“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self.” — Igor Stravinsky
The Feline Frontier
A cat recently “claimed” my garden as his kitty litter. I eventually upset “his” territory by scattering peppermint oil and citrus peels. I learned a lot about cats’ territories in the process. While my curiosity killed that cat (‘s territory), it is relevant to this week’s Thursday Thought.
Cats are solitary hunters who claim and maintain a territory for survival. They use scent marking (as my garden will attest) and their keen sense of smell to communicate with other cats and avoid direct conflicts. A cat’s territory has three layers: a core area where it feels safe and relaxed, a defended area where it protects its resources, and a hunting range where it roams freely.
Cats may share neutral areas with others but fight fiercely if an intruder invades their territory. Their territory size and range depend on various factors, such as lifestyle, food availability, and population density. Outdoor domestic cats will have more extensive ranges than indoor cats. Feral cats maintain much larger habitats because they must find or hunt for food.
I was curious to understand if humans feel more comfortable and secure when they have clear boundaries around their territory. Like cats, humans feel more relaxed and safe when they have clear boundaries around their territory. This was demonstrated by a fascinating study that author, neuroscientist Dr Helena Boschi, and a friend of The Innovation Show, shared with me.
“It is the child in man that is the source of his uniqueness and creativeness, and the playground is the optimal milieu for the unfolding of his capacities and talents.” — Eric Hoffer
The study by landscape architects compared how preschool children behaved on two different playgrounds: one with a fence and one without. They found that the children on the fenced playground were more adventurous and explored closer to the edges of the playground. In contrast, the children on the unfenced playground stayed close to the teacher and did not explore near the boundaries. The fence, therefore, acted as a signal of safety and created a sense of freedom for the children.
The corporate innovation playground is vast and brimming with opportunities. Yet, amidst this boundless potential, a paradox exists. Creativity counterintuitively flourishes in the presence of well-defined boundaries. Inspired by a recent episode of our Corporate Explorer series, with Andrew Binns, we (ahem) explore his concept of “hunting zones”, examining how, somewhat paradoxically, establishing clear boundaries fosters a sense of freedom and security. Too much freedom hampers our creativity!
While generating ideas is a relatively accessible and low-risk endeavour, the true challenge of corporate innovation lies in the execution (incubation and scaling). The abundance of ideas developed through high-participation processes often exceeds the available resources, leading to a mismatch with the business strategy. The democratic nature of idea generation and a reluctance to discard concepts create a scenario where resources are thinly spread across numerous projects. This is where you can benefit from the paradoxical power of a “Hunting Zone”, a term coined by Andrew Binns.
A hunting zone resembles a cat’s territory or an enclosed playground that emboldens children to explore. These designated boundaries provide a structured space for ideation, granting people a deliberate and defined area for exploration. A hunting zone offers a license for exploration within a specified domain.
Businesses can strategically pinpoint areas with the highest potential for achieving their growth objectives within delineated boundaries. By narrowing the exploration focus, hunting zones serve as a guide, channelling creative energies toward innovative ideas and aligning with the overarching business strategy.
Like a cat’s territorial markings communicate a sense of purpose and minimise conflict, hunting zones communicate areas of exploration and avoid people working hard on projects or ideas that do not appeal to your company or new products and services that you lack the capabilities to deliver.
NVIDIA: Master Hunter
Made with AI
CEO Jensen Huang led a strategic shift at NVIDIA expanding the company beyond its traditional semiconductor business into new market areas and cultivating a software ecosystem. With a vision to position Nvidia at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence, Huang set clear hunting zones.
He identified four specific hunting zones — gaming, autonomous vehicles, enterprise computing, and scientific computing — where the company could significantly impact the early adoption of AI. This focused approach, though initially unconventional, has since proven instrumental in driving Nvidia’s success in markets that were once considered visionary a decade ago.
Every innovation exploration should present specific domains, explicitly disclosed upfront. Otherwise, your corporate explorers may uncover thoughtful solutions, only to learn that time was wasted wading in forbidden territory.
THANKS FOR READING
For a brief exploration of Hunting Zones, join Andy Binns on our Corporate Explorer Series powered by Wazoku .
The Paradoxical Power of Boundaries: Innovation Hunting Zones was originally published in The Thursday Thought on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.