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And now the truth about chameleons

On showing own ‘true colors’

I recently discovered after a blog post about the amazing (and ‘highly desirable’) capacity to “perfectly blend-in” reignited my long standing amazement regarding this remarkable power, widely associated with chameleons (the creatures).

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As a scientist, I have been most intrigued by the biological system(s) that support the chameleon capacity to change color, apparently at will, i.e., I have been wondering “how do they do this?” As a dilettante observer of behaviors, the question was “when and why” do they decide to blend in? Of course, the “chameleon” designation has been extended to describe humans capable of similar behavior.

So, I finally spent a few minutes trying to finally get a quick answer to my questions. Thanks to the information available on the internet, I was not only able to read about it (I will not bore you with the scientific details), but watch chameleons “in action” changing their color amazingly fast. What struck me most, watching a short but telling video from Animal Planet was the fact that chameleons use different colors to clearly display their mood! A cool green chameleon parading around quickly turns bright red (just like people!) when angered by a trespassing competitor. I thought:” …Wait! Isn’t the clear indication of one’s mood the opposite of ‘blending in’?” Then right at the end of the clip, the defeated chameleon finally changes its color to perfectly blend in the surroundings… Here was the solution to the apparent contradiction: clearly displaying the mood, yet perfectly blending in… 

I think I just discovered the color of… fear! The color of fear is simulating the rest of the environment.

Being driven by the power of their convictions and passions, innovators seldom are able – or even try – to blend in, unless of course they are made to do so. The history of innovators and innovations can attest to this, remember the story of Galileo? Should we all try to blend in as suggested by many, or wear the color of our convictions? This brought back the memory of a nice little encouraging book, called “Peacock in the land of penguins”, independently recommended by several friends. I hear it is very popular with many who at one time or another felt like the colorful peacock, thought to be ugly, outrageous and a misfit in the land of the black and white formal penguins. All its efforts to blend were futile and proved to be unproductive. The peacock and other various birds left the dogmatic world of black and white and found happiness in another land where they celebrated and capitalized on the power and beauty of their diversity. Such places are likely to welcome innovators and fresh approaches. The only way to ‘blend in’ such an environment is to proudly display the color of your own convictions.

So go ahead, be a chameleon or a peacock: “Vive la difference!”

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