In 1859 Darwin revealed the magic of nature's energy generator, the three-step algorithm that drives evolution.
It's time to put aside pre-Darwinian management superstition and general silliness and embrace the universal power of this evolutionary algorithm in our teams, organisations and even nations.
What is culture
Drukker famously told us that 'culture eats strategy for breakfast.' That's a catchy soundbite, but what does it really mean and how is it useful?
Ask one hundred people to define culture and you will get one hundred different answers.
Management thinking and our pre-Darwinian mindset
For decades we have been subjected to a range of quaint but totally unscientific cultural ideas from Tom Peters' MBWA (management by walking about) and Jim Collins' BHAG (big hairy audacious goals) to hugely popular stories about rats wandering about looking for cheese. And today the drums beat out daily 'disruption!' and 'agility!' as if natural creativity and evolution were miraculously and suddenly discovered.
Management science seems to have become stuck in a monasterial and pre-Darwinian mindset of polishing historical knowledge and ignoring new information beyond the ramparts.
Enter two heroes and two millennia. Lucretius and Darwin.
53 B.C. Lucretius, Roman poet and philosopher
Lucretius, Roman poet and philosopher, wrote De Rerum Naturae, or On the Nature of Things in 53 B.C. Incredibly he dictated many universal and scientific truths repeated by Stephen Hawking in his recent and final book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions.
Lucretius declared that the universe is infinite, it comprises an infinite number of infinitely small particles (atoms), and most importantly that nature flows continuously on a given path until there is a shift and a new pathway emerges. In other words, evolution in modern parlance.
And for two thousand years we ignored this most powerful of scientific and evolutionary insights through a global war of violent and superstitious political and religious nonsense, where intelligent and scientific thinking were often rewarded with a little cooking lesson, not of the Jamie Oliver kind.
1859 A.D. Darwin, with the greatest idea in history
November 1859 to be precise. Darwin, with the aid of his loyal flycatcher Wallace, published On the Origin of Species revealing to us the algorithm, the beautiful, deep and powerful method that drives life, the universe and everything (including people, teams and organisations.) He revealed the simple three steps of evolution. Wherever there is repetition, variation and selection there must be evolution.
It is as simple as that. No purpose or greater plan required. The energy of life flows continuously, with random shifts taking us hither and thither, sometimes up, sometimes down. And Darwin's magical three-step algorithm applies equally to individuals, teams and organisations. We ignore this at our peril.
Let's test this idea. (For our purposes let's forget biological evolution and focus on cultural evolution.) Change can take place either from the top down (dictated) or from the bottom up (evolutionary). The twentieth century saw many top down human tragedies such as global wars - hardly an advertisement for positive evolution. However in recent times since the evolution of the internet (a bottom up innovation) we have seen an avalanche of giant tech companies filling the void. From Microsoft to Facebook none of the current giants was built from the top down. A more common theme of origins reveals young rebels and mavericks experimenting with technology they enjoy and riding on the back of Darwin's algorithm.
The challenge for management today is that much of management 'wisdom' is top down or pre-Darwinian. Think strategy, structure and performance management and how they are applied in many organisations. How then can management science go beyond the ramparts and bring evolutionary science into cultural evolution?
Towards a wave theory of individuals, teams and organisations
Let's start with you the reader. In this moment you have a history based on your genes and experience which combine to make the way you think and act unique amongst seven billion people. Now imagine you enter a room with colleagues. Metaphorically see this as being dropped in a pond where you generate a wave impact that bathes over others in the room. How you interact, show emotions, move and speak will create your perceived wave which can be positive or negative, high-energy or low-energy.
Of course if there are ten people in the room there will be ten waves all competing and creating the dynamic reality that everyone experiences. Now extrapolate this principle to the whole organisation and you will have the basis of a wave theory for the organisation.
Adding the evolutionary algorithm
If we see individuals, teams and organisations as four dimensional wave functions then we open the door to post Darwinism and the application of the powerful evolutionary algorithm of repetition, variation and selection. In fact if management scientists can grasp this most beautiful of ideas, we will then be free to design and control our own cultural DNA and the future that it will bring.
Who knows? Perhaps Chief Executive Officers will transmogrify into Chief Evolutionary Officers.