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Understanding Exaptation


Exaptation is a term that comes from biology and was first used in 1982 in an article by Stephen Jay Gould and Elisabeth Vrba entitled: “Exaptation — a missing term in the science of form”. It refers to a characteristic of an organism that originally evolved as a trait that provides adaptation to certain conditions, and once it’s consolidated it begins to be used for another purpose, most of the time not related at all to its original purpose.

As an example: the feathers of birds, originated by the branching of the body “hairs” (protofeathers) of theropod dinosaurs as means to maintain body temperature, then they became key in flight.


One way to approach innovation could be to analyze and look at all the assets of a company, institution or government, and innovate by giving them a different purpose than they originally had.