What does a huge snail have to do with innovation? It’s all about the platform.
The jungle – much like a coral reef – is an incredible platform for innovation. It creates an environment with billions of niches where flora and fauna can grow and evolve. There’s no particular plan, just a grand variety of nutrients. Ultimately, we get a cornucopia of life that we never could have predicted, even including a snail as big as your hand. (That’s Elliot’s hand in the photo, by the way, in the jungle of eastern Peru).
What’s the lesson here? We need to create more jungle-like platforms if we want to spur innovation. Platforms don’t have to be hot and steamy but they have to be rich in “mental nutrients” – food for thought. One of my favorite platforms, for instance, is the land-grant college system in the United States. It started small but grew into a “jungle” engendering a welter of useful (and sometimes bizarre) ideas and innovations.
On the other hand, if we tried to create a huge snail, we would inevitably fail. The trick is to create the platform that allows the snail to evolve naturally. Let’s focus on building jungles, not snails.