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Internal Competition and Evolution in Software Development

April 2, 2010

There is a considerable amount of internal competition in biology. By this I mean that internal to an organism, it can compete within its self to produce the best ‘goods’. So for example some plants will abort the growth of fruit where it does not have enough seeds. One could see this as a form of internal-competition between possible fruits so that only the fittest has the resources to grow it to full term, is used. I was reading an interesting account of the internal competition at Microsoft:

Internal competition is common at great companies. It can be wisely encouraged to force ideas to compete. The problem comes when the competition becomes uncontrolled and destructive. At Microsoft, it has created a dysfunctional corporate culture in which the big established groups are allowed to prey upon emerging teams, belittle their efforts, compete unfairly against them for resources, and over time hector them out of existence. It’s not an accident that almost all the executives in charge of Microsoft’s music, e-books, phone, online, search and tablet efforts over the past decade have left.

So where is their internal competition going wrong? Power corruption; the conditions set for the survival of the projects is not about the fittest (in the biological sense of the word) for the market – but is instead mapped to an internal fitness landscape mapped to the company. Put simply by selecting for the internal and not external conditions, Microsoft is making ideas that work fine within the Microsoft offices but fail in practice.

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