Charles Darwin was a British naturalist who developed a theory of evolution based on genetic mutation and natural selection. Charles Darwin’s great insight was that species evolve through random genetic mutation. Through genetic variations, the traits which are best suited to the environment are naturally selected and tend to survive in subsequent generations. In other words it is survival for the fittest.
This idea of evolution and natural selection can be applied to make us richer. We can’t know in advance which career or business venture will make us rich. The only way to find out is to try many things and keep those that work. This principle is well illustrated in Jim Collins “Built to last.”
“Take the example of Johnson & Johnson, one of the Visionary companies studied in the book. In 1890, Johnson & Johnson—then primarily a supplier of antiseptic gauze and medical plasters—received a letter from a physician who complained about patient skin irritation from certain medicated plasters. Fred Kilmer, the company’s director of research, quickly responded by sending a packet of soothing Italian talc to apply on the skin. He then convinced the company to include a small can of talc as part of the standard package with certain products. To the company’s surprise, customers soon began asking to buy more of the talc directly. J&J responded by creating a separate product called “Johnson’s Toilet and Baby Powder,” which became a famous household staple around much of the world. According to J&J’s own official history, “the Johnsons got into the baby powder business quite by accident.” Even more significant, the company thereby took a tiny incremental step that eventually mushroomed into a significant strategic shift into consumer products—an “accident” which eventually grew to become 44 percent of J&J’s revenues—and as important to its growth as medical supplies and pharmaceutical products.
Later, J&J stumbled upon another famous product by accident. In 1920, a company employee, Earle Dickson, created a ready-to-use bandage—made of surgical tape with small pieces of gauze and a special covering so it would not stick to the skin—for his wife who had a knack for cutting herself with kitchen knives. When he mentioned his invention to the marketing people, they decided to experiment with the product on the market. Eventually, after a slow start and a never-ending process of tinkering, Band-Aid products became the biggest selling category in the company’s history and further solidified J&J’s “accidental” strategic move into consumer products.”
So we can see that the way to wealth is a series of experiments aimed at trying to figure out what works. Only then do we keep what works and proceed to accumulate a lot of wealth. Like Darwin said, “multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.”