I was reading Guy Kawasaki's 'Rules for Revolutionaries' today, and he mentioned an interesting study. Essentially, the study asked the question "Why did birds evolve wings?" A wing that is 5% of the size of a regular wing is worthless for flight. So what evolutionary advantage would there have been to develop the nubs that would eventually turn into wings? Scientists discovered that wings originally evolved for warmth and not flight. Furthermore, they hypothesized that evolution may leave behind opportunities of 'latent potential'. Hence, when an evolutionary path reaches a certain measure of maturation, there may occur an opportunity to branch or change in interesting and beneficial directions, such as the case of the wings of a bird.
This is of keen interest to me as, like Guy Kawasaki, I see a tremendous parallel to the computer industry. The companies that I feel drawn towards seem to have this amazing ability to not only identify new opportunities, but somehow leave behind paths to other potential opportunities within their own work. I also think that companies like Google are now trying to acquire companies with high latent potential, even if the acquired company itself may be unaware of it.
There must be clues in nature to as to what kinds of decisions raise the chances of a potential opportunity. Personally, I think that simplicity, organization, elegance, efficiency, fluidity, and exposure are the keystones of latent potential. For instance, clean, organized code that is exposed to many developers, will inevitably be easier to work with and may as such, be prime for new opportunity. I think that management structures that are simple, efficient and organized, yet remain fluid, are going to produce the most innovation.