Evolution in Business

I tend to think of evolution as an analogy to business. How many times have you heard that it’s survival of the fittest, dog-eat-dog, or how brutal economics can be. Most of that is true, except for the dogs – I’ve never heard of a cannibalistic dog – but none the less it can be useful when thinking about the position of your organization in the ecosystem of your competitors.

There are primarily two paths of evolution, there is the constant state of adaptation, trying to keep up with or beat your competition, to improve your sales, profits, customer retention you-name-it. That’s the growth curve, shaving off 1-3% of your costs, delivering variations of products and services, cross-selling etc. Chances are you’re doing most of those things. If you aren’t you’re in trouble, so let’s say that you are. Those small pivots and changes should keep you in business until there is a massive change in the environment or a completely different form of competitor.

The second path and that path that can lead to massive disruptions in the status quo is mutation. No, I’m not thinking about X-Men, or super heroes, I’m thinking about a company that is a 90 degree turn away from your competitors, something that seemingly comes out of nowhere to massively outperform and quickly swallows up market share. These companies are typically an effect of two things, changes in the environment think internet, web 2.0, changing customer demographics etc. or drastically different ways to produce or deliver the product/service. Often, they’re both