Exaptive triggers is a method aimed at establishing novel, non-obvious links between knowledge objects and ideas, at an appropriate level of abstraction, for the purpose of producing exaptive, radical innovation.
Name and history
One of the main criticisms of evolutionary theory is that evolution could not have happened as fast as it has with a linear adaptive approach. Neo-Darwinian interpretations argue that everything had to happen in a linear way; it is survival of the fittest. Stephen J Gould and Elisabeth Vrba argues that, under conditions of stress, a trait that evolved for one function exapts for something completely different. For example, the Cerebellium evolved to manipulate the muscles in the fingers in order to pick seeds from seed pods, it now handles grammar in human language. One of the associated issues is how do we make exaptation visible / how do we manage for serendipity and radically repurpose?
The method is ideally positioned to the top right of a 2x2 matrix, the dimensions of which are discovery, and ideation. By combining distributed ethnography with distributed solution generation, as opposed to other methods that use expert knowledge on one or both dimensions, it also works as an aggregator of other methods suitable for those purposes.
The method is designed to overcome inattentional blindness, i.e. it facilitates the the establishment of unobvious connections, by drawing the attention towards them. The word "trigger" refers to the realization of the "why these things a re connected with these other things".
The identification of potentially valuable connections between problems and solutions is made possible thanks to:
- the decomposition of both to an adequate level of granularity, so as to induce abstraction from their originating contexts;
- the interpretation of both along a common set of dimensions.
|Ideation (solutions generation)|
|Distributed||Clusters of experiences presented to experts.
Agile’s unarticulated need mapping
|Expert||Double Diamond (linear)||"Finding the 17%’s"|
Both discovery and ideation can be performed in both ways. "Expert" will likely only catch "complicated" data, while "Distributed" is more likely to elicit "complex" aspects. If the purpose is radical innovation, the second is more likely to produce interesting results. Which one to adopt, however, depends on context and expectations.
Key frameworks, concepts, and principles
For eliciting knowledge objects:
- Distributed ethnography / human sensor networks
- Knowledge mapping
- Decision mapping
- Journaling of lessons-learned
For finding ideas:
- Hermeneutic inquiry
- Human sensor networks
- Entangled trios form a network that can be stimulated for the purpose of finding solutions
Factual description of what is needed together with lists of materials and the physical environment needed. Default is physical but see later section.
English text with any general instructions to be given at the start
For a minor method the table may be omitted
|STAGE INSTRUCTION||COMMENTARY & TIPS|
|first instruction||first set of tips|
Do's and Don'ts
Simple bulleted list including common mistakes
Default is to state that it cannot be until we have developed and tested practice. If it can be run virtually then we describe it here.
It is acceptable to add a third column to the workflow if needed
Link to other articles on this wiki if they are relevant.
- 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.
- Dave Snowden, Mycorrhiza & scaffolding 2 of 2, Cognitive Edge (December 12, 2020)
- Dave Snowden, Flexuosity untangled, Cognitive Edge (November 14, 2020)
- Dave Snowden, Transcend II: Learning and ritual, Cognitive Edge (November 13, 2020)
Method card material
This material will be extracted for the method cards
Possible symbols or illustrations
Front page description
Back of card summary
Text limit = 600 characters. A simple summary of the key stages or aspects of the method.
How can it be used?
Method Properties - Ratings
Represented by symbols - interpretation/voting scales are:
COST & RESOURCES: How resource-intensive is the Method in terms of materials and tools required, and thus costs?
- Requires only common office equipment (eg paper and pens)
- Requires simple facilitation materials (special hexies, printouts, whiteboards etc)
- Requires some inexpensive but specific tools and materials
- Requires moderate investment in tools or software to apply
- Requires significant investment in software or other specialist tools
COMPLEX FACILITATION SKILL: How much training and skill in complex facilitation does the Method require?
- No complex facilitation experience is required
- Some complex facilitation experience needed - practice in a safe space
- Should be mentored while developing complex facilitation skill
- Requires Mentoring until proven, familiarity with theory critical
- Advanced, requires deep knowledge of theory and experience
ENGAGEMENT GRADIENT: How challenging is engagement of participants into the Method likely to be?
- Ad hoc technique - can be used in multiple contexts with relative ease
- Requires time commitment but overall, engaging and not difficult to achieve
- Mild uncertainty or discomfort, may need work to keep people engaged
- Indirect/ambiguous method, requires engagement through sustained levels of uncertainty
- Challenging method – may incur resistance if people expect a more traditional approach