Paul Fairweather
4 min readApr 28, 2020
Mental Taste Buds Original Watercolour
Paul Fairweather 2020

As an architect, the re-use of existing buildings is called Adaptive Re-use. The possible re-use of a building is often limited due to different factors, including location and zoning, structural system, fire ratings and the like.

Over the years, I was lucky to work on numerous wool-store building conversions around Australia, and invariably the most common re-use was residential. There are only a few examples of successful commercial adaptations, mostly because the standard 4-metre structural grid and deep floor plates with little access to light are unattractive to commercial tenants. The conversion for residential is not perfect, but with a trade-off against volume, size and character, it makes the projects not only attractive but viable.

So my idea of adaptive pre-thinking is about pre-thinking future adaptations but focused on business systems and models. The idea is that to be better prepared for different future circumstances, divergent thinking is required now!

Adaptive pre-thinking is like taste buds for the brain. Individual taste buds are a particular shape that only a specific molecule fits into, sending a signal off to the brain. If you damage your taste buds, then these molecules have nowhere to dock.

In the same way, a healthy creative brain needs to be able to connect with new ideas and concepts to come up with novel new ways of doing things. But often this needs some pre-training to be able to see relationships between disparate and often seemingly unconnected elements.

The world is in a reactive state. We have no real choice as every day there are new changes that affect us all. If you do not prepare for the future, you risk again being reactive to a new world. Are you, your team or business going to be in a reactive or creative state? Are you going to continue to bump around in a new world, or will you have prepared your mental taste buds to latch on to what is essential, relevant and unique?

In his book, “Where good ideas come from”, the acclaimed TED speaker Steven Johnson describes the mating habits of the Daphnia Flea. This small crustacean lives on the surface of a pond and derives its name from the fact it looks like a flea! The Daphnia is a very curious crustacean because of the way that it breeds. In normal circumstances, it reproduces asexually, effectually cloning itself. As this is the most efficient way of reproducing, it is the dominant creature on the surface of the pond. But what is really interesting is that when the environment changes, it changes the way that it breeds and starts to reproduce sexually. It is seeking out the genetic novelty, hoping to find a way to evolve to respond to a changing environment.

For a long time, we were bumping along in our routine. Now the environment has changed, we need to have a different response, but to that, we need to pre-adapt, otherwise, in 6 months, we will be chasing our tail. The poor old daphnia flea would not have held its seat of dominance for long if it waited till winter to decide it was time to work a new way of having babies.

In the same way, now it is time for new ideas for the future.

In thinking about how you might react to a different world, ask these questions.

What might different possible scenarios for the future look like?

What is working for you right now?

What are you missing?

What are you not missing?

If you knew what was coming, what would have you done to prepare?

I’m always happy to have a conversation about Adaptive Pre-Thinking, Re-invention, and the intersection between creative and pragmatic thinking, and doing!

I’m here to help whenever you’re ready!

Here a couple of options to start the conversation:

  • To learn more, please arrange a complimentary phone conversation to talk about your personal, team or business challenges how you might better prepare for a brave new world! Please use this link.
  • Sign up for “Be the Architect of your Future” weekly email. The emails are short reflections on applied creativity, along with a couple of illustrations for the week, no more than a couple of minutes. Please use this link. (if you are received this email directly from me, you are already on the mailing list)

You can also contact me at and let me know how you think we can work together.