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Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Competitive advantage

In my 5 July 2017 blog on Advantage vs Empathy, I concluded that humans are driven by gaining advantage in life. Our relentless drive for advantage is what separates us from any other species on this planet. Recently, I realised that this view is somewhat similar to a concept from the field of microeconomics, known as Homo economicus (Wiki).

Homo economicus was/is driven by his utility function and his choice (or preference) is based on the highest added utility (a.k.a. value). However, lots of things in life do not have a price tag and can thus not be valued. Critics also referred to reciprocity in human behaviour and the related “gift” economy rather than the market economy.

Our drive for gaining advantage is broader than Homo economicus. To put it bluntly: everything we do is geared towards gaining advantage. It covers financial, psychological and social advantage. Hence, advantage includes behaviour that makes people like us more than others. Hence, I wonder whether altruism is an exception to this view.

Mahatma Gandhi is generally considered being an example of altruism. Some of his quotes reveal a philosophical view rooted in gaining advantage: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Or: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Or: “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

Perhaps it’s a simple as this: gaining competitive advantage equals survival. This seems more appropriate than the survival of the fittest given its actual meaning: “Survival of the form that will leave the most copies of itself in successive generations.” (Wiki).

Obviously, competitive advantage is primarily business terminology. However, one cannot but conclude that all life-forms use this same survival concept. It just shows that humans have understood this prime driver of life and also apply it to businesses and organisations.

Gaining competitive advantage is key in the 3 stages of Life: (i) Needs (eg, food, shelter, and water for all life-forms), (ii) Wants (life-forms using tools), and (iii) Beliefs (the 7 Belief systems are for humans only). Nevertheless, “more than 99% of all species, amounting to over five billion species, that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct” (Wiki).

The concept of gaining competitive advantage is perhaps most visible in the Beliefs stage and its Knowledge (PhilosophySciencethe Truth ) and Power (MoneyPoliticsReligion) domains. Even in Lovereciprocity gives an advantage. Pascal’s Wager claims that not believing in Religion gives a disadvantage. Knowledge and Power are the pillars of competitive advantage.

Our faith and belief in the concept of competitive advantage makes Homo sapiens willing to accept – and even drive – Change. The Technological Revolution of 1800-2100 might be the best example of this. In the words of Julie Sweet: “Innovation is the new competitive advantage.”

Advantage (2011) by Machel Montano – artist, lyrics, video, Wiki

Note: after watching this video, I realised that even our (lack of) clothes are geared towards gaining competitive advantage…… 😉

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