I’ve recently noticed an interesting connection between innovation and another organic process that changes the world on a moment by moment basis.
Innovation requires things to die. Innovative and game changing ideas are more likely to be ones people have never tried before. That’s because if they were obvious and had a high probability of success, than by definition, they would have been tried by someone before.
So for innovative ideas, we must look to the fringe where there is a higher volume of ideas, a lower probability of success and a higher probability of being a game changer.
After a business acknowledges this, it becomes necessary to set up a system within your organization that can filter and test these ideas such that you can see if the idea will work or not.
Sound familiar? Nature takes ideas (more accurately, random variation due to the combination of different DNA sets) and “tests” if they work. AKA, nature takes a new idea, puts it into the market and sees if it will live or die.
So if we imagine a species as a business, we see the similarities even more. The species doesn’t want to have its DNA go bananas (that’s b-a-n-a-n-a-s) for every single member of the species in the same way every time two mates have sex and have offspring. You don’t want all ducks having offspring that look like alligators… Nor do you want your entire textile business reinventing itself this month as a chic coffee house. The specie’s strategy is to create many differentiations in each round of offspring. And the ones that work, live. And the ones that don’t, die.
The difference between evolution and business, is that evolution is not intelligent. There is no high duck sitting atop his cloud pulling the strings of his duck populations DNA and saying “Hmmmmm lets try longer tails with this group and this with that group” and seeing what works. Evolution is done randomly and then “selected” based on what lives and dies.
Evolution admits it doesn’t know the future or what will work (because again, if it was obvious what would work.. someone would have tried it already). And business must do the same. As a species you must admit that you don’t know what will work, that you can’t predict the future. Then you can create DNA variations on many of your products and TEST TEST TEST.
That’s organic innovation.
Admittedly, we can be a little more intelligent than evolution in a sense. I know I probably shouldn’t offer poop flavored coffee at my coffee house (or should I… who would have thought the platapus was gonna work out?)… while nature does sometimes do some backassward things (and unfortunately those are the things don’t do well in the market). But we as businesses MUST open up to the fact that:
We do not know what will work. If we did, we would have already done it. So we must organically innovate. Make your species win.