It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

Dr Leon C. Megginson talk on Charles Darwin, 1963

Technology transcends industry, geography and discipline. It is now, and has been for some time, inextricably woven into our lives in both society and business.  It’s why I enjoy being so immersed in the sector as a core part of my role at CNBC Catalyst, making sure I’m speaking with the industry and understanding the challenges our clients are facing.  People, Money and Tech are the three most important priorities of any business.

Resetting the dial

Digital Darwinism is a phrase which has been around for several years now.  It encapsulates the now essential evolution of businesses necessitated by technological disruption.  I find it a particularly fascinating topic as it almost resets the dial, where a company which has existed comfortably for decades (if not longer) is in a similar, often weaker position, than a much younger equivalent.  The former often has the capital and financial stability to invest heavily in its infrastructure; the latter is generally nimbler and doesn’t have the enormous cost and handicap of legacy often found in a more mature organisation.

As prominent digital analyst Brian Solis points out, “the reality is that society and technology evolve faster than a brand’s ability to adapt.” MindPoint notes that “we’ve all observed large and rapid change over the last few years and the paradigm is now changing so fast that practically no-one is safe.”

So how should the business world minimise its exposure to this risk of being left behind, added to the ‘commemorative wall of extinction’ underneath the Blockbusters, Kodaks, Motorolas and HMVs of yesterday?  It would seem this very question is now high on the priority list of executive boards, although it has taken some time to get there.

A recent global survey of 1,409 CEOs by PwC found that 77% of respondents see ‘technological advances’ as the global trend most likely to transform wider expectations of business.  Added to this, an average of 61% of CEOs consider the speed of technological change as a threat to their organisation’s growth prospects. Interestingly this figure was 81% for the financial services sector.

As a consumer I find myself frustrated, and somewhat perplexed, when a major UK supermarket chain still hasn’t installed contactless payment technology at its checkouts. It actually alters my perception of its brand, it begins to feel somewhat stagnated and left behind. I find myself questioning why this is, given that only a year ago I was perfectly happy tapping my PIN into the keypad and committing all of five extra seconds of my life to the purchase process.

Agility is the key

There is clearly zero room for complacency, no matter what your product, service, industry or size. Agility is surely the key, being able to lead change, and disrupt your own business to create new clients and identify new customer needs.

This being said, where there is risk there is usually opportunity. Certainly from a consumer perspective, the fact companies are having to evolve and keep pace is generally a good thing.  After all new technologies are, by their very nature, created to make a process quicker, more efficient and/or more enjoyable. One only has to look at the likes of Uber and Netflix to see how and why this technological innovation comes about.

The media industry has felt the unforgiving effects of Digital Darwinism directly, it has been well documented that the print publications in particular have had to evolve at a rapid rate to retain their audiences and revenue sources. Sadly some didn’t adapt quickly enough and folded (for the last time), leaving the gene pool.

Elsewhere, we have seen a new kind of platform enter the market, ones which empower the reader to be their own publisher. The likes of Facebook and Twitter have transformed how many businesses engage with their target audiences. However, with the continually rapidly increasing number of digital touch-points for consumers, ad-blocking has now become an issue for marketers and brands need to effectively navigate messaging and platforms in which to engage with consumers carefully – every business area is now being forced to constantly evolve and adapt to change – quickly.

I feel fortunate to work at CNBC, where our content keeps decision makers in the know of new innovative technologies and disruptors, keeping business leaders ahead of the game. Editorial franchises including Tech Transformers, The Hacking Economy, The Pulse @ 1Market, The Sharing Economy and Tech Drivers keep our audience informed and ahead.

From the expertly germane, market-moving interviews of Jon Fortt in the US, the cutting-edge journalistic insight of Arjun Kharpal in Europe and the thought-provoking commentary of CNBC Asia’s intrepid Akiko Fujita; our relentless coverage of the global tech industry continues to be the definitive source of information to business leaders on cutting-edge tech (such as AI, AR and VR) and its impact on global commerce.

I still recall looking up at our screens and seeing Microsoft’s Satya Nadella alongside LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner discussing the recent acquisition of LinkedIn – an interview exclusive to CNBC in which they discussed the power of combining a cloud leader with a leading professional network.

Combine this content and talent with our strategic partnerships including, among others, Mobile World Congress, Dmexco and Web Summit, our tech journalists and anchors on the ground speaking to the leaders in the industry – always as a first and often exclusively. It’s a winning formula.

Our content remains a core reason for our audience’s continued engagement and, from an advertising perspective, our clients’ increasingly “mobile first” marketing strategies are ones we don’t just accommodate but excel in helping with.  We are also readily anticipating the likes of programmatic TV – which will undoubtedly change the way clients buy TV advertising, as well as actively integrating new platforms such as Facebook Live into our client solutions.

Unlike Darwin’s theory of evolution, where it is external factors and the environment which have the largest influence on natural selection, Digital Darwinism would seem to be driven by our own inexorable hunger for new technology and new innovations.  For me it feels like a race without a finish line, but a truly exciting one nonetheless.



By Daniel Thomas, Tech Lead, CNBC Catalyst