Friday, February 13, 2004

The Future of Life.....The Future of Business.

In Edward O. Wilson's latest book "The Future of Life" there is an excellent discussion of bio-diversity and ecosystems. From page 11...."Every species is bound to its community in the unique manner by which it variously consumes, is consumed, competes, and cooperates with other species. It also indirectly affects the community in the way it alters the soil, water, and air. The ecologist sees the whole as a network of energy and material continually flowing into the community from the surrounding physical environment, and back out, and then on round to create the perpetual ecosystem cycles on which our own existence depends".

By changing a few words above, you have an apt description of today's business environment.

From an Ecological point of view, look at what is happening today in the telecom space. Remember when long distance was the profit engine of the Bell's? Now long distance is speeding past commodity to freebie in a blink of an eye. The Nortel's of the world, who built their fortune on Big Iron telecom gear, started getting pushed around by data gear companies like Cisco and Juniper, who are packetizing our voices and blasting them around the internet.

Just as the big companies like ATT join the VoIP bandwagon, here come the Kazaa renegades with their new company Skype (www.skype.com) with FREE long distance over the internet using your PC and very inexpensive microphone. 7 million FREE downloads and counting! ATT......are you listening???

Meanwhile, Vodaphone and Cingular have lined up to devour the carcass of ATT Wireless. Customers are the energy the bidder hopes to metabolize, but unlike those forbidden carbo's, cellular customers are likely to escape to another host if the deal is right (look for the churn rate line item on any wireless/isp's financial sheets).


Friday, February 06, 2004

The Red Queen Explained

Several readers have commented on my recent change of my Blog title to "Wrestlin' the Red Queen". One colleague thought that I had started an adult entertainment site.

In reality, the title draws in inspiration from the biological concept of co-evolution, or "the biological arms race" between competing species. Back when I worked with Stu Kauffman, he explained it by describing how frog gains an evolutionary advantage by evolving (via selection) a sticker tongue to catch flies. The flies "retailiate" (again via mutation and selection) by becoming more slippery.

Business consultants have picked up on the red queen effect, since its mirrors the very competitive environment all companies face today. In business, innovation and adaptation drives competitive advantage. Companies that can't evolve quickly enough risk extinction, sometimes suddenly (ask the 17,000 Kodak employees who are about to get the pink slip), despite significant leadership positions.

PBS ran a brilliant special on evolution awhile back, a series that I suggest as core materal for any executive or aspiring business leader. The era of an "industrial" business mindset is over; we are now entering the era of biological business. Time to evolve (or as they say in Georgia "change over time).

Here's a link to the PBS evolution site that explains the Red Queen Effect between two species of fish; one that reproduces sexually, and another asexually. Which do you think has an advantage?



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