In his book, The Serengeti Rules, Sean B. Carroll does a masterful job exploring the interconnected nature of life (especially the life of an ecosystem). I’m not a biologist, in any form. For me, this is a more challenging read; but it’s worth it.

Let me show you how one concept from the book (from biology) could increase your ingenuity, not to mention your ability to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.

Carroll describes a biological process he calls “double-negative regulation.” Here’s an example of double negative regulation from Carroll.

Sea otters suppress the numbers of sea urchins; sea urchins suppress the growth of kelp. In the absence of sea otters, sea urchins eat all the kelp, creating kelp-free barrens. When sea otters are re-introduced, the sea urchin population drops and flourishing kelp forests return. Sea otter predators cause the increase of kelp through double-negative regulation.

Sea urchins block kelp from flourishing. But a second blocker (the otter) blocks the first one (the sea urchin) and presto the kelp can then flourish. Hence a double negative. And whoa, this is a big insight.

Have you ever wondered what keeps you from being more creative, disciplined or whatever else it is that you desire? Well, that desired quality is likely being blocked by something else. If you want more of the desired quality, YOU CAN’T IGNORE the dynamic that’s blocking you. You have to block that which is blocking you.

If you want curb a sweet tooth and thereby experience the benefits of good nutrition, we all know know you don’t do that by eating more broccoli. You block the sweet tooth urge with say, a more nutritional sweet snack–like a handful of blueberries. If the blueberries (inhibitor two) block your desire for double fudge cake (inhibitor one that’s keeping you from good nutrition), you’ve got a chance at better regulation, and maybe better health.

So let’s take the concept to personal and collective ingenuity:

Think of a place you’re stuck. Now instead of immediately trying to get unstuck, first ask this:

What is blocking the flow of my desired quality?
Name the blockage and notice its qualities.

Then ask:

How can I block what’s blocking the quality I desire so that it can flow?

NOTE: You can ask the same questions as a tribe. Just replace personal pronouns with collective ones.

Depending on your chosen situation, there could be a thousand different ways to answer these questions. The key is to first identify what’s blocking your desired quality and then block that dynamic with something else, something better. Once the initial inhibitor is blocked, flow is more likely. And that leads to ingenuity.


Thoughts? Questions? Leave one on the blog.