Thursday, July 17, 2008

If Darwin Were Alive Today

While Darwinian Evolution may be a debateable theory, it has at least given us a model to understand change and adaptation. Giraffe's grew long necks to reach their food, people became more erect which improved their gait and helped humanity cover greater distances which has helped us populate nearly the entire planet; hence our population has survived and thrived.

At the root of Darwinian evolution is the postulation that minor adaptations provide selective advantage to individuals in a species which will be propegated, and unfavorable adaptations will eventually die off. If two giraffe's with shorter necks had a baby giraffe, and it's neck was even shorter, it would not be able to get enough food and thus it would not pass along it's new genetic trait of a short neck.

So the question (and the point of today's blog) is how is the human species continuing to evolve, and what traits are required to survive and thrive in today's world? To be fair, that's a very loaded question. One answer is that physiologic adaptations are slow, and our world changes fast. Greater height, strength, speed, or agility may not make a difference as far as selective advantage for the way the world is changing today.

We don't have enemies to overcome via hand to hand combat to eat or mate.
We do not have to use our bodies for migration or food in most cases.

What the world needs is technology, systems, understanding. On the level that we can contribute, the world needs intellegence and skill. While intelleigence can be improved over time, natural 'street smart' intellegence may be genetic or learned via circumstances (upbringing) that can be hard to control.

What we are really talking about here is that if you want to advance; if you want to gain a selective advantage that will move your lineage forward in this age of the world- you need brains and you need skills.

The kind of skill and the kind of intellegence that really make a difference are those that allow you to stay ahead of the curve. To remain indespensible, a trend setter (like Madonna who has been 'popular' for 20 years). We are talking about the learned skill of reinvention.

Twenty years ago our business culture was based on heirarchial 'silos' where skills were specialized, and within a specialty, all you could hope for was to replace the person above you with a) greater education b) seniority c) proven skill or d) ass-kissing to the Nth degree.

Today we see an integrated business system where specialties co-exist to contribute to the final product or service. To advance to the higher levels of management or ownership, you need better skill (to understand, motivate, and align people), knowledge, and relevent experience.

Twenty years from now, we can only guess how our business world will be organized except to say- expect change.

That means that as leaders (of other people or just of our own destiny) we need to be able to understand threats (to our business or to our jobs) and offer greater value to our customers, teammates, and employers so that we do not become replaceable. You need the insight (knowledge) and the skill (situation or job specific or transferrable skills) to make yourself valuable in an ever-changing business environment.

My guess is that short-sighted individuals who cannot work within a team who insist on instant gratification... are like a short-necked giraffe who is almost done eating all of the grass around them, and is about to realize the only thing left are the leaves on tall trees.

DON'T get left behind. Anticipate your potential fate, and reinvent before you are dispensed. This entry, by the way, is as much warning as you are ever going to get. Your boss or the Prime Minister are not going to warn you that you'll be fired on Monday or to save for a recession if you don't reinvent. The world waits for no one so either get busy adding value for yourself, or you are already losing ground.

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