An octopus

By Josh Urich via   Article

What biology has to teach us about living in an unpredictable world

“No one can see the future. Some people can make good guesses, but that’s all they are––guesses. And good guesses are usually sandwiched by a lot of bad ones. The fact is, we have to be adaptable, ready to deal with whatever comes our way. We can take a lot of lessons in adaptability from the world around us. Nature thrives on adaptability. Specifically, Harvard Business Review points out a few key lessons to draw from the biological world. Here’s one:

Decentralization. The most successful biological organisms are structured or organized in such a way as to eschew centralized control in favor of allowing multiple agents to independently sense and quickly respond to change. An octopus, despite its surprisingly intelligent brain, doesn’t order each arm to change a certain color when it needs to hide quickly. Rather, individual skin cells across its body sense and respond to change and give the octopus a collective camouflage.

CEOs and shareholders needn’t fear this kind of organization. The independent sensors of adaptable organisms are not anarchists. They rely on the resources and follow the overall direction that the body gives them. But decentralized organization yields faster, cheaper, and more effective solutions to complex problems — think Wikipedia versus Encyclopedia Britannica, DARPA Grand Challenges versus Department of Defense single-source contracts, or Google Flu Trends (which uses the power of billions of users independently searching for flu-related terms on Google to identify flu outbreaks) versus the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu reports (which can give you the same results, two weeks later).

Full story at Harvard Business Review.”


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