Geoff Hudson-Searle

5 years ago · 5 min. reading time · 0 ·

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What can we learn from Darwin in today's technological world?

What can we learn from Darwin in today's technological world?


Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. The world he was born into would be entirely unrecognisable to us today. Bicycles had yet to be invented, steam engines were just beginning to appear, and slavery was commonly practiced in both England and the United States. During the course of his lifetime, Darwin saw the world around him change enormously, but arguably the most significant change came from his own ideas. Darwin’s theory evolution of natural selection, altered the ways we think about almost every aspect of life.

While Darwin’s theory was ground breaking, shocking, and tremendously illuminating during his lifetime, what can it mean for us today? With all the time that has passed since Darwin’s birth, is there anything we can still learn from him? In the pursuit of science and everyday life, there are countless ways Darwin’s words still ring true today.

I recently watched a film called ‘Concussion’, which triggered the thoughts behind this blog. Starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born pathologist who brought the issue of brain damage in retired NFL players to the forefront, Concussion is the sort of underdog-stares-down-corporate-behemoth feature that reliably manages to stir up some awards buzz.

The true-life story began unfolding in September 2002 when Omalu, then with the Allegheny County coroner’s office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was assigned to perform an autopsy on the body of Mike Webster. Known as “Iron Mike,” Webster was a beloved former Pro Bowler with Pittsburgh Steelers, the anchor of a front line that helped the team win four Super Bowls. However, his mental health deteriorated to the point where he was ranting at strangers and zapping himself with a Taser gun, until his death from a heart attack at age 50.

But what else can you, entrepreneur, business leader or individual learn from Charles Darwin?

Use the power of observation. Many people are so busy making decisions, analysing problems and seeking answers that they pay no attention to simply observing. Darwin, on the other hand, spent much of his career observing. He spent six years, for example, dissecting and describing in eye-watering detail the structure of barnacles!

If you are observing you cannot be analysing, and vice versa, and it was Darwin’s observations that formed the basis of his idea that changed the world. His five years on the Beagle trip, for example, involved him taking thousands of samples of various species.
Observation requires getting out there, suspending your beliefs and simply taking note. It cannot be done from behind a desk through reports.

How much time do you spend on the front-line observing your team or your customers rather than analysing second or third-hand data?

Looking to the past for innovation breakthroughs. Darwin was not the first person to have thought of the concept for evolution: he was not even the first person in his own family to have the idea! His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, had promulgated the idea that all animals had a common origin before Charles was born.

Similarly you can see the process of recombining ideas in other major breakthroughs and innovations. For example, Lou Gerstener refocused IBM away from hardware to service and consultancy support by connecting his prior (negative) experience as an IBM customer with his McKinsey consultancy experience and with the existence of a highly-active sales support unit within the company. This change in strategic direction transformed IBM from a company delivering record losses in the early 1990’s to multi-billion dollar profits by the end of the century.

What are you doing to make new connections that lead to new, breakthrough concepts?

You can only change the world through action, not thinking. Darwin sat on his theory for 17 years before he published ‘On The Origin Of The Species’. He held back publication in order to ensure that he had irrevocable evidence to support his theory (hence his interest in barnacles!). Darwin’s hand was only forced when a rival publication was developed and his desire to be seen as the originator of the idea of evolution overcame his need to be 100% certain of his ideas.

Likewise, taking action and prudent risks is the cornerstone of business growth and an offensive, rather than defensive strategy, is critical for ongoing survival and success. For example, Gillette has established market leadership by a stream of innovations that make their existing ranges obsolete. As a senior Gillette executive once said, “We have never launched a major new product without having its successor in development. You have to steer the market.”

In summary, the miraculous discoveries upon Darwin’s ideas established a philosophy by introducing the time factor, by demonstrating the importance of chance and contingency, and by showing that theories in evolution are based on a set of new principles that influence the thinking of every person in the living world, through evolution, can be explained without recourse to supernaturalism; essentialism or typology, and possibly one of the most important facts is that we must adopt population thinking, in which all individuals are unique with a belief and a can do attitude.

One of Darwin’s most famous quotes:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

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Geoff Hudson-Searle

5 years ago #13

Thank you Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic for your excellent points, I enjoyed your questions and thoughts, thank youu immensely for your contributions, amazing :-)

Lada 🏡 Prkic

5 years ago #12

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the subject in an unbiased manner. I often read your comments and like your commenting style. Hope to participate more in the comment threads.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

5 years ago #11

I like your post, Geoff Hudson-Searle. I even watched last night the film you've mentioned. Great film with the excellent Will Smith. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm intrigued by the concept of ‘Darwinian Economics’ and will try to read more about that.

Harvey Lloyd

5 years ago #10

I agree with your assessment and comment here. I really want to stress choice in conjunction with education. If religion is to be taught in school it should taught as part of the social science, not a belief system. I see any other theories revolving around science. Teach the latest and greatest stuff. Just stop with the personal subjective conclusions. I have my own personal subjective conclusions in which believe. They become subjective when i share them. In my own self they are true. Again my choice. People should be given resources and education on available facts, theories both physical and spiritual. Then they can make up their mind. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this topic, many can't get past their own bias to have a real discussion. I try to leave my bias outside of a public debate, not always successfully, but do try.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

5 years ago #9

#9 Harvey, sorry for the late response. I've been busy last days and hadn't much time for social media. I didn't expect my question would provoke such extensive comment. I read it twice to absorb all that you said. My previous experiences on social media taught me that discussions about evolution lead nowhere. The last such experience was when I posted the link to an interesting read I found on the Quora Blog, I will only say that even Pope Francis acknowledged the evolution. :-) About school curriculum, in Croatian elementary schools, religious instruction as a facultative subject is a part of the school education from the first grade. Evolution is taught only in the biology of the eighth grade under the theme 'The Origin of Man'. I am a great opponent of religious education as a school subject. The school should, however, teach young people to think with their heads, and then evaluate what is rational and irrational, or as you nicely said teachers need to remove their belief bias in teaching any subject. BTW I'm one of the people who are curious and question everything, even authorities. I often wonder can science be compatible with religion. These are two ways of understanding the world. The physical universe subjects to rational analysis. The spiritual universe not. There are things outside of the realm of science. Look forward to further exchanging of comments.

Debasish Majumder

5 years ago #8

wonderful share Geoff Hudson-Searle! enjoyed read and shared. thank you for the share.

Harvey Lloyd

5 years ago #7

Darwin's theories do lend themselves to business. But like Darwin's theory it is purely observational. Whether we look from behind the lines at data or we observe from the front lines we will have to make a choice of what to do with that information. Given Darwin's theories of the strongest survive or the ones that adapt the fastest survive, this places the leader doing the observation in the position of deciding whom is strongest. Then we don't need empathy, or at best we find ourselves in conflict between Darwin and humanity. In an organization a great employee can fall upon hard times for various reasons. Darwin states we should cut the dying branch from the vine, they will not adapt in time and will corrupt the system. The Bible states to build up your network so when you are down you will find support in your neighbor. This is the choice behind what we believe and the framework science is building. How do we explain that in business (Simon Sinek) the empathetic leader builds the strongest of trust, and motivation within their organization? This flies in the face of Darwin's thoughts within natural selection. I would submit that the Bible offers great business acumen and the use of power in which places. If we are to choose between theories of how to be a great leader Darwin offers structure to our system, the Bible offers us humanity in execution. Please accept my apologies in my comments. This debate is one that needs to come forward and i find it challenging when we cant debate the issues. Leadership is a process of gathering the best information you can and deciding within a time frame, a course of action. Data must be sorted and reviewed within the corporate interest, but also from a human perspective. I state only that we need to describe the human aspect of decision from a different theory.

Harvey Lloyd

5 years ago #6

Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic if i could now comment with the Christian bias. Sociologists, anthropologists and historians have gathered evidence to show the Bible's accuracy in plenty of areas. Considering the illiteracy of the people of the time where scribes existed i would state the mere fact the Bible made it through so many centuries of rewrites without morphing is amazing. In the formation of our solar system some pretty amazing things came to be. Suffice it to say the search for exoplanets has been an exercise in understanding the unique condition of earth and its beginnings. Darwin's theory requires a belief as we travel backwards. Pretty sound until we get back to the beginning. A rocky ball that is molten, cools, somehow collects water and the right chemistry happens that makes proteins and forms life. They have tried and failed to create the life under similar conditions. They can create the proteins but they cant make life emerge. So we had to offer an alternative, the life didn't emerge here, but on an asteroid and it landed here. Nebulous at best. This is where we are today. I offer no future outlook. I do have to choose a belief system that guides me through life. I have made "my choice" based on the evidence "i" see today. The red herrings of the past and future do me no good today. When the aliens show up then i will reconsider my position, maybe.

Harvey Lloyd

5 years ago #5

Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic your question, i believe, gets to the heart of the matter. Let me express my Christian bias upfront. Your question is a daunting one from both sides of the isle. Parents should have the "right" to guide their children as they see fit. However that issue has become a hot topic since some scientists rebranded Darwinism from theory to absolute and then went further to express it as proof God doesn't exist. Darwinism is a scientific viewpoint where all the known evidence is collected tested and viewed as the current opinion. Its not a religion. Religion is a belief system that may or may not include a creation story that helps us live our lives through proverbial social understanding. The two are oil and water. No matter how much science stirs or religion mixes the ideals don't blend or repel, except in the headlines. As to the school debacle. Darwinism is a scientific theory like all the others, teach it as such. Religion is a belief system that many societies were built on, teach as such. I believe the rub is in the belief. I will choose what i feel is important for my children believe. My point of view was pretty open. When my children came home with the questions of creationism Vs Natural selection. I said at some point you will have to choose. Choose was the operative word. Don't let others decide how you will live your life. Science needs to respect the boundaries of their theories and teachers need to remove their belief bias in teaching any subject.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

5 years ago #4

Interesting comment Harvey. We can say, please don't tell me what to believe, but what do you think our children should be taught in schools. Currently, in most western countries only evolutionary biology is taught in public education. Turkey removes Darwin’s theory of evolution from its national curriculum (which is not surprising at all given to the state policy). Serbia is also launching petition for expelling Darwin from school. On the other side of the spectrum are the Czech Republic, Sweden, Estonia, Hungary, Germany ...

Harvey Lloyd

5 years ago #3

I struggle with observation that draws conclusions. I can only think that aliens looking at earth through a telescope would observe and conclude what? No i don't reside in Roswell. But in observational theory we can can conclude most anything. What we observed is fact and can be detailed but dovetailing multiple conclusions of why into a fact does not create truth. The real answer to the question is, We don't know. I think it interesting that Darwinism is placed in direct conflict with religion. Why does Darwinism need to have a nemesis? Religion does not require a nemesis in the sense of creation but only the choice of what to believe. I found Mr. Coyne to be not a scientist but a crusader against something that he doesn't believe. I am fine with his choices. Demeaning others and their beliefs based on his own beliefs, of a theory that we can not prove with anything other than anecdotal observation and circumstantial evidence, proves to me that in the end, its just a collection of theories, piled on top of opinions and someone believes it. How is this different than religious beliefs? When we couple the theory of evolution with the big bang theory that has now evolved into string theory as we couldn't explain where the beginning truly is, we now have Walt Disney theater with his best animators working to prove something we cant. String theory, multiple dimensions and other thoughts to make the big bang theory work is a matter of faith. I enjoy Darwinism theories, and also the theories of the big bang. But please don't tell me what to believe when each scientific discovery is always touted as the discovery that will prove scientifically the evolutionary theory or destroy religion. I don't like religious people who threaten nor science. Should we show up to our tombstone with any belief we will meet Darwin. By becoming part of the cosmic footprint or through our belief in God. The choice is yours.

Geoff Hudson-Searle

5 years ago #2

Great to hear from you Joanne Gardocki and thank you for your wonderful interaction. Real connections deserve listening, understanding at which point adaptation and transformation should be an evolution. :-)

Geoff Hudson-Searle

5 years ago #1

Interesting observations Rick Delmonico I was having a discussion yesterday on what is right and what is wrong, like evolution, which was born in 1858 as a theory, what also became a fact, and a part of truth, a great explanation of this was a video by Jerry Coyne certainly worth a review.

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