The teachings of Jesus Christ, Elizabeth I, and Sun Tzu have all been repackaged as management philosophy in recent years. Now it's Charles Darwin's turn. The 19th-century naturalist's ideas about survival of the fittest and natural selection have become the management metaphors of the moment.
Witness Geoffrey Moore's new book Dealing With Darwin: How Great Companies Innovate at Every Phase of Their Evolution (Portfolio, 2005). "Evolution requires us to continually refresh our competitive advantage," writes Moore, "sometimes in dribs and drabs, sometimes in major cataclysms, but always with some part of our business portfolio at risk and in play."
Similarly, in The Ape in the Corner Office: Understanding the Workplace Beast in All of Us (Crown, 2005), Richard Conniff kicks off a chapter on the information that bosses and workers transmit through facial expressions by quoting Darwin, who in 1872 wrote The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Conniff also refers to the work of a primatologist named Frans De Waal. And as it happens, a businessman eating a banana graces the cover of De Waal's latest effort, Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are (Riverhead, 2005). This book assesses the natural history origins of laissez faire capitalism, decision-making through the building of coalitions, and the corporate pecking order.
Finally, the paperback version of Al and Laura Ries's The Origin of Brands: How Product Evolution Creates Endless Possibilities for New Brands (Collins, 2005) has just been released. The marketing experts also compare evolution and branding on their blog (ries.typepad.com). One young brand they might enjoy is Evolution Amber Ale, from Wasatch Brewery in Park City, Utah, which has been selling well this ski season. The beer was born of local controversy over teaching evolution in public schools, and is sold under the tag line "Darwin approved. Created in 27 days, not 7."
DONNA FENN is the author of Upstarts! How Gen-Y Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.
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