MUTUALISM, a concept from biology, refers to a relationship between two species or organisms in which both benefit from the association.
Following on from the ideas put forward in a recent talk by Robert Full, we can apply this idea to the world of business by considering the idea of “Business Mutualism”.
We might think of Business Mutualism as an association between two separate enterprises, or fields of activity, where:
- each enterprise benefits the other, and
- collective discoveries emerge beyond those of any single field.
Examples of Business Mutualism
One example of Business Mutualism would be the interaction between the IT and design industries. Information technology has provided designers with a new creative outlet, encouraged innovation through the use of design software and mass collaboration, and allowed designers to reach wider as well as more niche audiences. On the flip side, designers have improved the value of information technology and the internet by improving the aesthetics and usability of programs and websites. The combined efforts of these two industries have created world changing websites, such as TED.
Here are a number of other examples where collaboration between different fields of activity have produced impressive results:
- the formerly non-existent web-search industry and the traditional system of academic citation have combined to create Google;
- electronics and automotive industries have combined to make carbon neutral transportation a possibility;
- aviation and computing have combined to produce unmanned aircraft; and
- biology and robotics have combined to perfect walking robots.
Implications of Business Mutualism
One of the key implications of Business Mutualism is that we should look to other industries and fields of activity for inspiration. If we want to create market leading companies, we need to constantly innovate and search for alternatives. Keeping our eyes open to the possibilities presented by Business Mutualism is likely to help us sustain a competitive advantage over our rivals.
There are many good ideas already in existence. The question is, how can we combine these ideas with our current expertise to create something revolutionary? How can we change the world?