Are Innovation & Evolution Really the Same Thing?

I am fascinated by evolution. It’s a controversial topic (+), science knows it exists but can’t explicitly determine how it works (+), our existence is a result of this mysterious phenomena (+). What’s not to like, you couldn’t make up this sort of drama? Of the literature I’ve read the punctuated equilibrium model where after eons of consistency something happens and as a result there is a dramatic jump in evolution (either within a specie or more frequently across many species) seems to me to be the best justification for evolution.

So what does evolution have to do with business? Well, you see, I’m a fan of Glee. I know I’m not exactly the target demographic but it’s a fun show and I recently read How Fox’s ‘Glee’ Married TV and Music in a New Money Making Model. It got me thinking that if it weren’t for the Internet and DVRs popping up and causing all sorts of havoc for network television Glee probably wouldn’t have emerged, at least not in the form we have today. For years TV remained pretty static, sure it went from B&W to Color and later Cable and Satellite emerged to add choices but the model remained the same. Until web video and DVRs changed things. The same is true of the music industry, it’s hard to imagine Glee selling as much music as it has if it weren’t for MP3’s dislodging physical media and the emergence of iTunes where people can watch the show and download music simultaneously.

So, while the dinosaurs in traditional media went extinct some evolved… and sure other new species emerged to fill the vacuum. All this has led me to a new question: does more innovation (valuable sustainable innovation) happen in steady-state as innovators see opportunities or has it been in a response to changes in the landscape that the greatest advances in technology, business process and business models have taken place?


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