Biomimetic file 199: Metamorphosis

Why undertaking a major business transformation is becoming a necessity

Butterfly Metamorphosis

Picture: Kingofwalpapers. Metamorphosis is a biological process by which an animal physically develops after birth or hatching, involving a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change in the animal’s body structure through cell growth and differentiation.

Highlight: “Locomotion ability, efficiency and reliability are key targets for a good robot…The linkage mechanism for robot locomotion is a discontinuous-constraint metamorphic mechanism…Inspired by controlling strategy of the motor nervous system in peripheral vertebrae to the locomotion, researchers have developed complex mathematical algorithms to improve robot motor control and drive strategies…”

Insight: Never has the business landscape been so unpredictable as it is now considering the fact that businesses are facing multiple threats ranging from political instabilities, disruptive trends (e.g. the rise of robotics, 3D printing, online based services) or mounting environmental pressures translating to stronger regulations. All these add-up to tremendous pressures put on businesses to drastically change their medium to long term strategies; it is no longer a matter of choice but an absolute necessity if a business is to sustain throughout the century.

Moving forward and drastically changing directions is not an easy decision to be made by companies as the outcome could be ultimately catastrophic if the wrong analysis is made and the transition is not managed adequately. The below are key points to consider:

  • ensuring the analysis and predictions are robust and reflect the reality (there is nothing worst than to base a change strategy on wrong initial assumptions);
  • ensuring the change will benefit the business (and not the other way);
  • ensuring a progressive transition (the sooner implemented the better);
  • ensuring the change strategy actually reflect the threats faced;

Are you concerned about the present and future trends on your business?  If so, be proactive in keeping-up with the rapidly evolving landscape and plan a change strategy for the medium to long term. As with a butterfly hatching from its cocoon, a proper business transformation will reflect three distinct phases:

  • Unchanged phase: the business appears to look good but it is in fact unfit for the changes to come;
  • Changing phase: The business may seem dull or facing difficulties when it fact it is getting a defense ready (apparent chaos is a sign of change, this phase must be closely monitored and managed. It is also wise to inform the stakeholders that the business is undergoing a transformation which is usually quite well received if communicated well);
  • Changed phase: A new business arises which, if successful,  looks much better than the initial one in terms of fitness and market competitiveness.

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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 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 (stilling 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? Then 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…

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

Biomimetic file 197: Quantum motion

How Probability Charts can be Powerful Business Tools

566_image

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? Then perhaps consider mapping the outcome on a probability chart as this will set a strong basis for strategic decision making and risk management.

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/

shrodinger

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!

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 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/

Biomimetic file 188: Dormant Processes

How seemingly useless initiatives can be dormant powerful assets

genes-759x415Picture source: University of Washington

Highlight:“Scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have used a world-first technique to change a single letter of DNA in human red blood cells, triggering them to produce more oxygen-carrying haemoglobin…The technique could lead to new treatments for sickle cell anaemia and other life-threatening blood disorders…it has been done through an innovative process that activates a naturally occurring gene that’s normally dormant after birth…”

Insight: A large part of the genetic code is apparently useless! At least this is the conclusion that some geneticists come up with considering the fact that most of the genome does not code for anything we have been able to identify yet (e.g. morphological traits, immune response…). The most serious hypothesis on the matter suggest that nothing is in fact useless but that a large part of our DNA is composed of so called dormant genes which would only come into action at a certain point in our lifetime, for emergencies or for very specific tasks that may never come to use…

This concept is rather interesting and inspiring when applied to the business world. Indeed, in war as in business, the best strategists have always been the ones who think out of the box and seemingly do things that don’t make any sense to most until it actually turns out to be a winning formula.

Similar oddities can also be seen in modern business mega-trends, such as some corporate sustainability practices, which raise many questions on whether they are useful at all to a business considering that they may not have clear positive returns. The point to make here is that if everything in a business has a clear purpose as intended by some, than perhaps this entity is not suited enough to anticipate rapid changes that could differ drastically from the norm. Indeed, besides key business objectives, there should always be dormant processes which may become a lifeline in times of need (this is especially true for large organizations).

Anticipation through dormant processes is in fact the best back-up plan a business can have. Considering regular business failures materialized by massive manpower cuts as an easy response, it is obvious that  many businesses do not have adequate dormant processes to cope with change…

Have you ever come across business practices which don’t seem to make any sense? If so beware of jumping to conclusions as in due time you may simply regret not to have done the same…

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/