# Biomimetic file 206: Impossible Logic

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

Image: 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…

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…

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

# Biomimetic file 204: Feedbacks

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

Image 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…

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…

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

# Biomimetic file 203: Transporters

## How the choice of information delivery is crucial to business performance

Image: Cell Membrane Transport Proteins. A membrane transport protein* (or simply transporter) is a membrane protein involved in the movement of ions, small molecules, or macromolecules, such as another protein, across a biological membrane.

Highlight:“Biological membranes constitute the set of membranes defining boundaries and organelles in living cells–the structural and functional building blocks of all known living organisms… The integrity of the cell depends on its ability to separate inside from outside and yet at the same time allow massive transport of matter in and out the cell… Nature has elegantly met this challenge by developing membranes in the form of lipid bilayers in which specialized and highly efficient transport proteins are incorporated…based on these observations, researchers have developed high performance semi-permeable membranes …the applications for the bio pharmaceutical industry are tremendous…”

Insight: There are many examples in nature that use transporters to carry a signal. For instance cell functions use Membrane Transport Proteins* to allow information to transit through the cellular walls.

Applications in areas as far as telecommunications can be found. We all use mobile phones but few have a clue of the technology behind it. As a matter of fact the principles at the very core of these devices use sophisticated mathematics to encrypt and receive information. One of these is known as Wave Carriers whereby a weak information containing signal is carried by a more powerful one in order to cover the required distances, a bit like a car hoping onto a high speed train. The principle is basically using a three phase approach: encoding-transport-decoding.

The use of carrier signals is common in modern telecommunications to transport information

A point to make here is that it is crucial to choose the right transportation mode for a given information… For instance If you require information to flow to your employees internally, the use of a speaker (human) which will dispatch the message small groups at a time is probably the most effective; on the other hand, if you require to inform stakeholders throughout the world on an important update, social media may be the best choice; if you require classified information to reach specific people an encrypted message or in person delivery may be used…

While it seems common sense, the misuse of communication means in businesses is surprisingly common which often leads to problems affecting not only performance but in most serious cases even  corporate or individuals reputation. Recent political messages leaks during  the US election campaign is a good example of such…

Are you facing difficulties to communicate information across? If so always consider your options before jumping to the first or easiest communication means as the implications can be far greater than thought. A set of simple questions can be used to quickly decide on the choice of the transporter:

• What is the nature of the information?
• Who is the information intended to?
• Where does the information need to go?
• When does the information need to reach?

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…

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

# Biomimetic file 202: Torpor

## How dormant scheduling can be a powerful business strategy

Image: International Space Station. Hibernation* is a state of inactivity and metabolic depression in endotherms. Hibernation refers to a season of heterothermy that is characterized by low body temperature, slow breathing and heart rate, and low metabolic rate.

Highlight: “Given the compelling nature of the hibernation* concept, the European Space Agencies’ (ESA) Advanced Concepts Team has studied the technical feasibility of, and possible performance gains from this technology, with the help of biomedical scientists… There are many mammals, of at least six mammalian orders, which exhibit Torpor (the state of hibernation)….despite still being far from practical human applications, the study has identified a range of high potential aspects: inhibiting the shivering mechanism to lower body temperature; variation in the human metabolism; modulation of cell-nucleus activity (DADLE and hydrogen sulphide); regulation of genes expression…”

Insight: Hibernation is practiced by some species as a mean to escape the winter months. It is not a spontaneous decision but on the other end a well-planned and prepared strategy to adapt to a known regular inconvenient outcome.

In business sometimes a spontaneous immediate reaction to a disruptive event is not the best solution and putting the problem “to sleep” is literally a preferred outcome.

As an illustration let’s imagine that a potato chips company comes up with a great marketing tagline “the world’s best hot spicy crispy potatoes” which works extremely well for a few weeks until an unforeseen political event makes this tagline become inappropriate (and unmarketable): in a burst of anger, a politician has referred to a foreign diplomat as a “hot spicy crispy potato” (obviously a purely unlikely fictional scenario!). Thereafter, the company decides to suspend the marketing campaign for a period of 6 months until the situation becomes favorable again and that their tagline is no longer directly associated with this happening, which has become a temporary media sensation.

In today’s world, the speed at which information flows on media channels will increasingly lead to a need for dynamic corporate statements adjustments. For instance, in this scenario, an immediate problem that may occur is through search engines taglines and keywords: “hot spicy crispy potato” may now show-up primarily as an unwanted political event rather than the companies’ beloved tagline, thus affecting sales…

The “hibernation approach” can lead to a few outcomes:

• The program is simply put on halt to be reinstated at a later stage;
• The program is put on hold to be re-evaluated and if need be modified;
• The program is put on hold and cancelled due to unrecoverable conditions.

Are you anticipating/encountering disruptive change that cannot be solved instantly? If so, perhaps consider a “hibernation approach” and reinstalling the program when/if the external conditions become favourable again. In business as in life, taking a step back and allocating the time to evaluate is a key attribute…

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…

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

# Biomimetic file 201: Blossom

## How to manage nonlinear productivity

Image: creative commons. Blossom*: In botany, blossoms are the flowers of stone fruit trees (genus Prunus) and of some other plants with a similar appearance that flower profusely for a period of time in spring.

Highlight:“The giant Arum (Amorphoohallus titanum) reaches 3m in height and has the largest blossom in the plant kingdom. The giant pleated “petal” (spathe) weighs almost 4kg: the largest light-weight construction among plants or even in organisms…researchers have used the fabric as inspirations for new generation construction materials…”

Insight: In temperate climates spring is synonymous with a significant increase in wildlife activity; after the long months of winter when life is in a dormant state everything suddenly speeds-up tremendously to make the most of a narrow window preparing for the summer months; productivity is at its utmost stage.

It is not an unknown fact that human productivity is nonlinear, on a daily basis we are typically only productive for a few hours at most. Companies that claim that long working hours are synonymous with productivity are in the wrong. As a matter of fact some countries like Sweden get away with a ridiculously low day working hours while sustaining a productive economy (and a happy lifestyle). This is supported by psychological tests that demonstrate that our attention span cannot be sustained at its optimum level and that there will inevitably be peaks and downs of productivity.

Learning to know ones limits and productive states can be a great asset in being more productive as  individuals and within teams. That can be done by managing energy levels, knowing ones physiology or simply experimenting with daily routines that make the most of potential productivity stages which can vary greatly between individuals.

Some typical aspects that can influence productivity in people may include:

• A specific time of the day (or night);
• Specific food sources/nutrition;
• Lifestyle (remaining in good physical shape and keeping a happy state of mind);
• Sleep management;
• Time management (work and personal).

Do you know your productivity profile? If not, think about it and ask yourself what and when makes you more productive. This simple exercise can lead to overall significant performance and time management improvement …

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…

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

# Biomimetic file 200: Entropy

## Why maintaining order is key to business integrity

Picture 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…

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…

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

# Biomimetic file 199: Metamorphosis

## Why undertaking a major business transformation is becoming a necessity

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;
• ensuring the change strategy actually reflect the threats faced;

Are you concerned about the present and future trends on your business?  If so, perhaps 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.

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…

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

# Biomimetic file 198: Lords of War

## Why setting appropriate business defenses is increasingly becoming a priority

Picture: 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…

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…

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

# Biomimetic file 197: Quantum motion

## How Probability Charts can be Powerful Business Tools

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.

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…

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

# Biomimetic file 196: Exponential Disruptions

## How an Understanding of Exponential Behaviors Can Benefit Businesses

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…