What the heck is a Voronoi?

Company names are a funny thing. Some businesses do what their name says – Alf Jones Plumber, or Sparkes Electrical. Lots of other businesses mash some words together that don’t really mean anything – things like Clear Vertical or Vibrant Edge. And then there are businesses with made up words – like “Cratorifly” or “Lenzellico” – that aren’t even real words.

And then there is Voronoi. It’s not a made up word, and it DOES mean what it says on the box. So what the heck is it?

Georgey Voronoi was a Russian mathematician in the early 1900s, and he invented a way of creating a network of connected points across a space. You’ve probably seen applications of his diagrams in the real world without realising it.

If my house catches fire and I call the fire brigade, I have two fire stations near me who could attend. How do they choose who should come out to save my house? Voronoi has the answer.

Using a map, draw a line between the two station locations. Then draw another line which crosses that first line in the middle, at right angles. Any time a call comes into the fire service, the dispatchers can swivel around to look the map and see which side of that dividing line the call has come from – and that’s who gets the call.

And as the network of fire stations grows, every new location becomes another node in the diagram, with lines to the adjacent stations and those half way lines crossing them.

Pretty soon there is a whole mesh of those points and lines and crosses – and that’s a Voronoi diagram.

There are lots of places where you will see these patterns – turns out that Voronoi maths has lots of applications.


But what does ANY of this have to do with a consulting firm?

We think it is three things:

  • Every new point you add (or move) changes a Voronoi diagram. In your business, a change or innovation introduces something new to your environment, and lots of parts might move to accommodate that new idea.
  • Using Voronoi you can build structure and order from an unordered set of points, in way that is simple, predictable and flexible. And you can add more points without breaking the model. Sounds like business strategy doesn’t it?
  • A Voronoi diagram is simple and immediately obvious when you see it work. Like the best ideas in business, something simple but powerful can help map the complexity in a fresh way.

Maybe it’s a bit of reach to say that business transformation can be done with mathematics, but we think that those simple rules and principles make a lot of sense.

Join the dots in YOUR business with Voronoi.

PS. Pronunciation is flexible, but we say VORR-oh-NOY. Thanks Georgey.