It's Alive: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology, and Business by Christopher Meyer & Stan Davis.
I'm a third of the way into this book and want to record a few ideas to plant them in my head before continuing on.
If you can figure out how adaptation is embedded in biological systems, and then broaden this knowledge into a theory of general evolution, you can effectively apply the theory to many complex systems--including business.
How would a business measure successful adaptation? In biology, the metric is "fitness," measured as the relative ability of an organism to breed successfully in a given environment.
Code is code.
Create, connect, evolve.
Just as physics has core principles, so do adaptive systems. The basics involve:
This is bottom up. The ecology arises from the atoms up. The past fifty years have shown conclusively that distributed decision-making does a better job of satisfying demand than a centralized approach. Nonetheless, many of our businesses retain a suprisingly "Soviet" management style, using approaches developed in an assembly-line era that have more in common with a top-down mentality than with a bottom-up one.
"The molecular world is completely outside the normal common-sense range of thinking," says Alan Kay. It is this molecular sense that, over the next decade, will become our common understanding.
The connected economy is accelerating change, raising the bar for survival, and requiring a higher degree of adaptivenss from all of us. In particular, business needs to develop a new mental toolbox based on adaptive principles and an evolving economic and social environment. As stated recently in the journal Sicence, "Our quest to capture the system level laws governing cell biology in fact represents a search for the deeper patterns common to complex systems and networks in general."
Simulation is becoming a new scientific instrument, a "macroscope" allowing us to see the structure that dtermines the behavior of human-scale systems the way the microscope began to reveal the cell.
All forms of evolution arise from the interaction of independent agents follwoing a few simple rules. See "Boids". It's not a predictable world of command-and-control but, rather, a world of constant surprise and volatility, created by the interactions among low-level rules, acting form the bottom up. Translating sex into silicon, genetic algorithms allow us to redefine our objectives, replacing narrow individual "efficiency" with a boader concept of population "robustness"--the ability to cope with a volatile environment.
Often human programmers don't understand why a solution works, only that it does. Whether in vitro, in silico, or in vivo, what matters is what emerges, not the underlying mechanisms that got you there.
The remainder of the book promises to deal with adaptive management. I'm looking forward to it.
First of all, to everything there is a season. Note the scale on this graph: 250 years. The industrial era is history.
Today the life cycle of the information age has just peaked. It's all downhill from here. Over the next ten years, the molecular age will hit its growth phase.
Chris and Stan find a pattern in the lifecycles of economies.
They take the technology adoption cycle to a higher plane. Here's the tech version, describing both markets and the culture required to thrive in each.
Learn by Search & Replace. Make these substitutions...
Finally, here's what you can do about all this.
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