Technology and the Red Queen

Published On: Jul 14, 2016

TL;DR: Technology in your business needs to continually evolve or it will become toxic, doing more damage to your business than any advantage you originally gained.

The red queen problem is a problem that is modeled in nature as a reality; that there are two species that are in continual evolution fighting to get the upper hand. The name comes from a line in Alice and Wonderland. But is serves as an example that in order to survive one ground must struggle to get the upper hand, once that species has the upper hand they have to defend it. This is a parallel that can be pointed directly to business to business competition. Through the course of this blog post I will explain not only how this relates to the field of computer science and business. I will attempt to lay out the problem with the method of thinking.

I have worked in technology for well over a decade, and I find this to be one of the reoccurring topics that we can't seem to escape. If you are looking to interact with technology and make it a central part of your business, realize that you are entering into an evolutionary race. As a business you have to come to grips with the fact that the amazing solution that you put into place today is not going to be silver bullet. Today's advantage is tomorrows liability. This is one of the reasons that I have realized that consultancies for technology are a failure. The Idea is that you can hire someone today and then you won't need them tomorrow.

In the business to business case the number of times that I see someone come to us asking for a feature similar to a feature that exists on the site of a competitor is too many to count.  In every case that I have seen they have spent enough time playing with the functionality that they generally have a better understanding of the user experience than the people that initially developed it (this excludes the testers, those poor souls). So in this case we see that we have one group of businesses setting the path, but if it's the right path it isn't long before your competitors will follow your lead, and it's likely that they will take it to the next step.  Leaving you in a place where you are open to poaching.  In the event that this isn't the case, people become complacent and a whole new breed of creature comes up to eat you.  A great example of this is the Uber vs Taxi, and no matter how many stories that you hear smearing Uber ask any hard core traveler if they would rather get into a taxi or an uber and I think you will find that they opt for the better experience every time.  Think your business model is immune to this? So did the taxi companies.

In the management vs workers case we are seeing a constant battle between the expansion of workers rights and the desire for lower wages.

The take aways from this:

  1. If you are still running your business on Windows XP, or Internet Explorer 9, or anything behind the curve, please evolve or I will cease to care about you.
  2. If you think that you are a special case, your not.
  3. If you have too much invested into the infrastructure, and couldn't possibly think of upgrading. I hope someone eats your lunch.
  4. If you are still doing this, you are the reason we can't have nice things.