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ADAPT OR DIE?

Social media, smart-phone communications, cloud computing and virtual networks are changing the way we all work. Today, we all inhabit a knowledge-based, communications-led and data-driven commercial environment. One where standing still is not an option; where even hesitating can be perilous.

Charles Darwin showed that natural selection did not necessarily favour the strongest, fastest, or most intelligent. In a radically changing environment, survival is not just about being fit, it's about being able to adapt. And when faced with meteoric change (as the dinosaurs did, quite literally, at the end of the Cretaceous Period) the ability to adapt by gradual evolutionary means is not enough. More rapid adjustment and wholesale transformation become necessary.

In a commercial context this means that organisations must be prepared for the cultural changes necessary to become more agile and adaptive to increasingly volatile market conditions. Tomorrow's business winners will be those that are willing and able to adapt to the radical changes that are underway. And for survival over the long-term, businesses must develop adaptive traits that are heritable i.e. ones that are capable of being passed on, 'genetically', to future generations. This will involve reinventing corporate culture, sharply seizing opportunities and intelligently embracing technology.

MAN, CHANGE AND NECESSITY

While Darwin expounded the basic theory of biological evolution which applies to all living organisms, other evolution scientists* have particularly explored human evolutionary patterns and concluded that cooperation and mutual support have been important factors in the ability of man to survive.

Long ago, man developed a brain with the ability to react to stimuli intellectually rather than instinctively. This means that he was able to learn new ways of surviving that can be rapidly altered, continuously improved and, crucially, passed on and shared with others, rather than relying solely on innate/inbred response mechanisms like a crude invertebrate. So as the highest form of life on the planet and the only one with the ability to think, reason and imagine, you would naturally expect that, by now at least, man would have managed to understand and perfect one of the oldest and most fundamental of human interactions, the act of reciprocity.

Yet there are a lot of things that man is genetically programmed to do but doesn't, as a rule, do. At least not these days. Fast forward to the modern day and, when it comes to commercial relationships, man invariably reverts to his pre-hominidae roots. Almost unbelievably, he relies on aggression, guile and physical superiority. This is surprising in view of the fact that homo sapiens quickly evolved the ability to collaborate as a means of survival. This evolutionary development was one the defining reasons that a small, soft, unprotected species with no body armour or weaponry appendages was able to survive and flourish in a savage prehistoric world. Our prehistoric ancestors recognised the importance of teamwork when they formed themselves into mutually supportive tribes to improve their odds of continuance.

When it comes to modern-day business, the same principles of survival apply. Co-operation, not conflict, will always create the optimum results for the majority over the long run.  It’s not a question of whether to fight or collaborate. It’s about giving and receiving value.

Just apply your brain.

* Kropotkin, Peter (2008). Mutual aid: a factor of evolution. [Charleston, SC]: Forgotten Books. p. 117. ISBN 160680071X.


Adapt or Die?