Curse of Darwinism: Companies Must– Evolve or Dissolve, Disrupt or Die, Thrive to Survive: End of Business as Usual

As Charles Darwin cautioned: It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change… According to Simon Caulkin; we live in time of ‘digital Darwinism’, an era when the impact of technology, on business and society, is constant with varying but inevitable degrees of both– evolution and revolution…

The effect of digital Darwinism is real and it’s enlivened though changes in business– its customers, employees, partners… and it impacts most markets, both as they– emerge and develop… It’s a different business world– with connected homes, self-driving cars, robotics, social media, and more data produced in one day than in the entire history of humankind… Technology is spear-head that penetrates– markets, industry… Now most companies, at some level, are technology companies..

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There is a fundamental shift in how organizations operate; the focus has moved from products and services, to experiences and outcomes… According to Priyanka Sangani; organizations no longer control the conversation… technology is changing everything and if you’re not using technology to the best advantage someone else will, e.g.; an interesting observation– if you don’t build the ‘thing’ that kills Facebook, someone else will… also Facebook says that– ‘things’ that don’t stay relevant don’t even get the luxury of being disrupted, they just disappear…

Many businesses just promote the ‘trappings’ of change when, in fact, a bold digital strategy is needed. To succeed business cannot afford to just look at the coolness of the technology du-jour; they must innovate and create exciting new products, companies… Old rules of business mostly do not apply any longer, and traditional approaches to business mostly do not work…

In the article Darwin’s Lessons for the Corporate World by Morgan Witzel writes: Few thinkers have had quite the same effect as Charles Darwin. His theory of evolution is so powerful and compelling that it’s an orthodoxy, and it affect how people think about many aspects of life…. Not least is the way people think about, and do business…

The so-called Darwinism plays an important role in shaping of people’s understanding of economics, markets, organizations… For example, business people often speak in terms of– ‘adapting’, ‘evolving’… to meet conditions in a changing ‘environment’… When companies fail, it’s easy to explain it in Darwinian terms; they failed because they are- – weak, less fit, did not adapt… it’s Darwin’s theory of ‘survival of the fittest’… that means some companies are simply, selected out…

Darwin’s theory re-enforces the notion that business is a jungle, a harsh environment in which only the strong can adapt and survive– or so the thinking often goes… But do Darwinian ideas about business have any real grounding in Darwin’s own theory? The answer is largely, No.  According to Geoffrey Hodgson and Thorbjorn Knudsen; Darwinian ideas have been applied to economics ‘in crude form’, but there is no single model or axiomatic system which gives it validation…

Darwin’s theory rests on 3-simple principles: Variation, Selection, Replication or Inheritance… In business people sometimes talk of an organization ‘inheriting’ characteristics in the same way that a person does, or having an ‘organizational DNA’ as part of the cultures… Organizations do not have genes, nor is the methodology of business evolution– comparable to ‘replication’…

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In the article Digital Darwinism by Greg Black writes: Darwin’s theory of evolution has greatly influenced not only the natural world but also the business world… Simply put, the concept of ‘evolution’ means– a constant change that increases the rate of survival… And according to Darwinians, everything on the planet must go through this process, including business… There is even an official term to address precisely that, i.e.; digital Darwinism… Digital Darwinism is the adoption of ‘innovation’ as the source of survival, and adapting it to emerging trends… It’s the key to survive and thrive in the face of rapid technology change… In a nutshell, business must keep-up with the times if it wants to survive…

The business world is highly competitive, it’s a brutal environment in which only those that can adapt fast enough can survive… Nevertheless, the possibilities for change and improvements are all around, and business must take advantage of them… Remember, it’s not those who have the– oldest, biggest… but those who ‘adapt’ the fastest prosper… In the words of Darwin; It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives; it’s the one that is most adaptable to change…

In the article Distorted View of Survival of the Fittest by Giles Hutchins writes: In business, survival of the fittest depends more on adaptation and collaboration, than competition… Innovation, flexibility, agility, collaboration… are the core to the evolutionary journey of business… These are driving forces that provide resilience and regeneration within an ecosystems… According to Michael Braungart and William McDonough in the book ‘Cradle to Cradle’: popular wisdom holds that ‘fittest survive’– the strongest, leanest, largest, perhaps the meanest– beats the competition… But in healthy, thriving natural systems– it’s actually the ‘fitting-est’ who thrive…

So how does business go about shifting from the prevalent mindset of ‘reductionism’ and ‘maximizing short-term profit’, to a world-view that has energetic and full engagement with markets, customers… that is symbiotic not carcinogenic? In other words, how does the prevalent approach to business break the devastating illusion that it’s separate from nature? The more you grapple with business challenges, the more you realize that it’s nature’s patterns and qualities that inspires the evolutionary approaches for business success…

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In the article Digital Darwinism by insights.sparktivity.com write: Disruptive technology and societal shifts are forcing business to re-imagine themselves; and the new motto has become– change or die… The idea of ‘change or die’ can be summed up by the term: digital Darwinism… Digital Darwinism is when technology and social change  evolves faster than business’ ability to adapt… In fact, it becomes  ‘death to the unfit’, rather than ‘survival of the fittest’… In a rapidly changing environment– being ‘fit’ means being ‘agile’. In business  ‘agile’ means– nimble, responsive, innovative, flexible, quick to adapt to change… 

Today’s businesses are under a lot of pressure not just to ‘keep-up’, but ‘to keep-fresh’, to innovate, to integrate the next new thing… The basic idea of ‘agile’ is to enable business to more effectively engage customers– to test and adapt based on actual customer use, to end-up with a better, a different outcome… Being agile is changing the game, it creates a new landscape where only agile companies survive… But business must also embrace transformation– re-imagining the way they do business…

Darwin’s ‘On The Origin of Species’ was published over 150 years ago, in 1859… Its insights about natural selection in plants and animals offer lessons that can provide guidance for coping with business challenges today… Darwin observed that species survived when changing environments by making adaptations to their new realities… Each adaptation required experimentation to create new traits…

According to Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky; when an organization tries to adapt, it steps out of its familiar mode of existence which had worked thus far, much as a plant or an animal species does by random mutation. The new mode may help or hinder an organization– since not all adaptations work in the long run… Some survive and thrive, many fail, and still others just die off…

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Darwin understood there was no such thing as change for change’s sake. The secret to surviving and thriving was to match the adaptation to the context… Which means that an organization must have a critical mix of diagnostic and matchmaking skills. The ability to read their internal capabilities and the external marketplace, and then match them to products, services…

The challenge of enabling organizations to adapt is hardly new, but adapting to today’s digital reality is completely new… Hence, some organizations will survive and thrive, and some will perish… Following Darwin’s lessons won’t make the situation any less risky, but it might improve the odds…