Evolution can be a divisive topic. And while this article is not trying to convince you on the scientific view of the origin of life, I will argue that evolution is very much real and a crucial part of all of our lives. In particular, we can learns some lessons by looking at "survival of the fittest" in the business context.
Survival of the fittest can loosely be interpreted to mean “the species best suited for a particular environment will be able to reproduce (grow) more than the ones that are not suited to that environment.” Translated to a business context, this means those companies that are best equipped to handle the current environment will grow, while those that aren't probably won’t make it.
Pressure to Adapt
The environment we are talking about here is basically everything around us. It includes everything from the (polarized) political environment to the state of the economy. And no matter what, that environment is always changing. This ever-present change creates opportunities for some and makes things hard for others, putting pressure on businesses and their leaders — pressure to change and adapt so they can keep growing.
Unfortunately, it isn't hard to find real-life examples of companies who could not handle the pressure to adapt in a constantly changing environment. Just look at the continuing shake-ups in the retail industry to identify the companies who failed to change with the environment. While this happens for many reasons, one explanation is some companies tried to compete on the wrong thing.
For example, many retailers are feeling pressure from Amazon. Amazon is clearly a force to be reckoned with, but we should also remember that Amazon’s strength comes mostly from scale. At its core, Amazon is a distribution company, and it is therefore able to sell products for less. It would be extremely hard and costly to try to compete with Amazon in terms of price and distribution capability. But there are areas where you can compete. Customer experience is one of them.
Related Article: Worried About the Amazon Effect? Let Data Show You the Way
Customer Experience Evolution: Velocity Is Key
Luckily, there is one big difference between biological evolution and business evolution. In business, we do not have to rely on random, lucky mutations in certain genes in order to evolve, because we have technology at our disposal. So, unlike in biology, where evolution requires many generations, business evolution could happen overnight. This assumes, however, that you are actually able to make changes quickly.
In my opinion, there are three key factors that will determine your adaptability: having the right people, having the right mindset and having the right technology. Let’s look at each of those factors.
- Having the right people. Employees play a crucial part in every organization, and while this is somewhat beyond the scope of this article, you should remember that it is important to try to find people who think outside the box. Your organization will not evolve if you keep doing what you have always done.
- Having the right mindset. Even more important than having the right people is having the right mindset and culture. By encouraging experimentation and not punishing “failure” (after all, experimentation involves learning and pivoting to find new ways of doing things) your organization can discover what works.
- Having the right technology. Like old ways of doing things, outdated technology will not help you either. To quickly respond to customers’ needs and stay ahead of the competition, you will need a flexible software infrastructure that empowers your people and allows them to experiment and learn.
Instead of using an integrated software suite, you can increase your agility by following a best-of-breed strategy and connecting multiple applications via flexible APIs. These interfaces exchange information in the background and expose their data to third-party applications. Not only does a best-of-breed approach make your primary environments less complex, thus decreasing time to market, it also allows you to innovate and build new customer experiences when you need them.
APIs Simplify Continuous Evolution
If you want to stay attractive in today’s fast-paced retail marketplace, you will need to make sure you provide the best shopping experiences possible.
Focus on being part of customers’ everyday lives in order to remain relevant — be it via a webstore, a mobile app or any other platform. APIs are the glue that holds everything together.
Yes, it is hard to know how, in five or 10 years, people will discover services and products and purchase them. But with APIs you are on the safe side. As long as you have a platform that allows you to expose your content elements and data to the outside world through an API, it will be usable, regardless of the context.
So even if technology one day evolves to the point where people are fitted with subcutaneous mind-reading devices, your platform will always be able to adapt, evolve and deliver.