Transformational Thinking – The Darwin Matrix

Transformational Thinking – The Darwin Matrix

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

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. We have combined Darwinian thinking with our contemporary understanding of how organisms survive and thrive and have successfully integrated these insights into how we can understand and create technological innovation in business models and in industry.

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 that has worked for scientists, economists and business people all over the world. (See *Shell game changer and the worlds top innovative business schools). 

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 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.  

In the digital world SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) act inside a complex adaptive system, and eco-system where there is a likelihood of a degree of optimisation through collaboration and facilitates the possibility of adapting to changing environmental conditions, whereas ‘start-ups’ have to identify opportunities to ‘step into’ an existing but evolving eco-system.  

All businesses offer digital communications of one form or another and 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. They, in effect, comprise of sector specific eco-systems that interact with each other and are governed largely by consumer demands and preferences.

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 industry.

A self organisational approach in business (that stems from an understanding of complex adaptive systems) 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.

The main advantage to seeing the component networks working as agents is that it can help to reframe the questions that we need to ask – not in a historical context (looking backwards) but in a new light, that of conceptualised future predictions. (A simulated future that is shared in real time, in a digitalised team building context).  

“We made some powerful decisions using whole brain thinking and using the Darwin Matrix process.” Tim Nichol, Dean of Liverpool Business School.

In a business context we can evaluate (through the Darwin Matrix) what constitutes the better decisions that will ensure survival, by focusing on innovations that will help with predictability 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 systems 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 awareness by stimulating 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. 

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 adaptation potential.

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.

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 agents that make things happen. They usually only see a snapshot of the histrionics, but 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 you have a better understanding of how strategy can help with emergent competitive advantage .   

The Darwin Matrix, is one such (complex adaptive system) 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 and 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.  

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, the 4th Industrial age is like a tsunami where every part of society is affected by technology and at a colossal speed. It will affect every woman, man and child on the planet as the consumer rises to power by augmenting our thoughts with Artificial Intelligence.

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.

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 responsive to larger business or conformist small business that will replicate academias ‘model of thinking.’ We must do this as a series of partnerships between businesses, scientists, investors, educators and policy makers to take full advantage of transformational technology and the opportunities.  

This can only be achieved through a common understanding and shared platform of collaboration which doesn’t see silo ‘departmental contributions that are risk averse’ – but rather a more pragmatic holistic approach involving adaptive digital systems.

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 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 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 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 customer centric solution using complex adaptive systems such as the Darwin Matrix.  

The gap in our knowledge is that we have a 2 million year old brain that is hugely adaptable facing challenges that question our very existence. Will our caveman instincts see us through, or do we have to take one step back and think hard about the relevance of our biases, prejudices, our insecurities. How can we embrace AI for instance and reap the benefits rather than the threat it seems to pose to the human race?  

Well if we are going to see technology as a bright light in our lives we have to reach a mind shift that can adjust. One that can rekindle our inner creativity, one that can release our enormous human potential.  

Transformational Thinking 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 that all of the individuals 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 capitalism to create social value. It means for example that global warming 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.  

Request more information about Transformational Thinking – The Darwin Matrix contact | here

Author: John Rainford Fellow RSA
Vice-Chair | Transformational Thinking, IORMA


https://app.darwinmatrix.com/cas (complex adaptive systems).

https://app.darwinmatrix.com/transform  (6 part process for self evaluation).

*Shell game changer and the worlds top innovative business schools.

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

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


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