Ming the Mechanic:
Verges and Innovation

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Verges and Innovation2004-07-29 14:31
3 comments
by Flemming Funch

This is the text from a few slides of a presentation by Joel Barker called "Leadership Lessons for the 21st Century". It is obviously slides to go along with a speech he gave, which I didn't hear. I did hear him talk about quite similar things a few years ago at the World Future Society's conference. Or, actually, there he was concentrating on the lessons from diversity in ecosystems.

The Verge and Innovation
  • Where does radical innovation happen in nature?
  • Old answer: in the richest part of the ecosystem
    - where there's the greatest competition

Or the most complex system of collaboration, whichever way you prefer to look at it. The right kind of diversity makes interesting systemic synergies happen.

The New Answer - at the Verge
  • A verge is where something and something different meet
  • It is as far away from the center as you can get!
  • In ecosystems it is where two ecosystems intersect
    - ocean and seashore
    - forest and prairie
    - river and desert

Actually his slide accidentally said "river and dessert". That would be even more strange, of course. But think about tube worms living in 600 degree sulphuric water by vents on the ocean floor.

The Safety of the Verge
  • Having a strange environment very near triggers an organism to explore it for possible advantage
  • In that exploration, it discovers that novel changes give it advantage, i.e. innovations
  • And, most importantly, it is safer to fail because you are not interacting with competitors

Barker is a management consultant and speaker. So, the point is obviously that we can draw lessons from how nature works, and apply them to our endeavors. Say, to business. Some juicy hints there for fostering innovation. Explore the edges, the boundaries. Hook up with the strangeness out there, and learn something new. And you'll have an edge, because there's no competition there yet. Good stuff.


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3 comments

29 Jul 2004 @ 16:14 by bushman : Hmm,
Accually, it's no accident the Colorado river, Salt river, Verde river, Rio Grand, Gjila River, and Oak Creek, all run thru the desert.  


1 Aug 2004 @ 09:14 by Martin @81.48.98.52 : Summer Reading
Barker must have read "the practice of peace" by Harrison Owen, the inventor of Open Space. [link]
Excellent reading! Unfortunately it seems its no longer available for free download. Tell me if you want it.  



3 Aug 2004 @ 00:18 by Jon Husband @24.87.29.152 : Innovation
Great find, Ming. I remeber reading this material (or very similar) a number of years ago, but find it vital and refreshing again.

And yes, calls to mind Open Space ... "we" were just at a very interesting Open Space in Chicago, hosted by the Happy Tutor of Wealth Bondage and the GiftHub ... lots of latent innovation in the domain of giving opened up  



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