I wanted to call this post, switched on growth, but that didn’t fully capture the emerging idea in my head.
Upon waking I found myself wondering about two very different idea. What makes flowers in chicago bloom in November and why the internet never seem to run out of capacity? Since its not uncommon for my ideas to make sense to me but sound to others as if I’m hovering in the clouds at 30,000 feet, allow me to explain.
We distinguish two types of changes –transitional and transformational. I doubt caterpillars or tadpoles in their initial state can do anything that prepares them for their existence post their transformation into butterfilies and frogs? People in the course of their development do. We have an uncanny ability to remember past experiences and in many cases it forms our thinking about the future. In other words, if we set our minds to it we can imagine our future in ways that I suspect is impossible for tadpoles and caterpillars.
Seeds don’t imagine flowering, instead they are merely wired for growth. Something switches on when they find themselves in the right environment and as long as the conditions persist to sustain that signal they keep on growing.
Research into human development when combined with the neuroscientists understanding of our brain’s growth reveals that humans bear a similarity to seeds. From the conception moment, as long as the environmental conditions prove favorable, we manage to grow inside the womb, and then we do go through our own transformation as we emerge into the wider world at our birth. Our sensititity and early instincts begin to form long before we experience our first breath of fresh air.
The different parts that we call the human brain just as the different body parts that comprise our stature do have limits. The internal instructions of DNA and RNA have some latitutde which is why environmental conditions do have an impact. But it’s the same underlying code that turns some seeds eggs into tadpoles and some into humans.
The biggest advantage humans have over all other creatures and life forms seems to be their ability to alter their environment. In other words, we can modify and then optimize the conditions in which we can thrive. Social tools like communicaions and today’s more advanced incarnations realized through a combination of hardware and software offer amazing opportunities.
The motivation to transform our surroundings not unique to humans, as evident in nesting behaviors. Birds have been observed building rather elaborate nests, as do other creatures establishing protective and cozy environments that protect their young. Likewise learning or mimicry has been observed in the animal kingdom, and even to some degree plants who move with the sun.
The more distinctive qualities of humanity, such as fashioning materials with our hands has evolved to a much greater degree than in other animals. Unlike other animals, our internal wiring as refashioned and transformed our brain to be capable of a variety of higher functions one of which is manifest by this post. The abilit to formulate ideas, conceive of connections without seeing them and then describing them in a manner thtat others can understand now or at some point in the future? That’s pretty different from the tricks my favorite dog and plants can manage.
Ok, enough background.
Transitions the ability to adjust and assimilate new information depends on prior experience. I’ve never met anyone who can remember their life in the womb, but again researchers studying human development know among all of our senses, vision is the last to develop. In fact it takes babies months before their eyes can hold focus while shifting their line of sight between objects near and far. I mention sight becasue it’s an easy transition to understand. Who hasn’t crossed a threshold and found themselves momentarily blind by the extreme difference in light levels. It takes a few moments before your eyes acclimate, doesn’t it?
Transformations, as we described above are a wholly different experience. Imagine walking only to find the next step plunges you into a deep hole filled with water? your body responds in even less time than your eyes take to adjust. If however you were on the edge of the water and had maken a conscious choice to go for a swim, your body knows exactly what to do. Again no transition or acclimation to the needed unless of course you want to open your eyes underwater.
Differentiating between conditions that require transitions and permit instant transformation is what I beleive separates an agile and flexible organization ever ready to grow. Both benefit from planning but their response time to change varies dramatically. If your organization desires to remain competitive learning and building the right capabilities and capacities matter.
I believe that like the human brain, an organization needs a flexible responsive platform to coordinate and integrate the exchange of signals. Why a platform? Simple answer is humans are only good at keeping in mind about two or three thoughts at once, the platform like the really capable personal assistant can track and pop up the right messages at the right time.
No, I don’t mean Siri. Why? becasue Siri may be able to talk to my calendar and figure out much of my personal peculiar turns of phrase and short hand names for things I need and use regularly. Siri doesn’t yet fully take advantage of signals other than location, or the fixed notations. Siri may help me, but I haven’t seen the enterprise version, have you? When you do, let me know I’ve got several assignments for her. I’m betting you do too.