DIGITAL DARWINISM

7 Breakthrough Business Strategies for Surviving in the Cutthroat Web Economy

A New York Times bestseller (1999)

"Seven strategies will separate the winners from the losers." Dallas Business Journal

"Lively and engaging, Schwartz’s method is admirably inductive, keeping the focus on real people dealing with practical problems."Ernst & Young Management Review

"Digital Darwinism is a killer guide to the critical factors of success—and failure—in the Internet economy." —Marc Andreessen, Cofounder of Netscape 

Introduction: Frenetic Evolution

We will now discuss, in little more detail, the struggle for existence.
—Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

When Charles Darwin presented his theory of evolution in 1859, he described a world in which only the fittest survive, a world in which species must constantly adapt to their changing environment or face extinction, a world in which organisms must continue to grow in a profitable direction and develop new skills and traits or perish, a world in which life-forms must look around and learn with whom to cooperate and with whom to compete, a world in which the surrounding conditions for life can, suddenly and drastically, improve or take a turn for the worse. Darwin even wrote that we are all "bound together in a complex web of relations."

This lexicon applies unmistakably to the digital business landscape now flourishing and mutating across the World Wide Web. "Many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive," Darwin wrote. "Consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, and it follows that any being, if it varies however slightly in any manner profitable to itself under the complex conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected." And just as Darwin observed that competition for food and resources leads to principles of natural evolution, we can see that brutal market forces in the increasingly cutthroat Web economy lead to new strategies for economic survival.

Indeed, the Web is in the throes of an especially frenetic evolution. As an environment that can sustain economic life, the Web has given birth to entirely new species of start-ups and enterprises that could not have existed previously. These new economic organisms are, in turn, forcing older corporate species to evolve in new ways, producing new business models and characteristics necessary for their own survival. 

Still, evolution takes time to manifest itself in a significant way. In the natural world, often it takes thousands of years for major or even slight changes to become apparent. The Web may be a universe of digital information in which companies can change their appearance and switch their survival plans in a matter of weeks, but evolution writ large still requires a more significant time frame to produce outcomes, results, effects, and lessons learned the hard way. 

We are already moving beyond the commercial Web's era as a marshland for single-cell organisms. Corporate creatures founded on one simple, untested idea--selling a certain product or service online, for instance--have been happily splashing about in the early Web's primordial soup, perhaps not realizing that they are really just simmering themselves before drowning or becoming somebody else's lunch. At the same time, their rivals are clawing their way to prosperity, developing higher forms of intelligence, and inventing breakthrough business tactics especially suited to their swiftly shifting surroundings.

What will the Web economy look like as evolution escalates and we witness real conflicts, surprises, new developmental stages, and turning points?

Will it be uncertain? Absolutely. 

Unpredictable? Most assuredly. 

Unusual? Rather so.

Unruly? Quite often. 

Unsustainable? It has been thus far. 

Uncluttered? Far from it.

Undramatic? No chance.

Unsafe? Bloody awful. 

Unrewarding? Not if you listen closely.