Security lessons from Nature – Genetic Tricks of Parasites
Let’s start this one by utterly ignoring the negative connotations of the word “parasite”. It is a perfectly valid form of life and has proven to be highly successful in nature. So, in other words, there’s nothing wrong with being a parasite… you know, if you happen to be one.
This news from from the journal Nature Genetics and is summarized here. In a nutshell, they’ve found that parasitic life forms tend to have fewer genes than non-parasitic life forms. Why is this interesting?
Well, it means that creatures that are dependent on other creatures can simply drop the bits of themselves that they don’t need. However, dropping genes is a lot easier than gaining new ones (usually). What does this mean to you?
It’s interesting to compare this to business models. While no company exists in a vacuum, different companies do have differing levels of self-sufficiency. For example, a full service IT company can do many things themselves. They may use the products of different companies, but generally speaking, they are dependent on none of them. If one branch of their business were impacted by a change in the market, they could just focus on another. This is good, but it does tend to make the company larger and less responsive.
Compare this to companies that only do one thing, but do it very very well. Let’s take a hosting company as an example. A hosting company is completely dependent on their bandwidth provider. Sure, some of them use multiple bandwidth providers, but even in this case, the business model is parasitic (upon a genus or order of businesses, rather than just one species). So, suppose that something happened to all but one of the sphenodontian businesses. Our little parasitic business would be forced to work with the one remaining business to survive.
Suddenly, the reduced resource usage that parasitism allows for doesn’t look quite so appealing.
As with many things, it’s all about risk management. You gain an advantage here, it’s often paired with a disadvantage there. So, as you look at your business and consider where to make cuts or where to focus on your core competencies, just consider one thing:
How do reductions now reduce my options later?