28 Nov A New Frontier to Explore Together

In Safi Bahcall’s book, “Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas that Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries,” he explains why innovators need a safe oasis from “business as usual” to cultivate their ideas. The pandemic has changed what a “safe oasis” means at Comradity and the Covid vaccine is a great example of a new exciting frontier to explore.

The stock market rallied to a record 30,000 after two successful Covid vaccines were developed in record time. But the story behind the vaccine’s research reveals it took decades for the science to be recognized and reveals a new frontier to explore. In a recent blog post, Bahcall, explains that these vaccines are based on the research of Dr. Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian born biochemist, with a “crazy idea: use the body’s own cells to manufacture drugs.” which was ignored by grant funders and universities for decades.

Dr. Karikó’s technology, developed with Dr. Drew Weissman at U Penn, showed how to modify the body’s cellular machinery, its genetic code, so the body’s cells can manufacture their own vaccine. Both BioNTech and Moderna used her discovery to create what are now our first two vaccines for covid.

The implication: innovators need a safe oasis to explore the next frontier – working with nature

The “man vs. nature” era delivered the amazing innovations Bahcall writes about which defy gravity, mortality, and time . . . but, with consequences. Fighting nature adds complexity: burning natural resources to fight gravity, burdening families who care for those with longer, yet poor quality of life, and baking-in biased assumptions to make decisions faster. A lot of innovation by organizations focuses on how to manage the complexity of those consequences.

Dr. Kariko’s approach represents an alternative – simpler solutions that capitalize on the natural order of how things works – people, science, physics, markets, organizations, animals, plants, weather, etc.

For example, during the pandemic there is a lot to observe.  Burning less energy, the air is clearer. Less healthcare access has created more demand for exercise equipment and home grown food. Virtual interaction makes us yearn for human contact (probably responsible for the recent surge in infections since most close contact is at home).

But not all people notice. Those, like Dr. Karikó, are sensitive to the natural order of how things work. Women are used to “working with nature” because they live with its cycles. Those who experience nature – gardening, sailing, hiking, bird-watching, making things, etc. know more about nature than they realize. These people tend to trust their inner wisdom and creativity to solve problems by capitalizing on the natural order of things instead of trying to control it.

If you aren’t one of these people, here’s one example that may help to enlighten.

We’ve all experienced a fuel-powered plane which needs the thrust of an engine to stay airborne and drive through turbulence. But a glider, like a bird, naturally ascents by taking advantage of turbulence, spiraling up thermal lifts or riding pressure gradient waves over mountains, and then effortlessly glides over long distances.

The dashboard of the fuel-powered plane is complicated with many dials. Some monitor level, altitude, and speed, as the Glider’s dashboard does. But it takes many others to monitor engine and fuel. There are many alarms, all loud enough to be heard over the roar of the engines.

The glider dashboard is simpler. The only sounds are the wings sailing through the air and the hum of the altimeter with a different pitch when the plane is lifting vs descending. A little yarn “tell tail” on the nose of the glider is the  “heads up display.” When it is flying straight back, the plane is perfectly balanced – no drag.

Imagine “no drag.” That’s the simplicity of working with nature – pure efficiency.

We’ve come to expect friction to get things done. But more and more scientists recognize that it doesn’t have to be like this. Dr. Katalin Karikó’s research is just one example. Another is advanced aerospace design. The glider principle is applied in the Space Shuttle which flies like a glider with no engine during re-entry and landing, reducing drag on equipment, making it possible for one vehicle to do multiple trips.

How could exploring the natural order of your ecosystem, internally and externally, apply to the future of your organization?

It may be uncomfortable to discover how much friction or drag exists among stakeholders. But it is inhibiting their investment of time, money, and energy in your organization. When they co-create a plan for mutual benefit, they are more likely to have confidence in each other and your organization and a return on their investment.

At Comradity, we have practiced overcoming these hurdles and have developed an “accelerator” in partnership with others, based the “glider principle” – to work with, rather than against, nature and each other, so all may experience the exhilaration of pure efficiency.

Give us a call to discuss your thoughts.