I’ve been observing a pattern for the last 25 years. It’s the pattern of learning, evolution, competition and collectivism and how they work together to cultivate the amazing diversity we see in our economies, our technologies and in ecosystems of all kinds. It comes down to how networks evolve and hone their ability to create value. I’ve seen the pattern in several recent books, but never seen the elements abstracted down to what I see as the core elements and the sequence in which they happen.
Here’s how I see the evolutionary cycle:
Along this chain, an interesting thing happens. We move to different organizational structures, different ways in which people and processes and things get organized. We from one to one, to linear or process, to networked or market-based processes for the organization of creative activities. This follow Christensen’s model of disruptive innovation, but we can see it in Hagel’s Power of Pull as well. It’s a type of “Access, Attraction and Achievement” that keeps repeating.
To me there’s also a notion of Darwin’s ideas of nature and species as a surface covered by wedges (although I’d say they were being pulled down rather than driven from above):
“Nature may be compared to a surface covered with ten thousand sharp wedges, many of the same shape, and many of different shapes representing different species, all packed closely together and all driven in by incessant blows: the blows being far severer at one time than at another; sometimes a wedge of one form and sometimes another being struck; the one driven deeply in forcing out others; with the jar and shock often transmitted very far to other wedges in many lines of direction.”
I see step 1 as the tip of the wedge, and the later steps as the wider part of the wedge as a new system enables the use of the resource discovered in step 1. Here to, we see a similarity to what David Brooks discussed in last week’s NY Times, “Nice Guys Finished First”. In fact, Brooks and Darwin are both right, the unit of the wedge could be a person, group or company, so there’s a constant interplay between cooperation, exchange and competition.
I’m going to try not to give too much detail here, but rather in future posts, give some examples of how each of these step play out in a variety of contexts. Let me know what you think of this initial iteration and let’s go from there.
Update: I just added the part about Darwin and Brooks.