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

Opinion

The end of scarcity

Leestijd: 4 minuten

As it was Thanksgiving in the US last week, I wanted to follow up with a reflection on the notion of scarcity and abundance. Many in industry operate with a scarcity mindset, believing that basically everything we’re concerned with is available only in limited amounts. Whether it’s ‘winning’ a customer, being promoted or getting a project that you asked for, the basic assumption is that either someone else gets it or you get it. It’s a win-lose situation.

The reason for this can, of course, be found in the evolution of humankind. For the hundreds of thousands of years that the predecessors of modern-day humans roamed the earth, everything was driven by scarcity. Food was scarce, safe places to live were scarce, people to partner with safely were scarce, and so on. And this translates into many of our current behaviors in society. In football games, one team wins and the other loses. In television shows, there’s one winner. In computer gaming, the battle royale games go through successive rounds of fights until only one player is left.

For virtually everyone in the western world, scarcity is largely an illusion. We all have access to food, a safe place to live, access to healthcare, protection from threats, and so on. Using Maslov’s theory as a basis, our physiological and safety needs are largely taken care of and these basic needs were historically where scarcity existed. Our psychological and self-fulfillment needs are typically not where scarcity is an issue. When someone else enters a relationship, it doesn’t reduce your opportunities to enter a relationship. When a colleague of mine publishes a paper, it doesn’t affect my opportunities to publish a paper.

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