I was watching a football game recently that struck a chord with me. I noticed that as the quarterback took the snap from the center, the opposing team changed its assignment and morphed into a mass of confusion from my vantage point as small defensive backs rushed the quarterback while larger defensive linemen took off to cover a receiver. For those that follow football, this is completely counter-intuitive because football is traditionally made up of specialized positions in which each player has a role to play and tend to be matched up according to size, speed, and other attributes. However, as offensive players have become more versatile, the defensive players have had to adapt so that an unfair advantage does not sit solely with the offense, when a play is called. The defenses have developed schemes and tricks to fool the offense into believing that they are going one way, when in fact they are doing something totally different. The announcer of the game referred to this as an "Amoeba Defense". Apparently, the defenses emulate the behavior of an amoeba*, because the defense adapts to its surroundings by taking on different forms and shapes, i.e., different defensive assignments.

Companies are similar in this regard because as the business climate changes, its employees need to change and become more versatile as well. Like the amoeba that changes its shape to meet prevailing conditions, the companies that are able to similarly change will also be able to meet the business environment. This presents great opportunities for companies, especially those that continue to evolve as the business landscape changes. Thus, every year, new skill sets are either developed through training or brought in through new hires.

In looking back in just the past few years, we have seen a multitude of trends that have emerged such as:

  • The pervasiveness of Agile Scrum Project Management methodology
  • Content Management Systems becoming de facto standards in companies
  • Large Data Stores that are not just for large companies
  • Social Networks, Mobile and Smartphones entering the business ethos
  • 4G LTE and even more immediacy of information

This is just a short list but it is apparent that as the list continues to grow, so too will the adaptive abilities of successful companies.

Football coaches have benefited from adjusting their defensive plays and players from adapting to the opposing team's offensive strategy. One would expect that the next natural course would be for the offense to adapt further and force more adjustments for the defense, and so on. Similarly, as a company meets its own challenges, how does it adapt to constant competition, increased customer demands, price pressures, and other constraints placed upon it? It would need to change as well.

So there is still something to learn from a simple single cell organism. Now how do you defend an "Amoeba Offense"?

*Wikipedia: The amoeba was first discovered by August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof in 1757. Early naturalists referred to Amoeba as the Proteus animalcule after the Greek god Proteus, who could change his shape. The name "amibe" was given to it by Bory de Saint-Vincent, [3] from the Greek amoibè (??????), meaning change.