Business Survival Tips From Charles Darwin

When Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” was first published in 1889, it stirred up a not inconsiderable amount of furore and controversy. However, as divisive a treatise as it undoubtedly was, “On the Origin of Species” was a masterpiece of skilled observation, elegant reasoning and sound logic. Darwin’s findings changed the world of biology and naturalism forever, and his arguments had a resonance that was felt around the world.

galapagos cactus finch

Darwin’s discoveries and conclusions are as succinct and flawless today as they were at the end of the 19th century, and we can learn from them in ways you may not have expected:


Perhaps the most shocking element of Darwin’s treatise was that, contrary to the teachings of orthodox religion, the natural world was not a harmonious world of order and beauty, but a chaotic one in which every individual plant and animal were locked in a constant fight to survive and propagate.

To a certain extent, the same will be true of your business. Don’t expect any pity or mercy from your competitors.  It’s a dog-eat-dog world and you will have to assert yourself if you’re going to come out on top.

Just like in the natural world, you should use all the weapons at your disposal in order to survive. 


Some of the most remarkable findings of Darwin’s studies were to throw up concerned, the little finches of the isolated Galapagos Islands. Darwin noticed that these birds, originating from the same genus, had developed beaks that differed greatly from animal to animal as food sources on individual islands dictated.  These specialized tools allowed the finches to exploit natural resources that would otherwise have been cut off to them.

You should learn from them by exploiting gaps in the market that others have left unexplored. If you become unique and different, you will have less competition for customers and clients, thus helping your business to become successful.

If your strengths lie in your work, don’t waste time by trying to chase customers for payment. Instead, build symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationships. 


“On the Origin of Species” suggested that the species that were best suited for long-term survival and widespread propagation were those more likely than others to adapt. Animals whose behaviour and physiognomy were quick to adapt to changes in the environment, in food sources and in their predators were those with the characteristics necessary to go the distance.

The same is true of your business.  If your products, services and business practices are too rigid and prescribed, you’re likely to go the way of the dodo. Instead, you need to be capable of reacting to changing trends in the market, to behavioural patterns in your audience and to shifts in the global economy.

Like the world’s most successful creatures, successful businesses must be highly adaptable.

You can learn a lot from the natural world, and Darwin’s observations are as good a place as any to start.

Galapagos Cactus Finch Photo via Shutterstock


David Richards David has been involved in the Invoice Finance and Factoring sector in the UK now for nearly 20 years. He is the Managing Director of Gener8 Finance Ltd, a firm established in 2008 that differentiates itself focusing on smaller clients who need finance but maybe do not have the balance sheet criteria needed by the banks for invoice discounting.

4 Reactions
  1. Adaptation is the key to success for small businesses. The business climate and competition are always changing and if you can’t adjust you go out of business. Great post.

    • Thanks Robert,
      Changes in market conditions could also happen faster than we expect, so it is important for businesses to stay up to date with their industry’s development.

  2. Just a correction… Charles Darwin died in 1882 at the age of 73. His “On the Origin of Species” was first published in 1859.

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