With much of the mainstream business media focusing on rapid, revolutionary change, it's always a treat to discover bloggers and consultants who adopt more of an evolutionary view of business innovation. For example, Julie Fleischer, the Innovation Thought Leader for Egg Strategy, has been publishing a blog since December 2006 called Innovation Ecosystem that looks at how concepts related to evolution and ecosystems can be used to understand business strategy and marketing. As Julie explains at the top of her Innovation Ecosystem blog, "great innovation happens organically, with
sloppy edges and growth spurts. Because as with nature, innovation
doesn't take place in a vacuum - it is dependent upon and interrelated
to all things around it. And because innovation needs to be cognizant
of the ripple effect -- seeing opportunities AND managing potential
damage. Innovation thrives on change, curiosity, and desire."
For example, citing a recent cover story in Newsweek ("The Evolution Revolution"), Julie points out what evolution means for corporate brands:
"The cover story of the 3.19 issue of Newsweek is fascinating... We're now learning that evolution is not a straight-lined path of progress. It occurs in fits and starts, with many adaptations failing to take root. We're discovering an evolutionary family tree of sorts, with a number of adaptive traits developing, hanging around for several million years or so, and then becoming extinct. Progress is lumpy.
And that's where brands come in. Brand evolution is rarely a straight line path of forward progress. Quite often, brand adaptations (let's call them line extensions or flankers) come to market, score sufficient volume to hang around for several years, and then make way for a new generation of extensions. This process may continue on ad infinitum without ever really evolving the brand - making it more relevant, more contemporary, competitively advantaged.
Survival of the fittest is about more than merely hanging in there.
For a brand to truly evolve, it needs to move beyond these experiments and take a strategic view toward innovation of the entire ecosystem. Perhaps the business model needs to evolve (see Netflix vs. Blockbuster below). Perhaps the brand needs a different approach regarding channels or supply chain. Maybe the consumer situation (the human genomic code?) has changed and new needs have arisen, requiring repositioning or structural packaging innovation. Maybe a new predator has emerged that forces the brand to take a more defensive - or offensive - posture. Just as our species need to evolve, so do our brands. Settling for "natural growth" only gets you so far - hyperadaptation of the innovation ecosystem is needed to grow the legs that take you out of the swamp."