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Charles Darwin based his theory of evolution on the principle. It determines which organizations thrive and which don't survive. And last night it determined which team won and which team lost a National Championship. The principle is this: you either adapt to your environment or you die.

You can't control the weather, but you can control your response to it. You can dress for it, you can modify your actions (e.g., drive more slowly in a downpour), or you can choose to stay in a climate controlled indoors. So while you can't control the environmental factor of weather, you can determine your response to it. The same can be said for most any environment.

Kodak, a proud and historically successful manufacturer of camera film is on the verge of bankruptcy, while International Business Machines (IBM) just completed one of its' best years yet. In the age of digital photography, Kodak is still making camera film. In an age of inexpensive and an over abundance of personal computers, IBM no longer sells pcs-a product they essentially invented.

Last night in New Orleans, the University of Alabama football team had an unproven quarterback, no premier receivers available and an inconsistent running game and went up against one of the most powerful defenses in college football-Louisiana State University. Alabama adjusted and scored 21 points. Louisiana did not adapt, and scored no points in the entire game-the first time a team has been held scoreless in a National Championship game. The team that adapted won: 21-0.

So when and how do you adapt? When the reasons you were or could be successful no longer exist is when you adapt. If you are running a race, and the energy is no longer there it is time for an energy bar or drink (or even just before the energy goes away-preparation is powerful tool in adaptation). In business, if customers are not coming through the door or visiting the website, it is time to adapt-or die. How you adapt has to do with the reasons you are not finding success. While people are no longer buying camera film, they are still taking pictures. Kodak did not or could not adapt to the changing market.

Top performers understand their environment, and they constantly study it and monitor it for changes. When changes and nuances are detected, they are analyzed in attempt to exploit them. IBM realized that while selling business machines was no longer truly profitable (e.g., see the performances of HP, Dell, Tandy), the information generated from those machines was still needed by large organizations-but large organizations didn't know how to integrate the manufacturing data with the sales data with the shipping data with the financial data, etc., etc., etc. But IBM did. They went to school and learned or developed the cutting edge technology for information storage, integration and retrieval (e.g., the cloud) and then sold this knowledge as consulting services. IBM has a future because it adapted to changes in its' business environment. Kodak will soon be a memory in a museum; a proverbial "Kodak moment" in time, because it couldn't adapt. This morning in Louisiana, I'm sure there are football coaches wondering how they could have adapted last night. Adapt or die. Darwin knew.


Larry Hart

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