in order to perceive the world in the most favorable way possible (mostly for hunting prays and avoidance).

As a matter of fact our vision of the world is rather restricted since we only have access to a small part of the spectrum in the visible light range. Gaining access to other parts of the spectrum such as the UV, Infrared or Microwaves can reveal very different and useful aspects of the world that surround us; think of the tremendous progresses which have been made in fields such as astronomy or medicine…

em_spectrum

Image: Spectrum of light. The visible light range to which we humans have access is only a very small portion of it…

An applied business point to make here is that most people only see the outside of corporations, what they want you to see. But digging further and looking at them with a “different eye” starts to reveal the true colors of enterprises. Aspects such as their operations, their impacts on the world and society, the way they deal with their finances, all these and more tell a lot about a company and most importantly its fitness in the current and future business landscape.

Do you intend to invest in a business or perhaps just buy a stock? If so perhaps remember to look at it with various pairs of eyes…

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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…

bluestrike logo

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/

Biomimetic file 189: Lifeline Reserves

How being financially prepared can be crucial to businesses in times of need

honey-pot-ants
Image source: Honeypot ant, strangeanimals.info

Highlight: “Many insects, notably honey bees and some wasps, collect and store liquid food for use at a later date. However, these insects store their food within their nest or in combs… Honey ants are unique in using their own bodies as living storage, used later by their fellow ants when food is otherwise scarce… When the liquid stored inside a honeypot ant is needed, the worker ants stroke the antennae of the honeypot ant, causing the honeypot ant to regurgitate the stored liquid from its crop…”

Insight: While it is common sense that businesses should put money on the side for times of difficulties (like individuals should), the preparation is often obviously not enough.  Indeed, it has become almost common practice, especially for large corporations, to deal with financial difficulties in the easiest way possible: through moderate and sometimes massive manpower cuts. This practice is commonly simply the result of failure to anticipate business slowdowns which are in fact inevitable.

While it is sometimes indeed inevitable to lay people off in order to keep the business afloat, the practice is exaggerated and often unjustified. A common excuse sounds something like: “we are worth billions in assets but we don’t have enough cash flow right now to pay salaries!”. What businesses should do instead is perhaps to set aside special accounts with high interest rates to prepare specifically  for times of economic slow down; that is readily available cash money on the side (not only assets such as properties that take time to liquidate).

With such simple measure in place it becomes much easier to absorb economic difficulties while maintaining the workforce through a financial storm which usually only last a matter of months. Also worth highlighting is the fact that the damages resulting from manpower losses verses financial savings gained from manpower cuts is often underestimated as corporations often struggle to recover and need to reinvest heavily in hiring and training of new staff; not to forget the damages induced to the brand.

Do you fear for your workforce future? If so perhaps consider setting up special manpower bumper accounts as a lifeline for the workforce…

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…

bluestrike logo

http://www.bluestrike-group.com/