Fahrenheit 451

In order to be prepared for the unexpected, people and organizations have to rely on the ability to react swiftly and adapt to change.

by Tomas Barazza


Evolution is an intriguing concept to analyze. To study the evolution of a phenomenon, a living being, or a system, one has to connect the dots in reverse order and figure out what happened and why. Why did one path work, enabling the organism to multiply while the other one failed and led to extinction? Which characteristics facilitated adaptation or helped to seize evolutionary opportunities, and which ones limited it?

This kind of reassessment is absolutely fascinating and extremely useful to understand why the human brain has certain characteristics or why plants have evolved and adapted to their environments. But also why certain organizations have survived, and others have vanished.

Quite another thing, and to some extent more complex, is to predict how a subject or a system may evolve because that would mean being able to predict which characteristics would be suitable for which future contexts. And this, considering a sufficiently long timeframe, is very difficult for obvious reasons: It means being able to forecast the rise of new situations and contexts and to anticipate the type of adaptation and ‘fit’ in relation to that context. This is why trying to understand what will be needed and trying to force evolution in that direction to increase the chances of survival and success is a strategy that cannot be sufficient to ensure survival or success. In many ways, the future is unpredictable, and 2020 will undoubtedly go down in history as the year many understood the concept of the ‘black swan’ theory and reconsidered their perception of the complexity of predicting future scenarios. That is why it is more important to nurture evolutionary capabilities than to try to guess which features will work best.

It is quite likely that the future will be increasingly unpredictable and will bring about major and sudden changes. Not being able to anticipate how it will be and what will work, to survive and succeed, people and organizations will have to rely on the ability to react swiftly and adapt as they evolve. The ability to seize opportunities will depend on being able to recognize and deal with them, and this, in turn, will require flexibility, diversity, and agility. We must look up: people should focus on education that develops these skills instead of focusing everything on knowledge; and organizations should place more emphasis on how things are done, rather than just focusing on what gets done. Being prepared also pays off when it comes to evolution. And the best investment a person or organization can make is to focus on improving their adaptability and ability to grasp and ride change.

A bit like everything else. After Gary Player, a famous golfer of yesteryear, sunk a shot from a very difficult bunker, a spectator said to him: “Hey Gary, that was a very lucky shot.” He replied, “I guess you’re right, but you know, it’s funny: The more I train, the luckier I get.”