12 February 2009

Darwinian R&D or, the ecology of innovation

On this the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, articles about a Darwinian approach to the economic meltdown are appearing as part of a capitalization on the event itself commensurate with a need to find ways to explain how best to fix the economy. A good example in today's Report on Business is an article about "The Natural Selector" and Darwin's approach to business. It echoes the oft-reported sentiment that businesses and banks should be left to fail as these are part of the natural order of things.

The set-up is trenchant:

What would Darwin have done?

If Charles Darwin were alive today, the scientific genius who gave the world the theory of natural selection would be on the prowl for businesses that make themselves fit for survival by adapting nimbly to change.*

Adapting to change in the current economic climate means focusing R&D efforts, already articulated in the federal Science and Technology Strategy. It also means paying attention to the environment of innovation where multiple facets of the R&D innovation chain can articulate social and economic productivity by working together. This "ecology of innovation" is the collaborate to compete or open source model that has emerged along with the Internet as a viable way of fostering what Chesbrough has called open innovation.

Speaking of which, Internet pioneer Mark Cuban has announced his own personal stimulus plan which he calls Open Source Funding. Call this an adaptive approach to start-up development.

As Darwin said, "It is not the strongest of the species who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change."

Happy Darwin Day.

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