David Sloan Wilson, Mark van Vugt and I have just published a special edition of This View of Life magazine, exploring business from an evolutionary perspective.
Here’s our introduction to the series:
This View of Life magazine helps to demonstrate the value of an evolutionary perspective for many areas of society, including healthcare, sustainability, and education. Surprisingly, a domain that has yet to embrace evolutionary thinking is that of business and management.
True, metaphors and phrases such as “survival of the fittest”, “creative destruction”, and “firm selection” have been tossed around for decades, suggesting that evolutionary forces are at work in the business world. However, these analogies don’t even begin to appreciate the complexity of business social environments or the forces of genetic and cultural evolution that shape the behaviors of all people, in and out of the workplace. Rethinking business and management from an evolutionary perspective can have profound implications at all scales, from the wellbeing of individual employees, to the performance of firms, to the creation of a sustainable global economy.
To catalyze this process, we’ve initiated a series of articles and interviews titled: “This View of Business: How Evolutionary Thinking Can Transform the Workplace”. To inaugurate the series, we posed the following question to a number of evolutionary thought leaders: “What is the single greatest insight that an evolutionary perspective offers to business?” Their answers give a taste of what will be explored in greater detail in the rest of the series.
We hope that this effort will go a long way toward catalyzing reforms in business education and management development. We believe that evolutionary approaches should have a prominent role in the curriculum of Business Schools as well as in allied fields such as in Management and Organizational Sciences. Likewise, we think evolutionary insights will be valuable to business leaders and other professionals, providing a toolkit for navigating the world of business.
In our introduction, we ended with a note on the status of women in the business and management professions. We made a strong effort to include female commentators in our inaugural article but failed: First, because women are sadly in the minority among those who are thinking about business from an evolutionary perspective; and second, because those we asked were too busy—perhaps fulfilling other requests similar to ours! Luckily, in our case we will be able to correct the imbalance in future articles and interviews in the series and to address gender issues in the workplace from an evolutionary perspective.
Although not exhaustive, here are some topics we’re subsequently exploring in This View of Life’s Business Action Group:
In the aftermath of the notorious Google Memo, gender in the workplace has become engulfed in the culture wars. However, what does the scientific research actually say about sex and gender differences, and does evolutionary psychology challenge our notions of gender equality and fairness?
Diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion has become a top priority for business leaders. However, what exactly do we mean by these terms, and how effective and reliable are initiatives such as unconscious bias training and the measurement of implicit bias?
Non-hierarchical organisational structures
With the growing prominence of the tech industry and the rise of start-ups, fundamental questions of how to manage groups are raised. Is the appeal of non-hierarchical organisation and dispersed leadership just a fad, or does this reflect something deeper about human nature and social organisation that is neglected in the traditional corporation?