(Check out the free Strategic Readiness Inventory© and TPQ© tools at the bottom of this blog)

Society and education have conspired to lie to you about Darwin. We can all hear that oft repeated quote “Survival of the …. “ [In your mind you all yelled “fittest”] Let me blow your mind: Darwin never said that, yet it has been propagated in a variety of contexts for years. Further, it has been used incorrectly in business. Survival of the fittest isn’t even what Darwin meant. What he said, and I am paraphrasing here, is “survival of the most adaptable.”

Fitness and adaptability are two very different things, both in the Origin of Species as well as in business. Fitness does not necessarily mean survival. I won’t list the innumerable companies we all thought were fit, yet no longer dot our economic landscape because they failed to adapt.

If you will allow me a little latitude in the analogy, Darwinian theory says that natural selection happens at the DNA level as features are turned on and off over the course of generations. Carrying that analogy forward into business, we need to do the same at the DNA level of our organizations; have conversations about what features we need to turn on (in order to survive in this unknown new world) and turn off (that no longer will serve us or may even hold us back).

So to start engineering the survival of ourselves, our functions, and our companies, we need to start having robust strategic conversations around adaptability in the midst of tectonic shifts. [Sorry I know I just mixed biology and geology, but you get it] The TPQ’s© (Thought Provoking Questions) you might try are:

What systems, services, functions, procedures, and processes will no longer serve us going forward?

Without judgement or qualification, list them out or brainstorm them with your team. Just start there.

Knowing that there are many unknowns and great uncertainty, what can you put in place or do so you are agile and adaptable?

Another alternative could be “Think about the attributes of a company that thrives in this new world; what attributes would you say they possess?”

Think about what the business ecosystem will need going forward and what you can do uniquely to fill those needs.