Dec 17, 2015

Darwin, Genes, and Your Business


Whether you believe in evolution, creation, or some other derivative of how mankind came into existence, the teachings of Charles Darwin have had a profound effect upon you and your business. How? Here are just two ways:

1) “Survival of the Fittest” – This phrase is attributed to Darwin but was actually stated by Herbert Spencer. Because this theory was thrust upon the Scientific Community and readily accepted by it, it then became accepted by much of humanity, even those not believing in evolution. This was a validation to many of the “strong” ruling over the “weak” as being “natural” and some even attributing this mechanism to God as a way of “cleansing” out weakness.

2) Our genes are hardwired and we are victims to their “programming.” Darwin conjectured that as the “accidents” of evolution happened, the changes were passed along to future generation through “heredity”, though he didn’t fully understand how. As science advanced and genes were discovered, other scientists came along and stated that our genes became hardwired to preserve hereditary traits into new generations and that there was no escaping genetics influence, that we are helpless victims of our genes. Therefore, as some express even to this day, there is no use in fighting genetics because it’s just what we have inherited.

What do these two points have to do with your business? Before I share those revelations with you, consider this; at the same time Darwin was creating his theory and writing his books to promote it, there were other schools of thought on evolution that taught evolution as a collaborative process. These were dismissed and buried under the attention drawn by Darwin. Interestingly, the newest science on genetics proves Darwin and his successors wrong in some areas and the others correct. Of course, this would make sense due to the increase in the tools and processes available to all branches of science. From the research I’ve done, the new area of science and genetics to emerge is called Epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of the way in which the expression of heritable traits is modified by environmental influences or other mechanisms without a change to the DNA sequence. The discoveries of those in Epigenetics is nothing less than astonishing! For instance, one of the foremost authorities in Epigenetics, Cellular Biologist Bruce Lipton, gave this definition of “Genes”: “They are the physical memories of an organism’s learned experiences.” This is completely different of explanation than describing them as deterministic rulers of our lives. This also means that, just like our brain is made up of neuropathways where associated memories create our “reality” and can be changed, that our genes can be influenced and changed, as well.

You may recall the Human Genome Project which was launched in 1990 and completed in 2003. The mission was to map out all human genes and their interactions, which would than serve as the basis for curing virtually any disease. The biologists discovered that the human body consists of far fewer genes than previously believed and that these genes do not operate as previously predicted. Additionally, John Cairns, a British molecular biologist also produced compelling evidence in 1988 that our responses to our environment determine the expression of our genes. A radical thought, but one that has been proven correct many times over. Near the end of his life, even Darwin conceded that his evolutionary theory had minimized the effects of the environment. In an 1876 letter he wrote: “In my opinion, the greatest error which I have committed has been not allowing sufficient weight to the direct action of the environments, i.e., food, climate, etc., independently of natural selection . . . When I wrote the Origin, and for some years afterwards, I could find little good evidence of the direct action of the environment; now there is a large body of evidence.” (Darwin, F 1888) Beyond just the environment of nutrition, climate, etc. affecting our genes, please note this dramatic discovery; according to Dr. Lipton (mentioned above) this “environment” that your genes respond to also includes your conscious thoughts, emotions, and unconscious beliefs. In addition, scientists have realized the flaws in Newtonian physics as Quantum Physics shows us that the invisible, immaterial realm is actually far more important than the material realm (e.g., light is a wave until we decide to measure it and then it becomes a particle. Time does not exist until we measure it). In fact, your thoughts may shape your environment and your genes far more than physical matter!

Again, what do these points have to do with your business? The corporate world has been described as “dog-eat-dog”, “survival of the fittest”, and in other competitive ways that leave the “spoils” to the “victor”. I believe much of those ideas were fostered and cultivated because of the validation Darwin’s theory gave to the primal behaviors of ancient societies. Along with the development of technology, we could have (and should have) progressed far beyond brutish beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors as modern societies. We haven’t. To my knowledge, nowhere else in the world’s ecosystems does the fighting and competition lead to the extinction of species as that of humans. Humans are the only occupants on earth who see life and business as an all-out struggle where the wealth goes to the “fittest” regardless of the means by which they are attained. The Darwinian focus on the fitness of the individual de-emphasizes the significance of community, cooperation, and collaboration in evolution. Noteworthy is that the rest of the world’s ecosystems work in harmony to create sustainability and growth. Those ecosystems work collaboratively.

There is some fascinating research of biologist and mathematician Martin A. Nowak, Director of Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, which supports the idea that cooperation plays a pivotal part in sustainable evolution. Nowak concludes from his research that “life is not just a struggle for survival, but also a snuggle for survival.” With the world becoming “smaller” through technology, there are more and more ways in which people and companies can collaborate for the good of all, including the top and bottom lines of these businesses. And, even though the world seems smaller, there is still vast abundance of wealth and resources available which can be used to in an axiological way. This what my friends Brad Fergusson, Joanne Swecker, and Ali Anani, along with many, many more are spearheading People Before Profits to accomplish. I invite you to fully consider how PBP can help your organization profit more by putting people first.

Lastly, Epigenetics. We are not victims to our genes. There is no such thing as a “genetic disposition”, with only very few diseases as exceptions. Because the human spirit is so strong and powerful, we can only be victims to someone or something of which we choose to be a victim. As I have before, I refer to the example of Viktor Frankl and many others who had the circumstances, situations, ailments, disabilities, etc. who could have chosen to be victims…but, they chose to be victors, instead! This means that now is the time to train your people to stop being victims, whether that is to Darwinian-born beliefs or others, and to become the powerful producers they posses the ability to be. What training? Training that will truly impact conscious thoughts, emotions, and unconscious beliefs.

Dr. Edward Lewellen is a Master Executive Coach, leadership and sales expert, and keynote speaker for some of the largest global organizations.

Author of The 90-Second Mind Manager