The Adjacent Possible: Harnessing Functional Excess, Experimentation, and Protoscience as Tool

Industrial and Corporate Change

31 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2023 Last revised: 30 Aug 2023

See all articles by Teppo Felin

Teppo Felin

University of Oxford - Said Business School; Utah State University - Huntsman School of Business

Stuart Kauffman

Institute for Systems Biology

Date Written: March 1, 2023

Abstract

We explore the limitations of the adaptationist view of evolution and propose an alternative. While gradual adaptation can explain some biological and economic diversity, it cannot account for radical innovation (especially during the past 10,000 years). We argue that ubiquitously available but dormant “functional excess” in the adjacent possible provides the raw material for evolutionary disruptions. Harnessing this excess requires directed experimentation and what we call “protoscientific” problem solving. We highlight the implications of these arguments for evolutionary theory, including evolutionary economics and strategy.

Keywords: evolution, function, the adjacent possible, disruption, artificial selection, evolutionary economics, strategy

JEL Classification: C63, D8, D83, L1, L2, P00, B25

Suggested Citation

Felin, Teppo and Kauffman, Stuart, The Adjacent Possible: Harnessing Functional Excess, Experimentation, and Protoscience as Tool (March 1, 2023). Industrial and Corporate Change, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4374767 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4374767

Teppo Felin (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/teppofelin2/

Utah State University - Huntsman School of Business ( email )

3500 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT 84322-3500
United States

Stuart Kauffman

Institute for Systems Biology ( email )

401 Terry Ave N.
Seattle, WA 98109
United States

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