Most people think they ‘get evolution’.
Survival of the fittest. That is what Darwin said. So it means the fittest survives and prospers. That is an argument for getting stronger and fitter.
The truth of the matter is different. And the evolutionary imperative is not a message about strength of fitness. It is about the exact opposite.
Let me explain Darwin’s theory by using an example. Imagine a flock of birds on an island.
- Due to random genetic mutations a few birds are born with slightly longer beak.
- This, fortuitously, makes them more suitable to access the berries of a particular plant that had previously not been an option.
- Because of this abundance of new food, they thrive – and their mutation is rewarded with an increasing flock.
- The birds with the longest beaks get the most berries and are the strongest and get to mate more often, creating little birds that look like them.
- And so the cycle continues.
What happened here is not about being rewarded for your superior beak.
The key message is that the superior beak was created because of a random mutation in the first place.
If you want your company to be fit to survive, then it is not about strength or fitness – it is about mutation.
The birds, of course lucked into it.
Companies and people could luck into it as well, but there is a difference in that we can choose to mutate. Or let’s call it innovation.
Your worst enemy is getting better at what you do. Entrenching the status quo will dis-incentivise the crucial need to evolve. (This is why there are only a handful of companies in the history of the capitalist world that have survived for more than 100 years. They usually grow old and fat and lazy and they die.)
Colorado Group is the most recent example. It is a good company and a stable of decent brands. Whilst I never did any work for them, I am pretty sure their management team tried to get better at what they were doing. And I am sure they were as experienced and dedicated as any other retail team.
The point is that it is not sufficient to get better at what you do.
A key facet in this is that evolution relies on random mutations. In the real world we can try to be more pragmatic (analytical?) about it, but my guess is that randomness still plays a major part.
If we can’t predict the next evolutionary twist in the road with any certainty, we can make up for it by increasing the quantity of our efforts; the number of innovations we attempt.
Try a lot of stuff. All the time. Sooner or later something will work.
It’s like buying lotto. The odds of winning are very small. But if you buy every possible ticket combination you will win – guaranteed. You will go broke doing it that way, but the answer lies somewhere in between. (As Gary Player famously said; ‘the harder I practise, the luckier I get.’)
Where a little bit of luck intersects with a lot of effort is the sweet spot of success.
This is how the world works, whether you believe it or not.