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Adapt or die has been the rule for species but it has also always been the rule for businesses. The marketplace of business, as Adam Smith proclaimed in his Wealth of Nations is an adaptive organizational organism and if the sub-organisms within it adapt to their environment well, they survive, prosper and grow.

Individuals don’t so much adapt, at least not in their genes, but react to environmental necessities and they adjust their behavior to fit the circumstance.  Crowdsourcing: Why the power of the crowd is driving the future of business by Jeff Howe discusses (p.110) an essay written in 1937 by Ronald Coase, The Nature of the Firm, that if there is an optimum size for its form of business that is smaller than an existing business then there is pressure for it to shrink or to be reproduced in similar businesses of a more optimal size. The same general principle applies to qualities other than size although size is a good indicator of overall health. Another measure of health of a form is the number of them that exist and how widespread they have become. Another measure of the basic form of a living organism, including businesses, is how well they are able to adapt to new situations in these new settings and challenges. A highly adapted organism in one environment may after time idealize its form and become rigid and unchanging because in that particular environment to change is to move into a less healthy condition. Also as it moves away from its ideal form in a given situation it moves into other territories where others might be better adapted and so carrying the additional weight of the new adaptive abilities becomes non-adaptive because it consumes more energy than the benefit it provides  and it is a source of failure.

Humans are in a special category when it comes to the concept of adapt or die because they have the ability to create artificial environments where the above rules apply but things are different in these human created environments. The marketplace is the ultimate of these new types of environments but each of the sub-units working within the marketplace has similar forces of adapt or die working within it.

The goal of a living system is to find all of its potentials for the niche it finds itself within and to adapt to them. It’s like water flowing in a streambed filling every nook and soaking in wherever it can.