The “Red Queen Effect” refers to the Lewis Carroll (1872) story “Alice Through the Looking Glass” where we read that the Red Queen runs hard but never gets anywhere because the surrounding landscape is also moving. The Red Queen tells Alice, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place”. The Red Queen Effect metaphor is very relevant to business – you need to run hard to stay up with the competition, otherwise if you do nothing you will fall behind.
Innovation speed (which is implied by the Red Queen Effect) refers to the length of time it takes for a product or service to move from idea to commercialisation. Many entrepreneurs and organisations struggle to quickly translate an idea to a successful product or service, and therefore are left behind. Some of the reasons may include lack of available early stage risk capital, lack of skills and experience, difficulty in aligning the product or service to the market need, fear of failure, difficulty in accessing resources or inability to manage risk. Improving innovation speed provides a number of advantages for the innovator, including:
- First to market advantage
- Reduced R&D expenditure and other costs
- Improved profitability
- Maximising value before patent expiry
The “Red Queen Effect” is occurring all around us; in new technology developments, increased competition through globalisation, climate change and the rapidly evolving business environment. We also find the “Red Queen Effect” impacting on our personal lives. Rapid and discontinuous change is the main cause of the “Red Queen Effect”.
To stay ahead of the competition organisations must take the advice of the Red Queen, “If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” The metaphor implies that for businesses to be able to run at least twice as fast, they will require innovation to allow them to think differently and outperform their competition.
Does the Red Queen Effect apply to your organisation or personal life?
Dr John Kapeleris