Moving from Technical to Adaptive Solutions

Intentional businesses seek more than clients.  They promote real change in the world.  They may aim for change to a particular industry, eg to help people in the printing industry enjoy healthier lifestyles.  Or maybe to see their neighbourhood transformed.  So, they need both technical and adaptive solutions.

Technical and Adaptive Solutions

Businesses need both technical and adaptive solutions.  Mostly we depend upon technical solutions.  This is particularly true for marketing, where we have seen a massive increase in technical solutions, in recent years.  All businesses market and so the change for society is profound.

So let’s define terms:

Technical solutions:

  • A pre-determined outcome where, perhaps you try to increase traffic to your website using seo. You can be more specific and aim for a minimum percentage increase in traffic.
  • This happens according to an agreed plan. You seek a plan of action to optimise seo to drive traffic to your website.  Everyone involved understands and agrees the plan.
  • The plan is based on previous positive experience. If there is research to back up your plan, so much the better.  A good technical solution reduces risk.

Adaptive solutions:

  • There is no agreed outcome – the mindset is more experimental – try something and see what happens. Imagine a few businesses get together to design something new.
  • So, this involves limited risk taking, which means risk informed by experience.  There is no risk involved when you attempt something known not to work! Your intention is to develop something from which everyone benefits financially and so good business practice limits risk taking.
  • Your aim is to create community – where people invest in change. The businesses seek an approach that creates community in the marketplace by finding people who benefit from what the businesses offer.
  • And in so doing they seek to change the subject and the object of the change. This new community has a stake in the outcomes.  They define who and what needs to change as well as the purpose of the change.

The business world needs both technical and adaptive solutions.  Too often the claims of technical solutions drown out adaptive solutions.

Left Behind in a Changing World

Advocates of technical change often use the image of a toolbox.  Hunt around and you shall find the right tool for the job.  You have a flat tyre and so you need certain tools to replace the tyre.  There is some skill involved but after a few repetitions, you can become expert at replacing tyres.

But no matter how proficient you become at car maintenance, you will not find any way to cross a river in spate that has washed the bridge away.  Now you need an alternative means of transport.  Can you adapt to sailing a boat or flying a helicopter?

Technical solutions are efficient and when applied to the right problem, effective.  Without adaptive solutions, however, you are left with tools not appropriate to a changing world.  You discover new technical solutions through adaptive solutions.

Adaptive solutions are effective where they genuinely take into account the changes happening in their context.  Sometimes they take and apply a technical solution from another context.  As technical solutions develop, they open up possibilities for new applications.

Problems arise where you apply technical instead of adaptive solutions.  It is tempting to assume proven methods always work.  This is a real problem for businesses, who use off-the-shelf solutions, where innovation is called for.


Intentional business development is about transformation.  We develop something new that transforms the context within which we operate.  Every business does this to some degree.  Where there is clear demand for a product that can be manufactured and distributed, maybe less so.  But for the coach or consultant, the chances are they offer something different, something that addresses issues where the market is not fully aware.

In marketing there are many technical solutions.  The problem is many people have no grounds for choosing one instead of another.  You don’t have to be around for long before you’re told you need to use a website, social media, seo, a sales funnel.

You may need some or all these but without understanding what you sell, what you want to achieve, the chances are these methods will not work for you.

Your clients seek transformation of some aspect of their lives.  They seek a solution to a unique problem.  When you sit down together the chances are there is no clear idea of where your work together will take you.  The clarion demands of the marketplace do not help.

This is the fourth post in a short sequence about intentional business development.  It’s all a part of Market Together.  Sign up below so you don’t miss a post and visit my new website by following the link.

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  • Chris
  • December 11, 2017
  • IBD

About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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