It has been around 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin, and about 150 years since the publication of his and Alfred Wallace’s thoughts on evolution by natural selection. In their honour, let us remind ourselves of the basic theory that all of us learn at school.
(1) Species differ from each other, but individuals within a species also differ from each other quite a bit.
(2) These differences are due to changes to the basic genetic framework of the organism (mutations) which can get passed on to following generations.
(3) The environment keeps changing physically, climatically and biologically.
(4) In the new (changed) environment some of the mutations survive better than others (“natural selection”).
(5) The effect of these changes over several generation results in the evolution of species, and the rise of new species.
The primary reason I am highlighting this theory is because, to my mind, businesses are like living beings. Businesses are conceived, given birth to, they grow, and most of them die after a few years or a few decades. During their life some businesses get married (merged or acquired), and sometimes they give birth to other businesses.
About 2-3 years ago, the business climate seemed predictable and only looking upwards – the biggest challenges seemed to be whether your ambition was bigger than your competitor’s. Many predictions were made about how the large – more “organised” – businesses would quickly kill the small.
However, with much turmoil in the business environment in the last year or so, it is evident now that it is not just the small companies that are vulnerable. The change in the environment is also giving new growth opportunities to the smaller or younger, previously vulnerable, businesses. While some of the larger businesses have died or are in the process of dying, some of the smaller businesses are mutating even more to survive better in the changed surroundings.