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Mutation & Evolution

Or are you a Dinosaur or an Eagle (or even a Dodo!)?

I was listening to a talk the other day about Mutation & Evolution. It is possible, that like me, you have not paused to consider the link between these two key processes. Mutation is the result of flaws in a cell's capability to copy or reproduce an exact copy of its self. Cells are dying off in our bodies all the time (the average red blood cell lasts only 120 days.) In fact 50,000,000 died whilst you read that sentence (read on if you dare!) Evolution is the end product of successful or beneficial mutations. "So what" you may think.. "Very interesting, but why do I care?" Here is where it gets interesting; evolution is an organism's way of adapting to and surviving in a changing world!

Our genes are remarkably similar to those of other life forms. For example, we share 98% of our genes with chimpanzees, 90% with mice, 85% with zebra fish, 21% with worms, and 7% with a simple bacterium such as E. coli.

So that got me thinking about the business world and how rapidly it is changing, and wondering how you are evolving to cope with that. It is pretty commonly known that the answer to the question of "What happened to the dinosaurs?" the erstwhile rulers of the Earth is that they eventually got smaller, grew wings, learnt how to fly and became the ancestors of today's birds; some became eagles, some became dodos…

If our cells could reproduce themselves perfectly, we would be immortal! However, we would also still be primeval mono-celled creatures! In business, leaders often choose to recruit people who are like them, effectively self-reproducing, but we can see that Evolution requires new blood, new ideas. In the human body, our white cells surround and attack cells that are 'different' in order to protect us, but I often observe the corporate equivalent and those people who don't quite fit are attacked and usually move on. Corporates like to talk about valuing diversity, but actually very few succeed in using it to their benefit.

Humans are 99.9% genetically identical - only 0.1% of our genetic make-up differs, and yet, all of it is contained inside the microscopic nucleus of a cell so tiny that it could easily fit on the head of a pin!

So the whole success of life on Earth is due to a series of small errors made when information is copied. It is often the case that corporations make huge profits from similarly small mistakes, like the glue that wouldn't quite set that ended up making 3M a fortune as Post-its. If you want to get somewhere different, then you can save time by finding a different starting point. Go to someone who doesn't know the answer; try someone who hasn't done it before.

Another interesting thing is that the human genome is contains around 30,000,000,000 bits of information, the vast majority of which seem to do nothing! (Another corporate analogy?) It is referred to as 'the junk in the attic'. It represents huge potential that simply has not been 'switched on'. Again this got me thinking about the potential within your team, your organisation that has not been switched on. What would it take to do so? How do you get someone to come out of their safe shell and show you what they can do, to show you who they are? The answer is they will do it when they feel safe, and not judged, when they feel seen and valued for who they are and not who they are 'meant' to be.

If the genome was a book, it would be the equivalent of 800 dictionaries. It would take a person typing 60 words per minute, eight hours a day, around 50 years to type the human genome. You would need 3 gigabytes of storage space on a computer to hold all of this.

So much corporate energy goes into trying to get people to conform, and yet this is the very opposite of Nature's strategy to be winners in the Change Race. We are bombarded with information about Global Warming and Climate Change, but I think that in 100 years time the experts will say that the pace of change in business now was even faster. What are you doing to be a winner in this race?

Change is like going to the gym, good for you but hard work. Similarly you need to work at it on an ongoing basis. Ensure that you keep you business constantly in flux as it takes far more energy to move forward again if you let it settle for too long (a bit like trying to resume your exercise regime after the Xmas break!)

"All evolution in thought and conduct must at first appear as heresy and misconduct."
George Bernard Shaw

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