5 Insights Into Innovation From the Coyote

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Graphic Courtesy of Nature.com (Click on it to read article on Coyotes)

Graphic Courtesy of Nature.com (Click on it to read article on Coyotes)


Every once in a while when I’m out jogging, I’ll come across a coyote. They look at me, turn, and go in the other direction – disappearing into a thicket along the trail. I also hear them yipping with pups, or I hear local packs of coyotes join in with choruses of their own when a distant ambulance siren pierces the night. Yet most people don’t see coyotes all that often.

But just because most people don’t see coyotes doesn’t mean they’re not around. On the contrary, coyotes are, quite literally, everywhere. In fact, coyotes, in spite of their habitats being modified, and open hunting seasons, are one of the few animals that has actually increased the extent of its domain over time.

Think of it. They are competing for food and land under intense pressure and thriving!

So, what are the main reasons for this, and what can we learn from the wily Coyote? (The word itself is an Aztec derivative of the word meaning ‘Trickster.”)

1. Coyotes adjust their diet based upon what’s available. When they find certain types of food getting scarce, they’re willing to go after other types of food. How willing are most companies to venture out of the comfort space and adjust how they ‘feed’ themselves? What new channels do you utilize?

2. As coyotes spread Northeast, they mated with wolves, or more properly, allowed themselves to breed with wolves, who were in the decline due to hunting. This resulted in bigger coyotes that could take on bigger prey. Now there is evidence that they’re breeding with domestic dogs – the results of which are unknown because this is still an experiment in the making. Is your organization willing to intimately partner with others to create even more powerful ‘offspring’?

3. Coyotes breed quickly. Compared to other predatory canines, coyotes reproduce more quickly. This enables them to stay ahead of the game, even under predatory pressure and open hunting. Is your organization reproducing itself, creating multiple channels to have a better chance at survival? (Google is especially good at this.)

4. Coyotes are relentless in forcing others to play by their rules. Where coyotes are taking advantage of clear-cut forests to prey on the young of an endangered caribou species, the only way to save the caribou right now, is to stop clear cutting the forest. Is your company taking advantage of market dynamics so effectively that you’re forcing the game to change?

5. Coyotes constantly push the edges of their boundaries. They look for opportunities to expand their domains. How effectively are you probing the edge of what you don’t know?

Larry Ellis, in his essay, “Trickster: Shaman of the Liminal” perhaps summarizes innovation best when speaking of the Trickster genre (Replace the references to ‘Trickster’ with the word ‘Innovation’):”Trickster creates through destruction and succeeds through failure; his mythic and cultural achievements are seldom intentional. “Defining such a various creature,” writes Jarold Ramsey, “is a little like trying to juggle hummingbirds””

Yes, innovation can be like trying to juggle hummingbirds. But, with these 5 insights into the method behind the coyote’s madness, the juggling becomes much more manageable and the results, intentional.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Michael Plishka
Michael Plishka is the President and Founder of ZenStorming Solutions, LLC an innovation design consultancy. He believes in co-design methodologies, sharing design thinking essentials - empowering people and companies to make a difference with their products and services.

4 COMMENTS

  1. That isn’t just a cartoon; coyotes are super smart. They will come right out in the open and look at you – IF you don’t have a rifle. But reach for one and they’re gone. They are extremely hard to eliminate or even control. That is what small businesses must learn: don’t let Google, government or anything else eliminate you. Change the game and play by your own rules.

  2. Gail, great comment – Love the last sentence!
    Appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

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