By Brian Lucas
This one’s for Wendi, who I believe is “Going Agile!”
“The facts of variability, of the struggle for existence, of adaptation to conditions, were notorious enough; but none of us had suspected that the road to the heart of the species problem lay through them, until Darwin and Wallace dispelled the darkness.” ― Thomas Henry Huxley
An extremophile is an organism that thrives in physically extreme conditions that are non-survivable to most life on the planet Earth. They are the masters of adaptability and survival. They seem to be in every extreme environment no matter how hot, cold, dry or dark and can withstand crushing pressures and thin atmospheres. What is the secret to their adaptability? This year alone, scientists found bacteria living in the cold and dark in a lake buried a half-mile deep under the ice in Antarctica. Researchers also suggested that microbial life forms thrive in the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot in the Earth’s ocean. Researchers even postulate sustainable communities of microbes living and reproducing in clouds without ever reaching the surface of our planet. These forms of life are not only highly adaptive these are ancient. According to astrophysicist Dr. Steinn Sigurdsson, “There are viable bacterial spores that have been found that are 40 million years old on Earth.
These forms of life succeed because they focus on the fundamentals and get them right. They intake raw materials, produce energy, eliminate waste and reproduce. They don’t get distracted by things that are not essential to their survival. They might not be the most sophisticated forms of life, but they have survived global cataclysms that wiped out most other forms of life. Focusing on the fundamentals is an important part of success in all walks of life. Take baseball and martial arts. When I played ball it was keep your eye on the ball. In Kung Fu it was learning to breathe correctly. Many times when I temporarily lost my focus, I returned to the basics and found myself again.
Adapting to agile thinking is not an impossible feat. Just focus on the basics of employee empowerment, customer engagement, critical features and functions only, and rapid demonstrable iterations. If extremophiles can survive unbelievably harsh conditions, surely traditional executives and managers can learn to adapt to agile thinking. After all you are smarter than a microbe, aren’t you? Until next time, keep agile!
 See Rothschild, L.J.; Mancinelli, R.L. Life in extreme environments. Nature 2001
 See Gorman, James. “Bacteria Found Deep Under Antarctic Ice, Scientists Say”. New York Times, February 6, 2013.
 See Choi, Charles Q. “Microbes Thrive in Deepest Spot on Earth”. LiveScience, March 17, 2013.
 See BBC Staff. “Impacts ‘more likely’ to have spread life from Earth”. BBC, August 23, 2011.
Brian – While it has been a while since I commented, I have followed your blog faithfully. I feel I now have a degree in Agile thinking after reading your posts and learning your broad approach to Agile Thinking. I can affirm as a business consultant, I have practiced what you have advocated here and it has helped my business. I am not in the IT arena, but have utilized the basic fundamentals of agile to good advantage. Thank you for opening my eyes to this possibility! -Edward Smith
This is a very enlightened post spanning the gulf of science and business. It was unusually enjoyable to read! I find the recent revelations about the seemingly intelligent behavior of microscopic life and even the apparent indicators of macrobiotic tissues other than the brain being able to store memories, profoundly change the scope of what we historically have deemed to be intelligence. Being a biologist, I am less prejudiced about considering these so called lower forms of life as having their own ability to reason, even if in a limited way. Perhaps the gulf between the extremophiles and business executives is not as great as you might think. On a different scale entirely, I have a friend who is a cosmologist and she told me that the latest hypothesis is that the entire universe is alive. I would like to hear your opinion on this postulation.
Wow this is brilliant! I totally agree with Patricia. I had to check out your bio after reading this and I have to say I am impressed! Someone with a science background who understands business and can write this well!!! Where have you been hiding???? Do you have any books? Is she serious about the universe being ALIVE? It sounds like you should be sitting on a mountaintop dispensing wisdom! I would love to hear the answer to her question as well!
Brian if I might paraphrase your message here, microbes are successful because they KEEP IT SIMPLE! Am I wrong? – Jack
Hey Brian since there are already managers with microscopic brains running this place, extremophiles probably won’t help! Interesting post as always! Don’t know how you come up with these! Have to meet you some day!
To learn from nature is wise because she is the mother of all teachers. You are a true Master Agilist!
Hi Brian! I came across your blog and for some reason this post’s title struck my eye. I wasn’t sure what an extremophile is and I still am not, but I like your emphasis on the fundamentals. We are struggling with our agile implementation at our shipping company and I think it is because the consultants we hired are too rigid in their scrum approach and are not adapting to our needs. I was hoping I could ask you a few questions offline. Would you mind if I contacted you by email? Thanks a lot! Brenda
This was an unusual lesson. I did not know what an extremeophile was. I am not sure I understood everything you said but I know I learned something about agile and survivability!