A day or so ago I received an email (pasted at the end of the post below) from LinkedIn with the subject line “Sharing on LinkedIn and Twitter”. It appears to be the sort of mass message sent out to all users, so no doubt many others have also read it. That message is a straightforward one, to the effect Twitter has removed the possibility to share a Tweet automatically with the status screen on LinkedIn. What caught my eye, though, was the following sentence in the email:
“Twitter recently evolved its strategy and this will result in a change to the way Tweets appear in third-party applications.”
The odd thing for me was not the substantive change in policy. This is probably being endlessly debated elsewhere online and probbaly just as easily explained in economic terms, as Twitter wants to show potential investors that potential advertisers can best reach Twitter users by advertising on Twitter, not on LinkedIn. What caught my attention was the use of the phrase ‘Twitter evolved its strategy’.
What does that mean? Is it a synonym for ‘change’, used to make a less than palatable shift in direction seem like progress? Or do they really think that a company evolves strategy?
If it’s the latter, then I think they are in error. The fallacy is in two parts, the first being the idea that an organisation cannot evolve anything, even itself. Develop, build, adjust, construct a strategy, perhaps these words could describe the efforts of an organisation to make small changes to either its environment or to itself. But that is not evolution. Evolution is a process that is transcendent of individual entities, and one that is not purposive in the sense the writer of the email almost certainly meant. The second part of the mistake, to my mind, is the idea that the unit of survival in evolution is the individual (regardless of whether the unit in question is an organisation, part of an organisation such as its strategy, or an organism). Nor is the unit of survival the population, or species, or industry. Rather, the unit of survival is the niche, the ecology – in short, the organism and (not in) its environment. In this sense, Twitter cannot evolve a strategy, a strategy changes or doesn’t change in line with external conditions and internal limits which are visible only over a long period and not really from the perspective of the individual that is living in the present.
It could be argued that this is nit-picking on my part. But my point is not simply meant to be a pedantic response to choice of wording. It is exemplary of the metaphor applied by people to the world – one of control, ownership and possession. I don’t think this is a useful line of thinking – more like one which (like 99% of all species that have ever lived on earth) is prone to extinction through ignorance of the balance between a thing and its environment.