Neanderthals vs. Homo Sapiens - Lessons Learned

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CNN recently reported that Neanderthals were as smart as Homo Sapiens. (See the last sentence of this CNN article.) Sure, they were as smart, but they routinely shipped their products two years after Homo Sapiens did, with a minimum of usability testing. And Neanderthals depended on income from previous products, such as bowls, when fire first came out. Neanderthals' VP of Marketing freely admitted as much: “We didn't see fire coming. We were so focused on our new model of bowls, we missed fire completely.”

Meanwhile, Homo Sapiens packaged fire so elegantly – just two sticks in a box. That's it. Just two sticks in a sleek white cardboard box. Fire didn't even come with a user manual. People just intuitively started using it. When Neanderthals came out with fire, two years later, it came with five stone tablets of instructions. Honestly, who wants five stone tablets of instructions? The street reacted brutally to Neanderthals. Brutally.

And by the time Neanderthals released fire, Homo Sapiens was already sewing up the market for sewing. What Homo Sapiens didn't see was that people weren't interested in buying closed fire forever. They wanted an open fire, which they could use and adapt to their own purposes. They didn't want to be locked into a particular kind of fire. What Homo Sapiens did to Neanderthals, Homo Sapiens Open would do to Homo Sapiens. And Homo Sapiens Open's fire caught on so quickly, it spread like – well, you know what it spread like – leaving Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens holding the bowl. Their days became numbered right about the time they sought patent enforcement.

--Phil Shapiro

The blogger is an educator and technology commentator in the Washington DC-area. He can be reached at and on Twitter at

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