Exaptation, also radical repurposing, is the taking of an idea, concept, tool, method, framework, etc., intended to address one thing, and using it to address a different thing, often in another domain.
The term "exaptation" was proposed by Stephen Jay Gould and Elisabeth Vrba in 1982. It describes a shift in the function of a trait during evolution.
The term is frequently used by (Andrews et al. 2002, Buller 2005, 84) in evolutionary psychology, whereby “exaptation” is understood as follows: “T is exaptation if and only if T is now adaptive for F, and (a) T was selected for F’ (where F and F’ are different), or (b) T is a by-product of a different adaptation T”.
Human beings appear to be quite effective in radical repurposing of things. In particular, abstraction, and the ability of observing a system from different perspectives and at different levels of granularity are key human skills here. This is usually true, though, only when adequate conditions exist, such as when the completion of a task is required under time pressure, or in the occurrence of an emergency or a crisis. By contrast, inattentional blindness can limit the individual capacity for exaptation.
The conditions for human-driven exaptation can be artificially created through the application of appropriate methods and the use of adequate tools. This is particularly useful in the pursuit of innovation. It is the case, for example, of the Exaptive triggers method.
- Biology and evolution
- Cerebellum evolution in higher apes to manipulate muscles in fingers and subsequent exaptation in humans to manage grammar in language
- Dendronization  in plants that evolved to produce wood
- Feathered dinosaurs evolving into birds
- Business and technology
- Microwave ovens
- Pharma-related side-effects example
- IBM's 18th century punchcard repurposing for data processing
- Russian invasion of Ukraine 2022
Any training material, posters and like with links to where they can be acquired
Articles and books
- Cattani, Gino & Andriani, Pierpaolo. (2016). Exaptation as source of creativity, innovation, and diversity: introduction to the Special Section. Industrial and Corporate Change. 25. 115-131.
- Andrews P., Gangestad S., and Mathews D., (2002) “Adaptionism - How to carry out an Exaptionist program “ Behavioural and Brain Sciences 25: 489-553
- Gould, Stephen Jay; Vrba, Elisabeth S. (1982). "Exaptation — a missing term in the science of form". Paleobiology. 8 (1): 4–15.
- Cristoforo Armeno (1557) Peregrinaggio di tre giovani figliuoli del re di Serendippo, Per opra di M. Christoforo Armeno dalla Persiana nell'Italiana lingua trapportato. Venezia, Michele Tramezzino.
- Dave Snowden, Cynefin St David’s 2022 (2 of 2), The Cynefin Company Blog (Mar 2, 2022), exaptation translated as "radical re-purposing", in the context of the usage of new, less known words to indicate key concepts
- Survival of the Luckiest (Serendipity & Sagacity)
Link to case articles here or third party material
- https://eukaryotewritesblog.com/2021/05/02/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-tree/ "To abstract a little more, there is a common and useful structure in herbaceous plants that, when slightly tweaked, “dendronizes” them into woody plants."
- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/15/kyiv-transport-app-is-transformed-into-life-saving-war-information-tool "Kyiv transport app is transformed into life-saving war information tool"
- https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/mar/03/ukraine-airbnbs-booked-in-effort-to-get-money-to-residents-pay-not-stay "Ukraine Airbnbs receive bookings in effort to get money to residents"