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Business Beat: Change Through Mutation and Evolution

We have all heard the term "Evolve or Die". We use it in industry, "It's Darwinian, you're fighting for survival every year; you evolve and grow, or you die. It's really that simple." (Douglas Conant). We use it in sport, "the evolution of the sport is so fast, if you slow down for a second, you're past." (Chuck Liddel). We use it in literature, "Get busy living, or get busy dying." (Stephen King).

Most scientists believe that evolution is actually caused by mutation that arises when something changes within a natural environment. When predatory animals have become more plentiful and skilled at hunting for example, the natural environment of predators changed. The result was that prey animals that were unable to move very quickly, climb adeptly, or even take to the air to find safety quickly perished. Conversely, animals that could do these things survived and carried with them the genetic properties that enabled their quickness or their ability to climb or take to the air for safety. They passed these genetic attributes on to their offspring and those attributes began to amplify in the surviving species. at least according to this thinking, the mutation of a changes in the number of predatory land animals eventually caused the species to pivot giving rise to the evolved species of prey; much more difficult to catch.

Mutation like this also occurs in our business environments. A good example is found if we look at a business environment such as bringing movies to the masses in their homes. In the 80's we watched videos rented from local mom and pop video stores; it took forever for new releases to arrive and we were happy to watch selected movies at home. This business became quite efficient with Blockbuster eventually dominating market share and scooping up all the prime brick and mortar locations. an equilibrium was established in the market wherein business rented movies from  conveniently located outlets so that people could watch them at home. But that equilibrium was about to change again...

Early in the new millennium, internet technology was changing at a rapid pace. The business environment associated with watching selected movies at home was being quietly impacted by the advent of download speeds that would enable those same consumers to watch those same movies in those same houses, without the need for a trip to a brick and mortar outlet. And just as the species of animals mutated to become an evolved species; faster, better climbers and even able to take to the air, an evolved species of movie providers began to emerge. Fast forward to today, and Blockbuster; who dominated the market but failed to pivot is gone and Netflix and Crave and Amazon Prime dominate the market.

With the onset of COVID-19, an infectious respiratory illness the likes of which we've rarely seen before, our business environment has changed significantly and we are faced with the need to mutate and pivot to new ways of doing business. The last 9 weeks have been fraught with frustration, sadness, stress, worry about our businesses and our employees and learning new technologies so that we can mutate successfully and perhaps even permanently in many ways. Those who are able to pivot and make the necessary adjustments will not only survive, but they will also give rise to an evolved species of businesses going forward. It is not going to be an easy transition but I'm sure once this change is over, scholars will study the era and provide us with commentary on the evolution that occurred.

In the meantime, I'm proud to be a Hatter in 2020. The way this community has come together to keep each other safe, to support local business and to help flatten the curve is nothing less than awe inspiring. I know this community will successfully evolve and re-launch with the health and welfare of all concerned top of mind. I'm excited to see all of our small businesses thrive through mutation and into evolution as we pivot forward. Medicine Hat is full of local heroes, #YXHheros.

Sandra Milne is the Regional Innovation Network Coordinator Community Futures Entre-Corp.

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