Jan Bosch is a research center director, professor, consultant and angel investor in startups. You can contact him at jan@janbosch.com.

Opinion

Rule 9: Empower those around you

Leestijd: 4 minuten

For the longest time in the history of humankind, we lived in a world defined by scarcity. Forests for hunting, land for agriculture, wood for construction and mining sites – all were scarce resources that many wanted to have, and consequently, we competed. Individuals competed against individuals. Tribes competed against tribes. Nation-states competed against other nation-states. The core mindset was that if one gets the resource, the other loses it.

Even when humans collaborated, the overall goal still was to outcompete other groups and within the groups, hierarchies developed with those higher up in the hierarchy looking to control those below them. Many of us, upon reaching a certain standing, become addicted to the reputational benefits and we look for ways to avoid losing our position – controlling those below us to avoid potential rivalry and gain the most benefits, for example, has proven to be very effective. The challenge, in a digital world, is that the rapid change causes continuous disruption of hierarchies, making positional power ephemeral. Hence, rule 6 states that we should build skills, not position.

Although I don’t believe that our instinctive desire for competition and control will magically disappear, it’s important to realize that we live in a world where scarcity is largely a thing of the past. At least in the Western world, we all have enough food, can clothe ourselves, have a roof over our heads, access to health care, and so on. Several industries aim to maintain a sense of scarcity, but it’s largely an illusion. One of the most blatant examples is De Beer’s semi-monopoly on diamonds for jewelry. We crank out industrial diamonds by the ton and these are used in all kinds of tools for construction work. However, when it comes to an engagement ring, suddenly the diamond that costs pennies to manufacture now costs thousands. All because the industry manages to maintain an illusion of scarcity.

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