Digital Transformation and Innovation favours the prepared mind. Here’s how…

Digital Transformation and Innovation favours the prepared mind. Here’s how…

Digital Transformation and Innovation favours the prepared mind. Here's how...
Which way? Imagine if we could choose a path with greater confidence combing AI and IoT? Perhaps we can…

Published on October 27, 2019

John Rainford FRSA
CEO Technology & Innovation, &
Vice Chair, Digital Leadership AI, IoT.

Smart Cities and Smart Towns are the future, but smarter and digitally savvy people are a bigger priority if we are going to have better prospects for the evolution of our civilisation and for the prosperity and well being of whole communities. 

The Challenge for Digital Transformation in the 4th Industrial Age is the adoption of ‘transformational thinking’ and ‘of transformational leadership’ to accommodate the shift to the combined emergence of technological and human capacity for creative thought and innovation.

Imagine if we could choose which path to take with greater confidence? Maybe with a combination of AI and intuition? perhaps we can.

Elon Musk effectively leads companies like Tesla and Space X by utilising the lens of complex adaptive systems (CAS) that embrace the concept of open and evolving biological systems. So what is it? and why does it matter to business?

Making sense of Big Data…

darwin matrix right - complex adaptive systems in action

Complex Adaptive Systems simplifying data – far right.

The problem today is the tsunami of technologies that are going to impact our economies and even our sense of well being, and making sense of the big data that looks to overwhelm and confuse, rather than inform us. Which technologies gives us the most benefit, are they restrictive or liberating? What do we invest in? How do we prepare our leaders and our workforce for the future? 

How can our old brain, that has been around for 3 or 4 million years or so adapt to this new technological environment? We may ask the question whether our brain in its current form will survive at all. Hopefully we will learn, in time, to evolve and adopt AI as augmented intelligence instead of the the robot dystopia that some people will have us to believe. 

Darwin had a great impact in our understanding of biological systems, but his contribution goes far beyond evolution theory, especially when we re-focus his observational predictions on other eco-systems such as in Neural networks, Economics or in Business. Adaptation is inextricably linked to innovation. 

The greatest progress in science, indeed in business, comes about by asking the right questions. Is there a thought process that can help us to arrive and prepare our mindset to asking the right questions and create technological innovation and adaptive business models? Many innovations are not seen for what they are. The horseless carriage, the internet, perhaps even the wheel itself.

Ford famously asked the question, if people were asked how they might travel faster, they would have said – we just need faster horses. The wrong question perhaps? and more important, making assumptions about the sort of questions we should be asking. It is important to create the right mindset so that we are prepared and indeed asking the right questions, at the very least challenging our inbuilt prejudices and assumptions. AI will help us to do this.

When we work with some of the worlds top commercial scientists in the States, we make more ‘relevant’ progress by reframing the questions, or challenging the assumptions that made the original questions arise in the first place. 

Reframing the mindset was crucial for innovation or breakthroughs to take place. First we need to reconsider advances in neuroscience in particular, how we think and create value in a constantly changing evolutionary and technologically driven world.

Adaptation takes place in natural systems through continual innovation. Organisations need to see innovation as something more than is novel, rather they should see it is a way of ensuring their own growth and indeed survival.

There are many barriers to innovation, they may be cultural or simply a a lack of knowledge of how to go about it. We have devised a process based on proven scientific evidence. that has worked for scientists, economists and business people in the four corners of the globe.

Biological systems and neuroscience.

Understanding biological systems can help us to develop strategies that have a direct bearing on business performance and economic eco-systems. It is this understanding that can give us insights into new profitable and sustainable ways of doing business. Efficiencies in business, as well as in biological systems, are rewarded by survival and growth. Conversely inefficiencies erodes profitability in business and can cause extinction. 

The basic unit of information processing in the brain is the neuron and, before it fires to another neuron, it exists in ‘superposition’ of states, so that it can (collectively with other neurons) realise infinite choices (more than the atoms in the universe). The structure though is predetermined by evolutionary traits that are reactionary and susceptible to automatic responses that are, in turn, provoked by external stimuli, such as adversity in the environment, The challenge is Creating an environment that provides ‘liquidity’ of thinking (whole brain activity and creativity) that is not hindered by classical reasoning, or political considerations and allows for more powerful and strategic decision making.

Neuroscience Researchers have discovered that, unlike a classical computer that codes information as 0s and 1s, a brain cell uses 26 different ways to code its “bit’s.” 

They calculated that the brain could store 1 petabyte (or a quadrillion bytes) of information. “In the field of neuroscience, this is truly astounding” says Terry Sejnowski, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.

A computer with the same memory and processing power would require 1 gigawatt of power, the equivalent of a whole nuclear power station, to run one computer. The brain is truly awesome but has to be treated with great respect and not limited to the articulated expressions that stem from the usual closed (normal) consensual meeting of minds. If you want to innovate and develop superior technologies, you have to be extraordinary, and exercise this process in meetings. When we were in Houston, we would deploy exercises that would explore emotional responses to intelligent assessments. This would allow new elements to increase perceptive power and alertness.

Are we in a bubble? introducing Complex Adaptive Systems.

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In the digital world all businesses, SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises often act inside a bubble. Assessing the impact of complex adaptive systems helps us to realise that we cannot function purely in an enclosed environment or in an eco-system, where hidden unarticulated forces are not recognised. Agents (in CAS) or things cannot be seen in isolation. To get to innovation we have to prepare the mind to see things in a different perspective. I am grateful to Afzal for his description of our process. 

“The answer is there to all our problems, we just need to look at them with different lenses. This process is the future of digital transformation & learning, the next Big thing in ‘how’ to adapt & combine Digital technology, innovation and leadership.” Afzal Shah, Director, Young Foundation.

All businesses offer digital communications of one form or another and these businesses can be seen as a ‘species’ populated by digital components or services. The internet itself is a digitalised complex adaptive system. Whether they be digital agents of data, knowledge, or applications that they exchange with one another. All businesses or indeed organisations are in effect, comprised of sector specific eco-systems that interact with each other and are governed largely by transitioning (evolving) consumer demands and preferences.

Imagine if ‘we are prepared to believe’ that the answers to any problem are waiting to be discovered, whether it is increasing business revenue or inventing a new product design? We only have to provide the mind with the conditions, the liquidity of thought, visualisation and the psychological (often subconscious) ’permissions’ to innovate. 

“The unapparent connection is more powerful than the apparent one.” Heraclitus, 550 BC.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

A visual process that can describe a business eco-system as a series of agents in interacting networks provides a powerful analogy that helps in understanding problem solving and helps to predict outcomes in business. Successful biological systems adapt accordingly to new conditions, the same can be said with ‘personnel’ in a changing digital environment, the ones that can adapt are the survivors. The more successful organisms respond quickly to changing biological (market) forces in nature and this also has a bearing on early intervention in correcting processes in socio-economic issues and in industry.

Darwin asked some pertinent questions about the role of spontaneous affects in the evolution of a species, how much does curiosity and intuition play a role in the evolution of new species? 

Intuition and the subconscious links AI and human intelligence.

Perhaps we can use intuition as a means of finding a solution, just as Demis Hassibis has suggested in his observations of AI (Googles Alpha Zero). Demis explains “It is interesting that Alpha Zero teaches how we have been misled by our training and conditioning and that intuition plays a major key role in determining predictions and behaviour.”

The lesson we can draw from Demis’s observation about AI – is that AI can learn from human invention and intuition and that we can also learn from AI. 

A self organisational approach in business (that stems from an understanding of complex adaptive system processes) implies a coherent revaluation of business needs and objectives and demands some self regulation in order to implement and make effective any changes. If we follow the self development aspect of team building we can help to make the transition from one set of mindsets and migrate to a more predictable and positive (reframed) outlook.

In a business context we can evaluate (through Complex Adaptive Systems) what constitutes the better decisions that will ensure survival, by focusing on innovations that will help with prediction of outcomes. This leads to a form of collective strategic intelligence that combines whole brain activity that seeks to overcome data overload and make sense of strategic objectives that can be ‘redefined.’ 

The Darwin Matrix is a form of synthesised complex adaptive system that simplifies relevant data and combines this with innovation capability.

Emergence, self organisation and evolution are all inextricably linked through activated agents (people) fulfilling individual and organisational objectives. 

The emergent agents (sometimes evident in team building) perform better as their collective conscious is heightened by releasing powerful unconscious realisations and thoughts that contribute to organisational effectiveness. These step by step processes increase super awareness by stimulating the process of self actualisation.

Applying new business models to help transform our industries depend on the understanding of what shapes our behaviour and predictions and what helps us to grow and evolve. 

Myopic Data and Innovation.

What data will help us make to predications about the future? How can we prioritise and visualise how things are connected and in what context? What can help us makes sense of how we innovate? These are some of the questions we need to address when evaluating innovation and the adaptation of new knowledge and insights.

Parts of any industry cannot be atomistic or seen in isolation, and no realistic predictions can be made without an appreciation of the industry as a whole, but still teams in organisations are encouraged to focus on narrow tasks without any appreciation of the whole system and how it interacts at a micro and macro level level. What are the prevailing economic considerations or trends that will have a bearing on the whole? especially with the onset of fast interventions and new forms of technology such as AI, IoT and Blockchain. What impact will they have on smart towns and smart cities?

In the educational scenario, start-ups may be encouraged to see market segmentation and target marketing but are not able to make a more holistic interpretation of the connections and evolving agencies that make things happen. They usually only see a snapshot of the histrionics, and fail to grasp the underlying forces that govern the eco-system. It like playing chess, you understand the significance and value of the pieces without understanding the strategy and the true objectives. In complex adaptive systems (CAS) you will have a better understanding of how strategy and intuition can help with emergent competitive advantage.

Gell-Mann the famous physicist who coined the name ‘quark’ is a keen proponent of complex adaptive systems, says “A‘Complex Adaptive System’ determines the regularities and emerging irregularities that helps organisations to make predictions about future developments and technologies”

The Darwin Matrix 

“Its not the strongest of the most intelligence species that survive, but the ones that are more responsive to change.” Charles Darwin.

The Darwin Matrix, is one such (CAS) representation. It is the visual cumulation of information that observes regularities and some irregularities that will help to determine how a system is evolving, or should evolve. It represents a complex adaptive system much like the human immune system in that it contains agents that can evolve in response to new conditions or new opportunities for adaptation. 

Customer centric approaches, analysing the impact of technologies and preparing a plan for a digital flexible modular future are key to identifying patterns in an evolving business. Data and analytical programs are important for assessing capability, but simplification and clarity of thought in complex and overwhelming data are also vital for success.

We need good metrics that are people centric, we also need secure and trusting processes that can reveal a visualised and articulated decision making process. 

The world is shaped by technologies that mimic intelligence in nature, the more we understand the complex world of biological (and universal forces) – the more we can make sense of our progress, on our evolutionary journey. 

The Fusion of biological and technological worlds.

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We are entering exciting times in our evolution. There is a an emerging fusion of biological worlds into hard technological worlds, where we are peering into the complexity and wonder of natures insights that has a direct bearing of how we think and live. Artificial Intelligence has arrived and will affect every part of society and at a colossal speed. It will affect every woman, man and child on the planet as the conflict rages between consumer power and centralised power. 

Take the prospect of communications technology in the form of fibre optics, the latest discovery is that the transfer of information through photons in glass is 100 times faster when we mimic the spiral and Helix configuration in nature. 

Changing technologies demand new business models and it is this area where one of the biggest challenges remain, how do we help people to adjust and evolve to these new business models? How can we prepare managers to embrace new transformational ways of thinking? Digital Transformation relies on critical factors, for instance: internal operational development, often with cloud-based platforms and people’s take up and acceptance of the changing conditions.

New models of thinking 

Darwin Matrix (CAS).

(Above) Complex Adaptive System, the Darwin Matrix.

The challenge for industry and governments are profound, how do we gear up society and our workforce to accept these new digital technologies? We need to break down the conventional barriers that exist between industry and academia and forge new collaborative alliances. The problem for academia is that they will always go for low hanging fruit, only take “cast iron guarantee” risks and be more accommodating to larger business (safer option) or conformist small business that will replicate academias ‘model of thinking.’ 

We must break this mold of conforming to standard practice and do this as a series of collaborative partnerships between businesses, scientists, investors, educators and policy makers to take full advantage of transformational technology and the opportunities it provides – that of transforming how we think.

There is a gap in how we perceive these wonders in the form of machine learning and Intelligence – and how AI, the IoT and other technological advances can help improve how we live and how we perceive value.

What is surprising is that we are still somewhat stuck in traditional modes of thinking (Nimby- ism) – like change will happen to someone else first and I will adjust when it suits me. Dinosaur mentality?

So what is the new way of thinking that will help us to evolve? Is it the traditional red brick university that has a panacea for a fixated structured world of economics and commerce – or is it one of the most innovative and digital thinkers that are streaking ahead. The ones that are more willing to change, or the ones that resist?

We all know the smarter way is to adapt, but putting that into action means we have to adopt new leadership and transformational qualities. Being innovative, nimble on your feet, accepting new creative parameters in industrial thinking. Putting the customer journey, warts and all, at the centre of your strategy. The new demands from industry are that people need to be more creative and be able to use their own initiative and solve problems. In a sense we are at last using complex data to analyse human motivations and we are at last starting to make some sense of it with technological processes. Instead of working in isolation we can now move our focus starting from the end user and working towards a holistic customer centric solution.

Transformational Thinking.

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(Above) part of 6 part part process that helps with Digital and Transformational Thinking. It denotes a leadership style that inspires positive and inspirational change, these abilities are not the prerogative of so called ‘leaders’ – but require a monumental shift as to what leadership is about. it is only by studying complex adaptive systems that we can really appreciate the value that all of the individuals contribute and how it can play a vital role in emergent systems. Each one can be seen as an agent or leader that has the capability to determine the shape and direction of a whole eco- system, whether it is a business, a community or a society as a whole.

Once we make this paradigm shift in our thinking (that all of our contributions have a unique value) then we can create a better business, a better society, a whole better and new way of life. 

There are moves to recognise this shift from myopic capitalism to create social value. It means for example that global warming and the slave trade is all of our responsibility rather than placing the burden on poor 3rd world countries. It means as society becomes more democratic through a greater holistic understanding of values (encouraged by the technological surges in Blockchain, AI and IoT.) These values need to permeate through our entire system – a joined up approach that is long overdue – but which can reap true and compassionate benefits for human kind. Blockchain for instance can be a force for good, where people can be architects of their own destiny, as we move to a more decentralised, fairer and democratic world. See – a Think Tank focused on the movement of non financial and social value.: The Centre for Citizenship Enterprise and Governance.

Author: John Rainford Fellow RSA.

(6 part process for digital transformational learning).


“The Innovation Matrix helped to achieve major breakthrough’s in patents, marketing and business applications.” Dr Allan Samuel, Shell Global Solutions.

“We made some powerful decisions using whole brain thinking and using the Darwin Matrix process.” Professor Tim Nichol, Pro-vice Chancellor, Liverpool John Moors Business School.

“The Darwin Matrix (CAS) process allowed us to make better predictions and implement improvements in our strategic responses.” Dr John Potter, Director of Leadership, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and author of Transformational Leadership.

“John’s process was used for the Entrepreneurship MBA course and his Creativity for Competitive Advantage course was mandatory for All of our students on All of the MBA programmes.” Professor Jonathan Michie, Director, the University of Birmingham Business School.

“Ahead of its time. The Digital Innovation process helps companies to make better predictions and decide more sustainable outcomes.” Chris Thorpe, Science Editor.

“The answer is there to all our problems, we just need to look at them with different lenses. This process is the future of digital transformation & learning, the next Big thing in ‘how’ to adapt & combine Digital technology, innovation and leadership.” Afzal Shah, Director, Young Foundation.

The Darwin Matrix visual process is about having an holistic overview with real time metrics combining AI and IoT into an interactive and integrated network of data and learning in an evolving complex adaptive system that can be shared by secure (US military standards) encryption. Imagine a hotel chain like the Hyatt Headquarters in Chicago that can immediately access through the Darwin Matrix any of its hotels anywhere in the world and look deep down at the detail – down to the laundry bill. Crucially, it provides which hotel has full occupancy, is making a profit and which isn’t – thats the power of the Matrix. Control at your fingertips and shared with fellow executives anywhere in the world. It can be applied to retail or any industry. This is to become a reality with the hotel chains and other industries with the advent of 5G and our enhanced hyper fibre optics communications and infrastructure for Smart Cities, Smart Towns and Smart Airports. see

John is a Fellow of the Lunar Society and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Manufactures.

For details of all of these powerful courses and the Complex Adaptive Systems process (Darwin Matrix) contact

For advanced hyper fibre optics and 5G for Smart Towns and Smart Cities

For Transformational Thinking and Leadership courses in London go to

For connecting with non transactional and social value in Blockchain

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