Innovate like a bacteria…and other New Year wishes

0 Submitted by on Thu, 20 December 2012, 17:44

Looking back on 2012, another busy year here at the consultancy and agency, one of the things that most stands out is the speed at which digital technology has continued to advance and the massive impact that this has had on the ways that people communicate with each other…and with the social causes that interest them the most.

But have social organisations been able to innovate and adapt to these changes quick enough?

2012 has been the year of the visual with platforms like Pinterest really taking off, growing by over 5,000% in some markets. Location based platforms have also continued to explode with Foursquare users alone racking up over 2 billion check-ins. And while Facebook maintains its social media stronghold, reaching 1 billion users in 2012, some organisations have only recently started a fanpage!

In my presentations, one of the things I like to talk about is “selection theory” (I studied Biology at university!) and how it compares to my work in the NGO sector.

Selection theory divides all species into two categories: K and R.

K species are large, stable creatures, like whales and elephants. They are pretty constant, tend to live for a long time and produce a limited number of offspring. They are also slow to adapt to environmental changes.

R species, like insects and bacteria, thrive on innovation, an essential part of being able to adapt to diverse environments. These species usually have a shorter life-span and tend to produce enormous numbers of offspring.

I think that most NGOs resemble K species far more than R species. And while being stable and reliable is great for a social organisation, if we’re to continue surviving in such a fast changing, digital environment, it’s vital that in 2013 we start thinking a bit more like R-species and making innovation a priority.

So, in this festive season, my New Year’s wish to you all is that in 2013, we take a lesson in adaptation and innovation from our friends the insects, the bacteria, the cephalopods and the rodents (not the most traditional Christmas gifts, I know!) and enjoy a year of successful innovative endeavours.

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