what business owes Darwin and other reflections on competitive dynamics
The Origin of Strategy
by Bruce D. Henderson
Scaphlte South Dakota
Consider this lesson in strategy. In 1934, Professor G.F. Gause of Moscow University known as "the father of mathematical biology," published the results of a set of experiments in which he put two very small animals (protozoans) of the same genus in a bottle with an adequate supply of food. If the animals were of different species, they could survive and persist together. If they were of the same species, they could not. This observation led to Gause's Principle of Competitive Exclusion: No two species can coexist that make their living in the identical way. Competition existed long before strategy It began with life itself. The first one-cell organisms required certain resources to maintain life. When these resources were adequate, the number grew from one
Bruce D. Henderson is professor of management at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management. He is also the founder and chairman emeritus of the Boston Consulting Group and has written extensively on business strategy. His most recent book is The
Logic of Business Strategy (Ballinger, 1985).
FOSSILS COURTESY OF AGASSIZ MUSEUM SHOP. HARVARD UNIVERSnY
generation to the next. As life evolved, these organisms became a resource for more complex forms of life, and so on up the food chain. When any pair of species competed for some essential resource, sooner or later one displaced the other. In the absence of counterbalancing forces that could maintain a stable equilibrium by giving each species an advantage in its own territory, only one of any pair survived. Over millions of years, a complex network of competitive interaction developed. Today more than a million distinct existing species have been cataloged, each with some unique advantage in competing for the resources it requires. (There are thought to be millions more as yet unclassified.) At...