Reproduced from: FastCompany Innovation Station

Need to kickstart your innovation practices, processes, and production? Take a hint from the world of biology and consider how evolution — idea Darwinism — can help inspire change and creativity.

Can biology teach us anything about innovation? The essence of Darwinism is that progress is created by adaptation to changed conditions. What starts as a random mutation can also spread to become the norm through a process of natural selection.

The same is surely true with innovation. New ideas are mutations created when two or more old ideas combine. For instance, Virgin Atlantic Airways is what happens when you cross an entertainment company with an airline business.

Virgin itself is also a good example of mutation and adaptation. The music retail business was created when a postal strike threatened to shut down the fledgling mail order record company. Virgin Atlantic was the result of an unsolicited approach from outside the company. Virgin Blue (a low-cost airline in Australia) is a similar story.

In my experience, what makes Virgin innovative is a strong sense of self, an ability to experiment, the skill to cross-fertilize ideas, and a willingness to change. The company has largely grown, not through the unfolding of some master plan, but through an accumulation of learning and ideas caused by threats, accidents and luck.

So, if external events and adaptation are the driving forces of biological evolution, is it possible to develop an innovation process that seeks out accidents and mutations?

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