I’ve been doing Crossfit for almost two years. I’ve always been a lanky guy, so I was ecstatic when I started gaining weight—the good kind—while having fun with new friends, instead of competing for awkward equipment at the big box gym with awkwardly beefy strangers.

There has always been some controversy around supplementation in the fitness world, and Crossfit is no exception. For years I’ve used whey protein, not only to speed my recovery (admittedly, an unscientific assertion that is most likely psychosomatic), but also as a reward for working out—a critical component of building habits. But I have always stopped short of even experimenting with more drastic measures, such as carbo-loading and creatine, for fear of looking like one of those lanky guys with awkwardly beefy features bolted on (and then, of course, you can literally implant features into your body).

When it comes to the optics of fitness, the vast majority of us prefer natural methods—diet, exercise, more and better sleep—to the artificial shortcuts. So, why then does business seem obsessed with implants and bolt-ons? In a fascinating review of 2014, James Surowiecki demonstrates that most mergers and acquisitions do not live up to their hype; somehow, the new entity is less than the sum of its parts.

Mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships (see #5) can be vastly beneficial at the right time and place. Companies of varying skills and sizes in adjacent industries have reams of knowledge they can learn from each other in symbiotic relationships (the craze has recently gained momentum in the design industry, with differing views on of the impact and what is best for the discipline as a whole). However, infatuation with a startup’s or agency’s complementary competency doesn’t mean you should hoard them to yourself or take complete control of their destiny. Just like building any new skill—riding a bike, jumping rope, cooking, playing violin, swimming—start small, dip your toes in first, don’t dive head-first into the deep end. Build confidence in your new skill on a small scale, learning and assessing the initiative every step of the way, before doing anything drastic like implanting an outside business into your own.

Whether you are considering in-sourcing a foreign function (like design thinking) into your organization, or adopting a new technology through an acquisition, consider building those muscles the natural way first: through exercise. Launch an organic growth initiative, and practice innovating through design thinking, learning about new opportunities along the way. The best way to explore your options—and prime the pump for a potentially large strategic shift—is through a bias towards action, especially under the tutelage of an innovation sherpa.

What are yours thoughts on mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, and competency building? Which has been most successful in your experience? Please leave a comment or message me: @madeemology

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