How to we manage to evolve an industry in a world that is, right now, change faster than it ever has in history. As millennials, we have felt the force behind the change because we were the last to spend our free time riding bikes and playing in the woods, while we were the first to learn about AOL Instant messenger, researching on the internet for school reports, and having cell phones as early as Junior High.
I remember in elementary school, we actually had a computer class that we had to take to sharpen our skills for the upcoming digital revolution.
The digital age has become such a part of us, that many reports have found that the transitional age group would rather loose their car or a finger than their cell phones. Right now, our election process is severely motivated by the 140 character limits on Twitter and our nation validates their information gathering by what they see on social media.
This digital revolution has many benefits, especially for captive animal facilities built on large properties and conservation organizations working internationally. We have the cloud, the instant communication, and the availability of information. However, the digital age has taken us away from important socialization and communication skills necessary.
By nature we are social organisms, which means that our cognitive ecology fosters such interactions to optimize our own welfare. And it doesn't help that we all entered this field to work with animals because we prefer them to people.
In losing sight of this, our industry has also disabled our ability to be innovative. The birthplace of innovation occurs at the intersection of people with different background, ideas, and specialties. This is known as the Medici Effect, coined by author Frans Johansson, and it is the key to solving the majority of the problems in our related fields.
First I will make you believe in my claim, then I will provide some useful information from the book, then I will apply it to our industry.
Before the digital age, people were more inclined to give birth to the Medici Effect while traveling through airports, relaxing at rest stops, or meeting for coffee. These are innovation meccas, where people of diverse background all meet in one spot. When the C.E.O., the scientist, and the historian use their backgrounds to generate strategy, a new idea is generated at the intersection of all three. This is innovation, this is something new.
In Frans Johansson's book, he discusses several examples of how the Medici Effect has created the world around us. Magic: The Gathering is a card game that we can all remember, if not Pokemon pretty much copied the principles of the game. Mathematician Richard Garfield created the game by finding the intersection of the fields of card games, collectibles, and community. In the heat of Africa, countries deal with financial inequality and the majority of their revenue comes from tourism, placing an emphasis on sustainability. Mike Pearce was an architect that intersected construction, design, and biology to create buildings that mimicked termite mounds and therefore did not require air conditioning in the hot environment.
As a scientists, my favorite example of the Medici Effect has allowed for the break through of functioning artificial arms. Led by Dr. Andrew Schwartz, a team of engineers, physicists, neurologists, and medical doctors found the intersection of their fields to accomplish this task, using a monkey and electrode implants to power a robotic arm. Now, we see people of all ages being compensated for their missing limbs.
So the reason innovation is so important is because it creates something new. Our entire life is based on change. We have evolved and changed on this planet for millions of years, and those organisms resistant to change did not survive. Charles Darwin, the found of evolution, once said "Its not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."
The reason I have placed such an emphasis on innovation within the animal and environmental industry is because the world is changing faster than we can keep up. The only way to ensure that we are responsive to these changes is through innovation. New ideas to make people care, new and more reliable sources of funding, new methods of conservation, and new methods of initiating sustainable practices that have been around now for over a decade.
The majority of our blogs have said that this entry would hold the answers to how exactly we can create rapid and long lasting change to our industry. Innovation is the answer. For those of you out there that are still not seeing the connection, look around you. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Disney, all of these organizations foster innovation. That is why the are so successful. Our industry cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results, and the only way to do something new is to generate new ideas. Ideas that investigate all disciplinary fields of our market audience, and ideas that will foster a great impact for an industry responsible for the welfare of our planet.