Here’s a short and sweet summary for Exaptation. Great ideas can have multiple applications. Be on the lookout for solutions that are already out there, hiding in plain sight, just yet to be united with their problem.
How can you better promote this uniting of solution and problem? Johnson recommends two things.
First, have lots of hobbies and immerse yourself in ideas.
Second, do things in parallel.
Hobbies. Having lots of hobbies and immersing yourself in ideas reminds me of the chapters on networks. Creating environments where ideas can collide with other ideas fuels creativity – we’ve been over this – but now Johnson mentions this concept through the lens of exaptation. Where there are a lot of ideas, there can be a lot of repurposing. Makes sense.
His second tip, which is about doing things in parallel, is directly applicable to product development.
A lot of the best writing on product development encourages cross-functional team activity and a lot of parallel processes. It’s not just efficient – it’s that doing things together tends to promote the interactions of ideas.
It helps the team to repurpose ideas. Something that suddenly works in a marketing sense might also create an insight for the product. Something that you learn in manufacturing the first prototype can be applied upstream in design. It’s a little bit of a stretch to call this exaption, but call it what you will – it’s still good to do things in parallel when possible.
That’s all on exaptation. Repurpose good ideas.