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Adaptive Space: Engaging the Edges for Discovery

Scientists have long marveled at how life flourishes on the edge where the sea thrusts upon the shore, creating the tidal pools. A diverse set of life-forms from mussels, to sea stars, to crabs and anemones lurk in beds of kelp and sea grass. These life-forms engage in a daily feast of food and oxygen. Algae and other intertidal plants grow in the abundant sunlight of the shallow waters, and the constant wave action supplies a rich source of nutrients and oxygen. Amidst pounding waves and powerful tides, these plants and animals are placed at great risk as they are frequently exposed to extreme conditions, such as summer’s broiling sun or winter’s freezing winds. The result of these edge exchanges is that more life originates and more mutations unfold in the tidal pool than any other place on earth. The same is true for agility; extreme edge users offer a richness of possibilities that simply doesn’t exist in the safe havens of day-to-day organizational existence.

Adaptive Space can act as a tidal pool that engages the extreme edge users. These individuals have retrofitted or hacked products for their personal benefit, or perhaps they are using services for completely different reasons than their intended design. These are the people far from the center of the bell curve where the typical customer resides. They are often ignored because of their strange perspective or use, and yet they remain an incredibly valuable conduit for insight and learning based on their unusual perceptions. By connecting with extreme users of a given solution, we are often able to better understand undeveloped needs.

A good example of this is found with mountain bike users, who sought to take their bikes onto mountain terrain and began creating their own solutions, well in advance of the bicycle industry, in order to do so. Traditional commercial bikes were not designed for rough terrain, so these extreme users began retrofitting their bikes with wider tires to provide better traction and makeshift brake drums to enhance their ability to stop. These edge users who designed mutant bikes for off-road adventure became the fertile terrain for agility within the biking domain that ultimately led to an entirely new industry. Researchers found that more than one-third of individuals who belong to extreme sports clubs have developed or modified commercial products, thus serving as rich tidal pools.

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