Darwin, Disruption and why Business needs to be Mutable
We live in exponential times. The rate of change is increasing every year, and by that we don’t just mean the amount and level of technology we use, but the planet’s population and urbanisation, the data we create, the energy we use, the waste we produce, the effect we have on climate, the geopolitical situation, culture, transportation, automation, competition in our particular marketplace, the robots are coming – everything.
The words Digital and Disruption have been in use since the 90s, so some might argue we’ve been living this for decades. Disruption is business as usual. I would argue that the rate of change pressed down hard on the accelerator somewhere between 2007 and 2010 with the simultaneous shift to cloud computing and web apps, at the same time as the world was turning on to social media making everyone and every business a publisher, at the same time as the shift to mobile, and once we all started carrying smartphones that gave us all of that connectivity, access to data, apps and compute power, but also the capability to be monitored and tracked in everything that we do. Disruptions in technology and business approach don’t happen consecutively and at intervals like they did last century. Now they happen simultaneously, with a fascinating array of emerging technologies, that keep on emerging. To survive as a business in today’s global business landscape it is disrupt or die. Disrupt or be disrupted. Sounds very Darwinian, and that’s exactly the point.
Survival of the fittest. There’s a great saying, attributed to Darwin. I’ve erroneously used it as one of his sayings in presentations myself, until someone picked me up on it. Only this week I heard a very well-known influencer quote it as Darwin in one of her Facebook Live sessions that I joined in. It is:
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”
Actually, Darwin never said that. It comes from a 1963 speech by Louisiana State University business professor Leon C. Megginson. It is his excellent interpretation and summary of the “survival of the fittest” concept from the Origin of Species. Check out Quote Investigator’s analysis of how it evolved. Who cares about the origin (both puns intended). It and the rest of Darwin’s theories apply directly to business. Just like the evolution of species, new product categories are being created in every field from TV channels to soft drinks to pharmaceuticals to your own industry sector, but it’s not just products and services it’s new business models too. How does your business survive? Darwin (and Megginson) has the answer.
Whatever business you are in you should be thinking in terms of some smarter competitor using software, hardware, algorithms and the internet in a different way, with a new business model, coming along to disrupt you and steal your market. To defend against them, and to outperform them, you need to do things differently. In this context everybody is talking digital transformation, but we believe that term has become too much of a catch all for any technology or approach that is new and a bit different. You shouldn’t be thinking in terms of a single transformation in any case. It needs more than that. We believe you have to adapt or die, differentiate or die, disrupt or die and for the last few years we’ve wrapped those ideas in to the term Mutable Business, and today we have expanded Bloor’s Mutable story to cover not just technology, but the business approaches you need to adopt, and the people and leadership that are essential to put in in to practice to succeed in today’s business landscape.
Mutable is an interesting word. It means changeable, variable, fluctuating, shifting, fluid, unpredictable, chameleon-like. It says adaptable, but it says more than that. We talk Mutable Business because you have to think about much more than a change. From all of the research we’ve looked at and undertaken ourselves, we believe that you should think in terms of competing with yourself, constantly. Turn today’s rate of change into an opportunity rather than a threat. You need to transform your organisation into a “Permanent State of Reinvention” to survive, and continue surviving. To be Mutable like that sounds challenging. Many CIOs and senior executives that we meet feel their organisations aren’t capable of driving the transformational changes necessary. We believe you can, if you look at your organisation holistically. The latest version of our Mutable Business framework leads you through the process of reviewing your organisation end to end in terms of Business, People, and Technology, and with the support of all of your stakeholders, by which we mean your customers, suppliers, business partners, employees and other stakeholders in the business. Our roadmap also explains that all aspects of the approach need to be governed by Trust, and that the most successful organisations deploy a Design Thinking mentality across all that they do. The framework is our fitness guide, because we believe all businesses need to be Mutable.