Business & The Critical Nature of Adaptation


The critical nature of adaptation is a universal truth. Its impacts can be seen across a range of topics. For this article we will touch on how its effects, impact both the military and nature, before finally finishing with how adaptation applies to business.

Adaptation from a Military point of view – Strategy needs to be understood as an adaptable system of objectives and options. Many in the military understand this. They understand that only the start of a military conflict is plan-able, since “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy”. (Per Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke [the Elder], 1800 – 1891, Chief of Staff of the Prussian Army for thirty years.)

What Helmuth was talking about is that you may be able to predict the first move within a conflict (or, if you’re lucky, the second move as well), but once you get more than a few moves in, absolute predictability is a myth.

There are two dangerous fallacies that can accompany this type of planning.

The first is that rigid and narrow plans can be used to guide behaviors in chaotic environments. Again, most rigid plans at their best, a couple of moves in, become radically less effective. And at their worst, the ineffective plans can cause damage and loss of life.

The second fallacy is that if rigid and narrow planning doesn’t work, “then why plan at all? Planning doesn’t do any good anyway. The answer must be to avoid planning, and just go with general goals. Once the conflict starts, we will figure out what it is we need to do as we go. Loosely making decisions in real time and then hoping that the decisions we make are the right decisions. Or at least decisions that don’t damage people and the larger goal.”

If rigid plans don’t work, and non-planning doesn’t work, then what is the answer? The answer is, meaningful, purposeful adaptability.

Adaptation from a Nature point of view – Some people think that Charles Darwin coined the term “survival of the fittest”. Darwin never said “survival of the fittest”. Darwin said “survival of those that can best adapt.” It was Herbert Spencer who coined the term “survival of the fittest”. And there is an important difference between these two statements. An important difference between fitness and adaptability. Dinosaurs used to be the fittest. However, they were not able to adapt to changes in their environment. As a result, they are gone. They are history.

Adaptation from a Business point of view – I can’t remember the last time I used WordPerfect or Lotus 1-2-3. They too used to be the fittest. However they didn’t or couldn’t adapt. And there are plenty of other historical business examples of companies that were deemed to be incredibly strong – among the fittest – that have since vanished entirely from the face of the business world. The new businesses that took their places, the ones that have persisted over time, and are truly successful in the long-run, are those businesses that can and do adapt.

The power of using business strategy mapping, is in being able to better adapt to change. More explicitly, the power of using Kring Strategy Mapping (KSM), is that it helps you understand how to best adapt to your current integrated business environment. And KSM improves your ability to more quickly understand and adapt to new environmental changes. New changes, challenges and opportunities that businesses continually face every day. There is more to read on how to use KSM. How to use it, to determine how best to invest in your company. How to use KSM to drive and guide your product development and innovation activities. And how to apply the methodology to a range of other initiatives. This additional information can be found at link:

But for the purpose of this article, the two most important things to understand, are:

  1. Your Objectives – “To profitability influence the behaviors of both your customers and your employees, to generate value for both the customer and the company.”
  2. How It All Fits Together – “So you can understand the tradeoffs that need to be made, to maximize the value generated. And to make it easier to communicate what needs to be done to everyone else in the company. So that everyone in the company shares the same picture of what needs to be done.”

Your Objectives

A graphic way to understand your objectives for the company, is to understand the attitudes and behaviors you are trying to impact. To visually illustrate that your objectives are to try to shepherd customers into the upper left-hand box below. All while working on a base of profitable compliance. In order to practically apply this approach, it is useful to take this “Objectives Anchor Grid”, and fill in your information. Fill in the information for the specific business challenges and opportunities that you face.

How It All Fits Together

With a clear understanding of your objectives. Your objectives for each of your customer and prospect segments above, it is then useful to understand how it all fits together. How: marketing, finance, operations, customers, shareholders and employees all fit together. It is only by knowing how all of these functions and stakeholders fit together, that you can then determine the tradeoffs you need to make to best run your business. And how to make these decisions so you can then best adapt to, and take advantage of, your current environment. And as your environment changes, you can then adapt your understanding and actions to best take advantage of your new environemtnt.

Again, it is not the fittest that survive. It is the ones that can best adapt. And it is easier to adapt, if you know explicitly what it is your objectives are, and how it is all of the pieces of your business fit together.

Please share this with others. We all need to get to a much more functional place, more quickly. And let me know if you have any questions. As a business geek, I love this stuff.

Additional detail can be found in the book “Business Strategy Mapping – The power of knowing how it all fits together” Link:

And in additional articles at Link: There are also worksheets and workshops given on this methodology. All designed to make your business life easier. Again, please let me know if you have any questions.

#Strategy, #Leadership, #Management, #BigIdeas, #Entrepreneur, #ChangeManagement

Have questions? Want to schedule a “Lunch-n-Learn” or a workshop? You can reach me at