Thursday, 26 February 2009

Gambles lead to evolutionary changes

Intelligent design may be a professional approach. But it is hard work. You may find you can get on more easily by taking chances.

It is a jungle out there. Both the progress of a business and the promotion of its managers can be viewed as processes of evolution, in which there is natural selection of those advantageous variations that result from random changes.

Darwin summarised his theory of evolution on page 5 of “On the Origin of Species”. We paraphrase and adapt that summary as follows.

“Many more employees are employed in an organisation than can possibly be promoted to senior levels; and consequently, there is a never ending struggle for promotion.
Any employee whose decisions appear more profitable will have a better chance of being selected for promotion.
And the promoted employees will tend to repeat the decision making processes that led to their promotion.”

The progress of your business is driven by management decisions, each of which can lead to an improvement or deterioration in the business. Your management decisions can be rewarded by an improvement in the business and an increase in your authority, even if you made those decisions with little or no certainty about their impact on the business.

Some of your management decisions will approach random in that sense, but not in all senses. You will apply intelligence and experience to the decision making. You will take care especially to consider the short-term impact on your salary or bonus. And consider what will help you survive in the surrounding culture.

There is another angle to our take on evolution. The “alpha male” gets to boss a troop of apes. Promotion to a senior level will require you to be seen and selected by others as an alpha character. This is still a sought-for selection criterion in top jobs. Indeed, you do need some alphaness to carry through a top job, though that is not necessarily associated with the other competencies needed to manage a complex business.

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