THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION

There's nothing random about these paleolithic tools. Plus, they never needed to be recharged.

There's nothing random about these paleolithic tools. Plus, they never needed to be recharged.

(Part 1 of a 2 part series)

Of course your solution is not optimized. It's only 10 minutes old. If evolution teaches us anything it's that elegant solutions rarely emerge in their first iteration.

One of the great challenges in the evolutionary process is for something to develop a successful survival strategy before it gets out-competed. There is a finite clock on certain evolutionary paths; time and tide wait for no one. In creative enterprises of all sorts it's impossible to ignore this reality. In fact, wishing things were different simply by wrapping them in contemporary colors and high-tech shells does not make the laws of nature any less true. Humans cannot fly despite the fact that we’ve built airplanes to lift us into the clouds. The challenge for you, creative person that you are, is to take your glowing idea and get it to pass through enough stages of evolution fast enough that it doesn’t get out-competed, marginalized, or eaten before it has a chance to stand up.

Survival of the fittest forces hard choices, but read as a coldly pragmatic, immutable design principle it can expedite the process of taking an idea from genesis to delivery. To some extent that’s a function of being aware enough of the environment where you hope your idea will live. You adapt only where you are aware of real pressures. It makes no sense to build a commercial maritime marina in the middle of Wyoming.

That said, fitness of various sorts can come in many forms, and as your idea tries to stand on its hind legs its vital to balance your needs to overcome external pressures with your willingness to experiment with structural modifications. Remember: elegant solutions rarely emerge in their first iteration.

Lots of ideas move into the world before they’re elegant, and history shows plenty that manage to survive, at least for a while. But even in the natural world, some solutions find strange niches simply through expressions of outlier traits. Tyrannosaurus Rex had a few bigthings going for it, but it was unlikely to persist for millions of years had that meteor not knocked it for a loop. Alas, that theory cannot be tested. Something from space DID knock it for a loop, and—surprise!—small mammals managed to hunker down in the face of cataclysm, adapt, iterate, and evolve.

Your creative work may not be facing a meteor later today, but that doesn’t mean you can’t brace for stresses. If you’ve got something you want to deliver to the world, you’ll have to do hard things, including surviving challenges that threaten your enterprise.

Those solutions will not come through will alone. Your power to iterate means you’ll need the the courage to abandon what’s not working, try something new, take what works and jettison what doesn’t. The only way to do this is to learn from everything. Take everything useful from your past and your present and turn it into the future.

Welcome to the evolution.

(Next week: "The Evolution will be Televised")


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