Antagonistic Product Evolution
There is an interesting model in evolution theory with lots of evidence to back it up. It deals with the fact that (in most cases) things evolve faster in competitive environments and things evolve fastest in antagonistic environments.
An antagonistic environment occurs when there’s active and intense competition for resources. For example, two top predators (commonly called “apex” predators, meaning nobody messes with them) vying for supremacy in the same food chain. At some point the two apex predators will stop preying on prey and start preying on each other. They’ll have to because two apex predators will quickly deplete all prey species and the only food resource left will be each other, hence somebody’s messing with somebody, hence apex-envy ensues and there can be only one “king of the mountain” in evolutionary terms.
So these predators will rapidly evolve (think “arms escalation”) until one gains the top spot. Sometimes (and rarely) will cooperation be the result and when it does occur it usually takes the form of one predator species become alpha and the other becoming beta. An example of this is scavenger species that help top predators cull herds of the weak, wait while the top predators dine then go in for the scraps. Humans and dogs are examples of this in the modern world (ie, the past 12-15k years or so). Wolves and humans vied for top predator status, wolves evolved into dogs (and right quickly, too. Wolves have been around as “wolves” for close to a million years) because humans left enough from their kills to warrant the evolutionary change.
That’s another thing to be aware of in these evolutionary, escalatory exchanges; the species that chooses the less dominant path tends to thrive because the more dominant species needs it in order to insure apex status. The fact that humans domesticated wolves into dogs then created so many varieties of dogs to do such a variety of jobs is a demonstration of this. The downside to such relationships is that the beta species will become prey to the alpha in hard times.
Antagonistic environments are usually unstable, meaning “something’s got to give”. Unstable environments are the bane of ecologies because ecologies survive best when things are in balance. Balance occurs in competition — sometimes A wins, sometimes B wins — but never in antagonism — somebody’s got to become “top dog”, to reach the apex, so to speak.
Mature business environments are competitive, rarely antagonistic. Antagonism is a hallmark of early stage evolutionary systems. There’s extreme competition for resources, predators haven’t evolved to match the opportunities of select prey because (in early evolutionary systems) everything is prey and everything is predator. Keystone species — the species that support ecologies at a fundamental and necessary level — haven’t evolved yet.
Even in mature markets something will occur, some tipping or tripping point triggers environmental/ecological change and the mature market will spawn a new market that is highly immature and antagonism ensues.
Think “land grabs”. Think “speculative markets”. Think “junk bonds”. Think “mortgage crisis”. Think about much of what has happened in the past ten years.
Think any maturing industry and you’ll first see antagonism once a new market opportunity is recognized, eventually followed by competition once the market is stabilized (again, balance). I’ve even heard of market competitors forming “co-opetitons”, co-operative competitive ventures. I’ve seen the contracts involved in such things and graciously shy away. As a friend once told me, “The purpose of those contracts is to decide where and when the mutual f?cking will begin.”
I consider such market realities to be necessary evils. They are fascinating to watch “over there” and tend to be not much fun “right here”. Environments and ecologies evolve and there’s nothing anybody can do to stop them. Any human intervention means new balances will occur. Bailouts and market reforms are (I believe) sorry examples of this. Concepts of market tending and stabilization grew out of long proven agrarian husbandry concepts that are (typically) misapplied.
The challenge in moving the concept from barnyard to main street is that the barnyard is a fixed and intentionally static environment with a highly monitored ecology. You can grow bigger beef, taller wheat, tastier corn or fleeter salmon because nothing is allowed to deviate from well established norms.
Main street is neither fixed nor static. It is a free market (or at least claims to be) hence environments and ecologies can be highly monitored and that’s about it. Some fox or coyote sneaks through the fence, some crows or chickadees recognize your owls can’t be everywhere and baboom your whole world changes. Whatever your monitoring must obey the barnyard rules but the predators are free to do whatever they want. Predators may not even be recognized by your monitoring systems (think “Bernie Madoff”).
I bring all this up because NextStage is about to get (what I consider) a good review from Gartner in their “Cool Vendor” report. The lines I especially like are
- Analysis of content before publishing ensures that it will appeal to the desired audience.
- Analysis of the users to a web site will help align content to the audience and their expectations.
- These products provide empirical data about user profiles and reactions — which is difficult to obtain other ways — while protecting anonymity.
It’s going to be interesting (think “Chinese Curse”), these next few months. I already know what new products NextStage will be releasing this year. I have no idea how they or the markets we’re entering will evolve although I do know both will.
The very introduction of new species (regardless of that species survival fitness at the time of introduction) into an existing ecology changes it forever (think “invasive species”, think “zebra mussels”, think “kudzu”). All that’s required is that the invasive species be more opportunistic with the available resources than species already established in that environment. The odds are in favor of the invasive species. They’re coming in prepared to evolve. Existing species have evolved to a stasis condition with the existing environment (balanced ecology). The introduction of the new species necessarily disrupts the ecology, changes the environment, new ecological niches are demonstrated, …
A good research project. Or two, me thinks, releasing NextStage’s chimeras (a nod to things hybrid, born of four parents, like NextStage’s Evolution Technology) from the barnyard onto the main streets, don’t you?
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