Biomimetic file 204: Feedbacks

Why the implementation of feedback loops is important to manage project risks

earth-05Image NASA. “Anthropic response as a positive feedback to the global change phenomenon is one to worry about” …Feedback*: in biology, a response within a system (molecule, cell, organism, or population) that influences the continued activity or productivity of that system. In essence, it is the control of a biological reaction by the end products of that reaction.

Highlight: “Researchers at MIT have introduced a novel Balance Feedback *Interface (BFI) that addresses the problem of bilateral feedback for tele-operation of humanoid robots…by studying various feedback response processes found in natural systems including in the human body, the team was able to model complex bilateral communications between machine and operator…the result is a humanoid robot with precision and sensitivity beyond anything achieved to date…applications include distance tele-operated surgery”

Insight: Many natural processes are not as static as they seem but are in fact dynamic systems which have reached equilibrium that require continuous adjustments to surrounding conditions. Basically there are two types of feedbacks: positive ones would improve a given process while negative feedbacks would alter it. A good example of that is the climate system (I have previously posted specifically on this aspect here).

Doing business is no different than certain natural cycle functions in that it needs constant adjustments to adapt to ongoing changes. When implementing processes or change strategies, it is of primary importance to concurrently develop effective feedback mechanisms in order to monitor the evolution of the changes.

While it may seem common sense, too often projects are successfully implemented but fail overtime because no adequate feedback mechanisms have been put in place. A process without its adequate control tools is not easily manageable. For instance it is not conceivable to develop a website these days without a proper associated Content Management System (CMS), and similarly the same system/system control approach should apply to any sizable project. Obvious direct benefits include:

  • Being able to monitor the evolution;
  • Being able to react in time based on those information;
  • Keeping performance records;
  • Due diligence.

Are you planning to implement change in the form of a new project? If so remember to concurrently develop a feedback monitoring platform which will allow to keep track and adjust…

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 200: Entropy

Why maintaining order is key to business integrity

smoke_texture2788Picture source: creative commons. *In physical terms, entropy is a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system. ..In other words entropy measures the lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder…

Highlight:”Researchers from the Universidad de Guanajuato have developed new types of fuel cells partly inspired from processes found in species…One of the key findings shows the best flow field to minimize the entropy* production…”

Insight: Entropy is omnipresent in nature, it is a general observation rule that natural systems tend to stabilize overtime at the lowest energy levels. For instance plants would grow where they get the most exposure to sunlight, birds would adopt flight patterns that are most efficient. As a matter of fact, deviation from order is a path to species extinctions…

In business, disorder (high entropy) is often synonymous with poor performance. Once a business operations become in a state of disorder, chaotic outcomes can quickly escalate leading the business in a state of crisis.

A personal case I came across was the visit of a Japanese car parts manufacturing plant in Cambodia, I was amazed by the level of order in the manufacturing chains, everything seemed to be perfectly in place and following very precise procedures. On the other hand, not long after I visited a steel processing plant in Indonesia and was struck by the level of disorder in all aspects of the company. After a bit of background study on these two companies it turned out that the first had seen record breaking profits while the second was in financial difficulties. while they may be other factors involved, order in operations (and overall management) was certainly a key contributor to the success of the first company …

The below indicators are key to assessing the state of disorder and should act as red flags that a company is in a “high entropy state”:

  • Escalating systems failure rates;
  • Poor safety records;
  • high employees turnover.

Do you operate a business that involves complex chains and processes? If so do not overlook the need to keep operations in order as it will reflect positively on outputs and safety records…There are various external certification that can facilitate (but not replace good governance) the maintenance of order such as certain ISO standards (e.g. 9001, quality control) which in today’s competitive market are no longer an option but a must to remain trustworthy, attractive and competitive…

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 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…

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 187: Dance of the Honeybee

Why communications are crucially important to business health

shutterstock_109065071-cutImage source: emperion.net

Highlight: “The honeybee dance communication system is one of the most intriguing examples of information transfer in the animal kingdom…After returning from a valuable food source honeybee foragers move vigorously, in a highly stereotypical pattern, on the comb surface conveying polar coordinates of the field site…After 60 years of intense research it remains still unknown how the bees decode the dance… To resolve this question a team of researchers have built a robotic honeybee that is able to reproduce all stimuli found to be generated in the dance… By imitating single stimuli or combinations and tracking the bees’ ensuing behavior they were able to identify essential signals in the communication process…”

Insight: What social insects can teach us is that body language and patterns can be greatly effective at communicating even complex issues but that both parties need to clearly understand the language rules.

Miss-communications in business is common and responsible for tremendous income losses through mistakes and resulting poor performance. These miscommunications range from language barriers to inter-department jargon (e.g. engineers communicating with accountants), sign languages misunderstandings or simply overall poor language skills…

Some sectors are rather stringent about their communications skills: for instance an airplane pilot misunderstanding the ground staff is not an option (and vise versa) as is a columnist journalist misspelling some words. However, this is not always the norm and many companies do not put as much emphasis as they should on their employees’ communication skills (even for staff holding key positions) which reflects rather poorly on their performance as a business entity.

Are you planning to hire? If so, perhaps do not omit to investigate communication skills. In today’s interconnected world the ability to communicate effectively is definitely one of the most important skills one can have.

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/