“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” (Charles Darwin)
I think most sciences can learn a lot from nature, and management is no exception. As we move into a fast-paced, information based economy the ability to react promptly and decidedly to environmental changes will become much more important than financial resources, economies of scale or any other “industrial age” competitive advantages.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) most companies and most managers are still operating under the “mass production” and “keep your core business” mindset. As Gary Hamel puts it “most companies are built for continuous improvement, rather than for discontinuous innovation. They know how to get better, but they don’t know how to get different.”
Consider the Nokia case. Founded in 1865 as a pulp mill, it has reinvented itself several times, passing from toilet paper to rubber boots to car tyres. Today Nokia is the undiscussed leader for mobile handsets with over 33% of market share, but I would not be surprised to see Nokia in a completely different segment by 2016.
Another company that is focusing its strategy on “innovation” rather than “optimization” is Google, but I will cover it in a future post.