Monday, November 27, 2006

The Competitive advantage of humans

"Value" seems to be a key word in today's societies. Yet, I argue that "value" is a term without any "real" meaning, at the end of the day. I am even prepared to argue that the notion of "value" is misleading in today's market systems.

I propose that the concepts "I deserve" or "what is my value" have no fixed value in the market.

Cost, utility and price are terms which have more applicability. They are more "real" in market terms. What is more, these terms go well beyond economics. Supply and demand, cost, utility and price are not necessarily measured in money. After all, money is but a measurement tool.

It's about give and take, transactions, exchanges. It's about supply and demand, economic or "non-economic".

And price is after all, the point of equilibrium between supply and demand.

This line of thinking is not economic, it is interdisciplinary.

Utility is also a relative term. What is for example is the utility of a match in a desert island? For a non-smoker, for a smoker? A smoker who has cigarettes nut no matches or a smoker who possesses neither matches or cigarettes?

What is "quality"?

I argue that "quality" means standardization. I.e giving the same every time, with minimum variation.

Machines offer quality. Humans offer "value"

There lies the strategic problem for humans in today's "Globaland": If humans have a competitive advantage in producing "value", and "value" is an irrelevant term, then where is the bottom line?

With more and more manufactured goods being produced in China and services offered remotely from India, what will Americans and Europeans produce in the future (assuming that globalization and free trade do not fall to pieces)? How many services, even offered locally, cannot be based on survival of the cheapest?

I propose that the competitive advantage of the USA and Europe (OECD countries) lies, for a while at least, in capitalizing on the relative and volatile utility of intangibles.

The competitive advantage of the human factor (vis-a-vis capital and machines) lies in producing goods and services with high intangible added-utility (e.g. branding).

Humans, after all, are at their best not in repetitive, but non-repetitive, creative, intellectual, based "products".

Humans will "beat" the machines by capitalizing on what makes them human.

Saturday, November 4, 2006


How epic are or can be the daily lives of ordinary people in our times?

"King Arthur", "Troy", "Alexander (the Great)", three epic films on historical epics. Alexander's achievements are part of history, for the Trojan War (and Odyssey) as well as King Arthur, we rely on Homer and (for the latter, mostly to) legend.

"The Gladiator", a few years ago, opened the way for a return of epic films. In response to some need perceived by Hollywood?

The "Matrix", "Lord of the Rings" and other films, popular, too, in recent years, are of a different type.

How about Leonidas and his 300 Spartans at Thermopylae or Themistocles and the naval battle of Salamis? Or the wars between Ancient Athens and Sparta, the clash of two very different types of Polities? Are they compatible with Hollywood's analysis of US and global audiences' needs or wants?

Back to the future or onwards to the past?

Many people think history repeats itself, others not. I am one of the latter. But one can draw many lessons from history. Yet these cannot linearly extrapolated to the present or to the future, in my humble view.

How epic are or can be the daily lives of ordinary people in our times? Whether covered by the news (newsworthy) or not, deeds and achievements by ordinary people are, I think, as epic as "epic" can be.

Life as a movie (home movie, vlog, etc.)?

Ordinary men and women live epic lives every day all over the world. They raise children, they overcome illness, they reach personal achievements or contribute to the well being.

There is a hero inside the spirit of every man and woman nowadays in the streets of Rome, Athens, Sparta, Boston, Buenos Eires, Lisbon, Madrid, LA, Chicago, etc., all over the world (see the "Kingdom of Heaven" film, directed by the same man who directed "Gladiator"). In Ancient Rome, "gladiators" traded life as slaves to risk their lives in the Colosseum and, in return, ensure prosperity for their families.

Today's epic deeds lie in raising children, dealing with the downturns in personal lives, balancing family and work life, overcoming age or sex or other biases or exclusion in the job market, remaining "employable", starting up a new venture, identifying new needs and wants to be satisfied by new or newly defined products or services, taking control over one's personal life. By being mobile, either in terms of professions or geography.

Various dynamics ("winds") and events ("constraints") affect our lives and our decisions (of various kinds). The challenge is to stay on course, survive and prosper. Provide added value and gain personally as well as produce, at the same time, positive "externalities" for others.

Unlike what many believe, there do not have to be losers in order for winners to exist. The meaning/point of competition is often missed. Plus, there are many lessons to be learned in "failure" and a loss today can help produce a win tomorrow, in spite of what some say or imply.

Being a hero

The best way to be a hero is to be (or remain) human in the midst of all the jungle, dog eat dog, envy thy neighbor, got a mortgage to pay, bills to pay, dreams to fulfill, deadlines to meet, profit to make, etc, dynamics.

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