What the Natural World Can Teach Business About Digital Transformation and Longevity
The rising cost of living, oil & gas prices on the rise, energy costs set to go even higher, and whispers of another recession on the horizon. All that, coupled with the fact the average lifespan of any business continues to fall (no matter what study you look at), it can all look a bit doom and gloom for business.
No wonder then that most are asking the age-old question of how to survive with a bit more earnestness.
I’d argue we should once again look to nature. It was the shape of the kingfisher that solved the sonic boom generated by the Japanese bullet train's first design. It was the innumerable tiny hooks on burrs that gave us velcro and the lotus flower that gave us superhydrophobic treatments. These are specific problems with specific solutions, you’d be forgiven for believing nature draws the line at aiding complex processes, but you’d be wrong!
In only a day, a slime mould can map out the most efficient rail routes between populated areas. A process that can take rail companies literal decades. I believe it is too a relative of these slime moulds that businesses should look to now. I talk, of course, about the Common Mycelial Network (CMN) found in every forest across the globe.
The CMN is a network of fungus surrounding plant roots that connects every plant in the forest to each other. This underground internet of plants and fungus allows the entire forest to endure through the aeons. The CMN facilitates the transfer of vital nutrients (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, water etc…) between healthier organisms to those with the greatest need. The CMN allies the forest against competition by conveyance of communicative signals, warnings, and fungicides and herbicides; uniting its members in synchronized chemical warfare. Plants attacked on one side of the forest will induce defensive gene expression in plants on the other side within 24 hours, which in plant time is lightning speed, because of the CMN!
Not only for sharing nutrients and defence, signalling via the CMN also orchestrates and adjusts the timing and nature of germination, growth, foliar nutrition, rate of photosynthesis etc… etc… across all the plant species it connects.
I hope you get what I’m getting at here…. The natural world came up with the notion of a distributed connectivity layer long before we did!
If we take each enterprise to be a forest, with how we currently operate, it’s no wonder most ‘burn to the ground’ pretty quickly. If each tree is a software system, its physical proximity represents its logical proximity to the next software system and the roots are the connectors between the software systems. What we currently have isn’t a flourishing forest, it’s straight rows of trees, with few roots that are easily blown out of the ground breaking the flow, and one end of the row has absolutely no idea what's going on at the other.
A forest survives because the MCN covers the six natural principles of longevity (see table below). Most enterprises don’t survive because they don’t cover these six, at least fully.
Fixing this has traditionally been a daunting task. However, the maturation of certain technologies has allowed the creation of the Luther Platform. The MCN of enterprises. A comparison we take so seriously, internally the platform is referred to as substrate (Substrate = “the surface or material on or from which an organism lives, grows, or obtains its nourishment”).
Sitting underneath an enterprise's trees the Luther Platform combines distributed storage and compute infrastructure, with standardized infrastructure operations management, distributed systems connectivity across software systems, and smart contract-enabled end-to-end consistent process execution. In essence, each participant (a department/person/organisation) has a node that connects to each of the systems they use, and that connects them to the platform and by definition, every other participant on the platform. Through this data is sent, received, verified, stored and triggers the next step according to the business logic.
To revisit the metaphor; more important participants and software systems would be larger trees connected to more trees through the MCN dispersed across a larger area. Process execution and validation would be akin to sharing nutrients and sending defence signals - the whole forest knows why and where it’s going and how to respond. Utilising an ‘enterprise MCN’ all that is required is the input of business logic and the platform takes care of the rest: orchestrating, choreography, validation and execution of a process end-to-end. Standardisation of process building and execution as well as whole process oversight opens the door to a whole new way of thinking about ‘forest management’. Even between neighbouring ‘woodlands’. Things that simply were not possible before, are now. If you can imagine trying to figure out how to get to the other side of the world in a day before someone let you know aeroplanes exist, it would have been impossible. Well, here’s your aeroplane. A great time if you’re a creative thinker!
In summary, to survive business needs to stop planting trees in shallow rows and start to design their operations like a natural forest, i.e. use a distributed platform to implement the six natural principles for longevity.
Many nutrient sources
Many cores (no down time)
Multiple species connected
Can connect to any system/applicable to all processes
Units centred around nanny plants & fungi clusters
Applications common to most processes ‘copy & paste’
Change response based on environment
Change smart contracts to fit business logic. Change and add/remove connectors with ease
Entire forest responds to threats
Each step goes through validation
Symbiotic - cannot survive without the other
Entire process end-to-end