Market makers and market leaders need to be aware of the complacency that comes from being unique and differentiated. It is easy to believe that you know who your competitors are, or you believe that you are the only one without a competitor in sight. I bet Kodak felt pretty secure for a number of years, making pictures was their business niche. The digital revolution changed their market environment and opened the door to a new set of competitors with different market ancestry.
We must always raise our competitive awareness and beware parallel evolution.
In nature parallel evolution is defined as the development of the same characteristic or adaptation in unrelated organisms due to similar environmental conditions. This was first explained to me by a falconer who had both owls and raptors (hawks) in his mews. These two bird groups have different ancestors but evolved to fit the same ecological niche with binocular vision for hunting, high pressure talons for holding onto prey and a hooked beak for flesh tearing. Outwardly the birds are the same but they have different origins.
In a business context this means that as new markets emerge it is possible for the market to be converged on from different routes. If we look for competitors with a similar pedigree to our own, we may feel smugly secure. But I advise that sometimes we need to look sideways at organisations that do not share our origins but that could evolve in a parallel way to compete with us.
Internet based telephone services; i-tunes music distribution; Caterpillar clothing
and smart cars are all examples of parallel evolution. These brands successfully compete in established sectors but have different evolutionary starting points from the established norm. We need to be aware of the competition we can see and be aware of parallel competitors that can emerge.
Conversely we can seek to apply the phenomenon to our own business and find parallel opportunities for ourselves. Super markets will become estate agents, or consumer brands like Virgin could evolve to provide legal advice in the future.
What are your parallel evolutionary opportunities?
I have often thought that the best B2B marketing recruitment company could be developed by an agency rather than a recruitment specialist. I must try that some day…?