Biomimetic file 212: Inductive Thinking

How inductive thinking can lead to strategic risks reductions

induction

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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Biomimetic file 206: Impossible Logic

How reasoning on impossible assumptions can be a powerful rule of thought

possibleImage: Creative commons. An imaginary number* is a complex number that can be written as a real number multiplied by the imaginary unit i, which is defined by its property i2 = −1. The square of an imaginary number bi is −b2. For example, 5i is an imaginary number, and its square is −25.

Highlight: “Microelectronic devices are currently fabricated by using processes that are intrinsically two-dimensional, and the inter-connectivity required in complex systems is achieved by stacking and connecting planar layers of circuits…on the other hand biological structures arise by constrained self-assembly, and are usually three-dimensional (3D)…a new research demonstrates that biomimetic principles of design and self-organization can be applied to generate multifunctional electronic systems of complex, three-dimensional architecture…”

Insight: An important field of mathematics deals with so called imaginary numbers* with practical applications in areas such as microelectronics; as a matter of fact most of our modern devices (e.g. mobile phones) exist because of these algorithms. This field makes outrageous assumptions which defies the fundamental rules of mathematics: assuming that the square root of a number can be a negative entity. Yet, by setting accurate reasoning on this single impossible outcome, an entire field of mathematics was developed and the outcomes of the predictions are undoubtedly correct to the point of being the basis of modern electronics!

What this field of mathematics clearly demonstrates is that it is possible to come up with accurate outcomes even based on inaccurate assumptions. The key is to know (and keep track) that the assumption is incorrect but that the logic surrounding it is correct. It is a very powerful trick to reveal hidden outcomes which would otherwise remain invisible by applying conventional logic.

This mindset can be applied to business: sometimes businesses have to deal with complex happenings that don’t seem to have any apparent solutions.  Yet, looking at problems from another perspective and anticipating changes to come based on impossible assumptions can help to forge strong strategies.

For instance lets imagine the following scenario: an insurance & financial advisory company is about to launch their new offering for retirement. Like it is common practice before the launch of a new insurance package, they develop a computer model which simulates various scenarios based on in-house algorithms developed by their analytical mathematicians. One of the tests involves running a range of impossible outcomes and in this particular case one of these assumptions is that everyone in the United States lives up to 100 years hold (obviously impossible). While running this assumption into the model an unusual behavior is noticed in the algorithm and quickly rectified. Once fixed they continue to run the models based on realistic life expectancy assumptions based on real life data and the product is soon after launched. The point here is that without this impossible assumption the error would not have been noticed as the odd outcome remained too small to be seen under normal realistic assumptions…

Are you stuck with a complex problem that does not seem to have any solution? If so, perhaps try the above approach by projecting outcomes based on false assumptions; you may be surprised with 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…

bluestrike logo

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