Everything evolves

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Every activity, practice, data type, etc. starts in the Genesis stage, and either evolves toward the Commodity stage, or dies along the way. Things evolve through vendors competing to improve the product (supply side evolution) and through the market adapting to take better advantage of the thing (demand side evolution).

From chapter 2 in the book:

In any industrial ecosystem, novel and new things constantly appear as a consequence of the desire for companies and individuals to gain an advantage over others.  Those things that are useful will be copied.  They will spread until the once novel and new becomes commonplace.  Yesterday’s wonders are destined to become today’s discounted special offers.  The magic of the first electric light bulb, the first computer and the first telephone are now an expected norm.  We no longer marvel at such things but instead we would reel in utter shock if presented with a workplace that did not provide them.  Competition and the desire to gain an advantage not only creates change, it spreads it and forces companies to adopt it.[1]



Over time, suppliers compete to make the product better, faster, cheaper, more reliable, better fit for purpose, etc. Over that same period, users of the product understand the product better, and learn how to use it more effectively in their lives or businesses. They buy it in greater and greater volumes, expect it at lower and lower prices, and expect greater and greater reliability. Users build expertise, procedures, assumptions, and systems around this product.

From chapter 11 in the book:

If the conditions exist that a person or groups of people will strive to gain some form of advantage or control over others due to a constraint (i.e. a limitation of a resource or time or money or people) then we have competition. If competition exists then the components effected will evolve until they become industrialised. This impacts everything from activities (what we do), practices (how we do something), data (how we measure something) to knowledge (how we understand something). The map is never static but dynamic.  It's also important to understand that if competition exists then you will be in conflict with others. Sometimes the best way of resolving this is through coopetition (i.e. cooperative competition) and building alliances. In other cases, depending upon the context, then you have to fight even to the point of a game of last man standing. In any significant landscape then you're likely to find yourself building alliances on one part of the map whilst at the same time fighting other companies in another and withdrawing from a third. However as the components on your map evolve then your former allies can become foes and vice versa. Microsoft and open source used to be mortal enemies, they're now often found to be best buddies. To manage such a dynamic and fluid environment then you're going to need to be able to observe it.[2]


Evolution of Activity Practices and Data.png


When users build processes, systems, procedures, etc. around a version of a product, this is called the “practice” around usage of that product. This practice also evolves to get better over time. This is called “Co-evolution of practice”. Sometimes a change occurs in the underlying product that allows or requires a change in the practice, so that a new practice forms and evolves. When this happens, the industry show some internal religious wars over the correct practice, with adherents of the old practice pointing to the maturity as evidence of superiority. The old practice is, in fact, “better” by the metrics of reliability, familiarity, and number of trained practitioners. However, it is no longer a good fit for the new product, and the new practice, although less mature, and therefore somewhat less reliable, less familiar, and less popular, is the next wave of growth & the path to success. Until the next evolution of the product, of course.

Coevolution of Practice and Activity.png

See Also

Climatic patterns

Further Reading

Wardley's 2013 blog post: Everything Evolves

References