Invasive Principles #5: Play Nicely with other Invaders

More often than not, invasive species seem to make conditions in their new environment more hospitable to other potential invaders.  In some cases they do this by removing native predators or competitors.  On Christmas Island the invasive crazy yellow ant attacks the native red land crab.  The crab itself preys on non-native plants and snails so its removal by the invasive ant paves the way for the settlement of further non-natives and for “rapid, catastrophic shifts in species composition from mostly native species to mostly non-native species.”

In other cases invaders change the environment itself in ways that are often beneficial to other non-natives.  Zebra mussels were first introduced into the USA in 1986 and have since invaded the Great Lakes and the entire length of the Mississippi river.  They have had a strongly negative effect on native animal and plant species alike but their reproductive and feeding behaviors increase water clarity and organic material at the bottom of the lakes and river, creating new conditions that facilitate the introduction of other natives and non-natives.

In the business world, any disruptive innovation creates new opportunities as well as new challenges.  Innovators should stay alert to the efforts of other innovators, even those operating in different industries, since they may present opportunities for developing non-traditional partnerships or for exploiting new business models, technologies, processes or services.  The development of portable, digital formats for music, e.g. the MP3 format, helped to all but destroy the retail music stores that dominated the sales of music from the 1960s through the 1990s, as illustrated in the 2006 bankruptcies of Tower Records and Musicland, at one time two of the largest music retailers in the US.  But it also facilitated the rise of a whole new way of accessing and enjoying music, from peer-to-peer networks like Napster, Gnutella and Kazaa, to online music stores like and the iTunes Store, to MP3 and portable media players, most notably the iPod.  The latter has spawned its own ecosystem of thousands of accessories and add-ons and integrated docking environments and has driven customer experience innovations in entirely unexpected industries like automotive and the major airlines.