Book Review - Dealing with Darwin

This is another in my very erratic series of book reviews, and is a departure for me.

Normally, I don't like or enjoy business books. I prefer non-fiction with good business-related object lessons, at least for the book reviews I write for this blog. But I just read Geoffrey Moore's new book called "Dealing with Darwin." I found it enjoyable, but also useful and directly related to global outsourcing strategy. Hence the review.

Dealing with Darwin provides a lucid explanation of the Core versus Context debate, and how to use it to inform business decisions.

Here's Moore's explanation in a nutshell:

Core work produces sustainable competitive advantage. Context is everything else.

An important difference in Moore’s explanation, and one that is lost on people trying to intuit their way through the core / context analysis, is that context isn't synonymous with unimportant.

Moore defines a 2 X 2 matrix, as follows:

  • Core versus Context on one axis
  • Mission-Critical vs. Non-Mission-Critical on the other

This gives you the following handy magic-quadrant that you can use to "rank" what your business or organization does. (I wrote last week about using this approach to inform strategy. Read about it here and here.)

The four quadrants, to summarize with some license applied, break down like this:

  • Quadrant 1 -- This is where you innovate and invent. You create new differentiated offerings here.
  • Quadrant 2 -- This is where you deploy your new differentiated offerings.
  • Quadrant 3 -- This is where you operate. I think it's fair to assume that most IT and an awful lot of post-1.0 software development work happens here.
  • Quadrant 4 -- This is work you offload, or cease doing all together.

The last interesting thing Moore says, directly relevant to the question of what and how to outsource, is that you can rotate people from quadrant-1 to quadrant-2, and from quadrant-4 to quadrant-3. This is, to paraphrase, contrary to the harsh Darwinian position that you lay off people as their work becomes non-mission-critical, and hire new people with new skills to innovate. He correctly points out that this erodes morale and destroys the positive aspects of corporate culture.

Moore's a good, accessible writer, and this is an important book for anyone attempting to chart strategy around business investment or sourcing.

Buy it and read it!

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