Chapter 5 - Fitness Landscapes

OCTOBER 29, 2011

Chapter 5 - Fitness Landscapes

Not all the outside forces that are continually shaping us are competition based – at least not in the more common sense.  The environment itself can provide those pressures in the form of a “fitness landscape” in which the competition is for resources (profits, talent, customers, etc).

That “fitness landscape” is hardly smooth and level; it is usually comprised of jagged peaks and valleys illustrating the varying degrees of successful adaptation to the surrounding conditions (environment).  Organisms, societies, and business units are continually responding to their particular “landscapes” and either becoming more successful (moving up the fitness peak) or less so (and falling downward).

Sometimes, there is deliberate movement downward in an attempt to reach another higher fitness peak.  This is a particularly important concept for business; it accurately describes the normal path a business must usually take to achieve continuing success. Seemingly secure “fitness peaks” must sometimes be abandoned and valleys negotiated before an enterprise can begin to climb a new, more sharply defined peak.
Just because we find change uncomfortable in the short term, doesn’t mean we can’t still get through the process without too much frustration and pain.  Most new learning takes place just this way. Progress always comes more slowly than we would prefer even when the new tasks we want to accomplish (like losing weight) or the skills we desire to acquire (like learning Spanish) are minor.

Risk is the price of progress and achievement.

For instance, we all had to learn to drive once and almost none of us were “naturals” when we began. Each of us decided that the “pain” and “discomfort” of learning how to drive (including studying that dreary little manual) worth the effort. The reason we endured this boredom so cheerfully is that we clearly had a joyous “end in mind”. And to a anxious teenager that “end in mind” can be expressed in a single word – F-R-E-E-D-O-M (somewhere I can hear Aretha Franklin singing in the background).