After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Evolutionary Superiority

Posted on February 4, 2010
Filed Under Business | 2 Comments

Evolutionary Superiority, now that’s a powerful phrase… wouldn’t it make you feel puffed up to be able to apply that description to yourself? My friend, colleague, and fellow Insights blogger, Doug Bedell, has found some primate research from Harvard University that suggests that if you have one of the more annoying human traits—grumpiness—then you may qualify as evolutionarily superior.

The details are here, but basically the idea is that ape species that can set aside their natural tendency for playfulness now and again and get pissed off about something (chimpanzees) are more civilized and accomplished than their always playful peers (bonobos). I have to say I’m skeptical about applying this research to human evolution, but I’ve seen first hand how this research applies to life in the business world.

In large, hierarchical, and highly structured organizations I’ve worked with (think government agencies), too many workers go along to get along, and consequently things (processes, systems, rules, databases, paperwork, whatever) evolve slowly, if at all. It takes the rare grumpy man or woman (read that as annoyed, impatient, and “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore”*) to force change and make the organization evolve in some small way. I contrast that with some of the more sharp, nimble, and evolve-or-die companies I’ve written for, which seem to be full of impatient and grumpy (but not uncivilized) people who are frequently unsatisfied and want things changed… now!.

The next time a colleague annoys you with a stubborn, grumpy, and get-with-the-program attitude, give him or her a hug (to hell with political correctness and harassment policies). They may be saving your career. – Dennis Owen

* Thanks to


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2 Comments so far
  1. John Sibole February 9, 2010 8:22 pm

    Reminds me of a quote from G. B. Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

  2. Dennis Owen February 10, 2010 10:44 am

    Thank you John. I was thinking of Dr. Sam Abelman in the novel “The Last Angry Man” raging at the “galoots” of the world. But your quote from Shaw captures it much better. God bless unreasonable men.

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