CHAPTER TWO

Cambrian Capitalism

Runaway feedback, the peacock's tale, and the evolution of capitalism

One hundred years from now economists will look back and say the father of the profession wasn't Adam Smith—it was Charles Darwin.

—Robert Frank, 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival

In 1992, Chris was facilitating an annual strategy offsite for the senior management team of MicroAge, one of two Fortune 500 companies in Arizona at the time.1 The discussion turned to a new class of competitor and its possible effect on MicroAge. After ten minutes of increasingly concerned discussion, the VP of sales exploded: “It's a war out there, and these guys are getting ready to attack us! We have to be ready to hit them first, before they can build momentum.” The ...

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