Adapt or die …

It’s weird, you spend your whole life never having heard a particular quote, and then it pops up everywhere … the one in question in this case is this one:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change – Charles Darwin

In these surreal times where shouting “boo!” too loudly can bring down a bank, I guess it’s not that surprising that this quote should surface in all kinds of different contexts and be bent in many different directions to support various arguments and points of view.

Other quotes peppering senior management communications and interviews include: “… more leadership, less management”; and “… think like a small company” … both nice, neat little sound bites which, while conveying a nicely packaged sentiment, are in danger of becoming meaningless and lacking in any kind of authenticity when fired into the crowds at random.

While supporters of social media are shouting as loudly as they (we) can that: “IF YOU WANT ADAPTABLE, AGILE, LEADERSHIP, <<INSERT BUZZ WORD OF YOUR CHOICE>>, THEN SOCIAL MEDIA CAN DELIVER IT!” … we all know it will deliver none of these things on its own. Social media is not a bolt-on component but the mechanism for supporting a different way of working, collaborating, interacting, relating … a different kind of organisational culture.

If ever there was a time for a complete organisational drains-up, then it must surely be now. Out of adversity springs unique and unparallelled opportunities … I can’t help feeling that social media’s time has now come to break into enterprise settings big time … it’ll be interesting to see how companies in crisis react – reach out, or lock out!



  1. Take up of social media (internal systems)is indeed slow, but without doubt can bring benefits, though developing ROI’s is a nightmare.

    But perhaps the banking turmoil can ask us to look at our information space in another way; have we got the information management in place for social media? Are we ready to capture information? can we search information created by these tools? Are we creating silos? I hate the term ‘regulation’ as it can be seen as an inhibitor of communication, but a free for all no holes bar market place is perhaps not as good as some may have hoped?

  2. Every organisation is a living system and therefore must continously adapt, if it wishes to remain relevant or viable in its environment. Hence the popularity of the “adapt or die” axiom.

    However, I believe that there is a compelling need for a macro-level adaptation, rather than just the individual/ organisational imperative for survival. We need a genuine paradigm shift, forward from the redundant (IT-centric) paradigm, if we are to fulfil our fundamental obligations to our stakeholders, i.e. to deliver effective information systems.

    I believe so strongly in the need for this adaptation that I am committing myself full time to helping it happen, through my blog (Fighting the Trillion Dollar Bonfire) at and through other channels.

    The status quo is no longer an option for so many spheres of operation, given the prevailing economic climate.

    To paraphrase another Darwin misquote, we are in an era where Survival of the Quickest is a vital factor.

  3. Good points Glyn. However, I think the notion that social media in the enterprise is some kind of ‘free-for-all’ is totally wrong – it’s about openness, transparency and authenticity a in managed – all-be-it very light-touch way – environment. Let’s face it – the financial services industry could do with all three of those!

  4. Colin – your apocalyptic message is going to be hard to sell to people who have, and continue, to benefit handsomely from the way we do things now … that doesn’t make it wrong though 😉

    The contradiction in all this is that organisations don’t do social media, individuals do … translating individual actions into macro-scale change is not an overnight affair!

  5. Great insights. However, if adaptability is so important to organizations then why do only 14% of businesses feel very prepared to adapt to change according to an IBM study recently published. Being adaptable is critical but much harder than just saying that we should. As an employee in a Fortune 500 company I have heard every buzzword about being adaptable, agile, entrepreneurial, empowered, etc. Businesses that really believe being adaptable is important will do far more than just tell their leaders to do so. They will invest in making it happen. With the economic crisis slapping us in the face it is far too apparent why businesses should be ready for change.

  6. Richard,

    I agree with you, but I think that we need to see this development in an even broader perspective. Our industries -I work in one of them- are going through hard times, but that is the normal development of economies going up and down. Nothing new there, just hadn’t seen it for a while. The real change is a more fundamental one in my view: we are finally adapting from the age of industry to the age of connection. The economy of scales that suited our production intensive factories is making way for the era of connecting. The new ‘factory’ worker is now a knowledge worker. Social media suit the needs of these knowledge workers perfectly, across the boundaries of organizations, yet, our organizations are still organized in silos, as if they were still only producing goods. I think that the web 2.0 revolution will eventually change our organizations. One example, and there are many: why would I limit my creativity 8 hours a day to just one company, if I could connect my ideas to every company in the world with modern media? The crowdsourcing trend is a perfect example of that development. An 8 hour a day workweek with one company is typical for the industrial age, a ‘who knows how many hours’workweek for many companies might become the reality for quite a few of us.

  7. organization have to adaptto the changing enviroment or change their mindset or way of conducting their business to survive and succeed in an ever- increasing competitive enviroment. Do you agree? Explain.

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