Biomutualism, Breaking Down Silos, and Finding Inspiration

Developing a structure that encourages cross pollination of ideas is difficult at best. We are barely able to keep up with all the advances within a discipline, let alone take time to see what is happening in other fields. But as you may know from my love of ideas from strange places, I’m a big believer in breaking those silos down to drive innovative thought.

In that vein I came across this Ted Talk from June by Robert Full called Learning from the gecko’s tail.

His presentation demonstrates the powerful possibilities of cross discipline approaches to innovation. A few quotes really stood out:

“[Biomutualism is] An association between biology and another discipline where each discipline reciprocally advances the other to where the collective advances that emerge are beyond any single field.”


“We need to build biomutualisms like I showed that will increase the pace of basic discovery, in their application. But to do this we need to redesign education in a major way, to balance depth with interdisciplinary communication. And explicitly train people how to contribute to, and benefit from other disciplines. And of course you need the organisms and environment to do it.”

Within business the effect of silos and departmentalization can cause you to be cut off not only from others in your industry, but others in your discipline as well. Sharing ideas across industry and discipline can be powerful medicine.

The video is well worth a look.

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11 Responses to Biomutualism, Breaking Down Silos, and Finding Inspiration

  1. Pingback: Footprints and Blogging

  2. Paul C says:

    As a literacy coordinator in several high schools I have been involved in a pilot project to bring cross curricular literacy strategies to all the disciplines. When students from different subject areas see that there are common threads to learning and collaboration it becomes energizing and empowering.
    .-= Paul C´s last blog ..Daniel Pink: TED Talk and Lessons for Teachers =-.

  3. LaVonn says:

    So…biomutualism is a fancy way of rephrasing the idiom – “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?” Still a good idea!

  4. J.D. Meier says:

    One of the bottlenecks to cross-pollination is language. One of the ways to quickly share across discipline is patterns. They help us build a shared language, and eventually a shared from of reference.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..The Way Things Are, the Way Things Should Be, and the Way You Want Things to Be =-.

  5. Hi Paul – That sounds like a really interesting direction (and challenging as well). By the way – really enjoyed the Daniel Pink talk you found over at your site and have already referenced it at a work discussion.

  6. Well, yes maybe a bit highfalutin, but maybe necessary in the academic sense to so that resources actually get allocated. We all have our boxes to bear.

  7. Great point J.D.

    Often language is made more complex than necessary (or wonderful buzz words like biomutualism 🙂 are created) in a rather unintentional way of establishing hierarchy. Need to grow the club not shrink it.

  8. LaVonn says:

    I just met with Sarah Smith-Robbins (one of the authors of “Second Life for Dummies”) and she pointed me toward two great books that talk about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts….”Crowdsourcing” by Jeff Howe ( and “Here Comes Everybody” by Clay Shirky ( Both books are worth the read…and it continues to demonstrate how we all need to look beyond what we know for insight and edification.

  9. Parminder says:

    The idea of cross pollination is quite good and it helps to generate a new species. It is carried on a large scale and i am sure that this is surely going to help out. Biomutualism is a great process and will be a huge a great lesson for many people. The post is great indeed.

  10. Thank you adding to the discussion Parminder.

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