• The others train you to forecast, but our scholars train you to forecast accurately in the capital market
Lawrence Reed

Lawrence Reed

I have spent decades trying to understand the business world during my career in money management, investment research, and university teaching. The long time fascination with methods of solving complex business problems led me to realize that the way we say we want to see the world and the way we actually do are two very different things. It takes a conscious, thoughtful effort to open wide our mind’s eye, so to speak. If you learn to do it systematically, the result can be a new worldview that will reshape how you notice opportunities and capitalize on them.

Nearly 40 years ago, we heard Austrian economist Israel Kirzner lecture on his specialty, entrepreneurship. He employed an analogy we’ll never forget. He asked his audience to imagine a free, dynamic economy as a place where a quiet blizzard of 10-dollar bills is raging just overhead. Most people never notice it, but one very special kind of person does: the entrepreneur. He sees the bills and musters the courage to reach up and grab one. In other words, he deploys his “entrepreneurial alertness” to seize an opportunity: to buy low and sell high, to assemble factors of production to make a product or service worth more than its input costs, or to move a good from one place to another where it’s more desired. Perhaps an even more apt analogy would be a blizzard in which most of the flying bills are fake and worthless, and only a few are “winners.” But in any event, it’s the entrepreneur whose powers of observation are great enough to see any of them at all.

Entrepreneurial alertness is essentially what I implore you to cultivate. We must start by recognizing what he calls “the four core beliefs” we need to solve problems in business:

1. Past experiences shape our current assumptions.

2. Language is perception’s silent partner.

3. Improving any system’s performance requires that we identify and fix its key constraints.

4. Human behavior is purposeful; we act not simply in response to stimuli (much as a ball rolls in the direction in which it’s pushed) but in a conscious, living fashion. We compare our actual experiences to our preferred experiences and then act to create new experiences that come as close to the preferred ones as possible.

 

These four core beliefs are more profound;

Each teaches a vital lesson. On a whole, their underlying message for economics concerns how innovation develops when the market is open to new entrants. Established businesses get caught up in the same old ways of looking at the world and the opportunities for value creation. So do government bureaucracies, but the difference is that government bureaucracies tend to institutionalize the conventional ways of looking at the world and create barriers to anyone trying to change them; private industries who fail to change will be swept away.

A “worldview” is not about one innovative idea that turns out well, but about openness to experimentation and knowledge building.“Walmart’s networked system of stores and distribution centres resulted in fast-paced learning and high efficiencies.… Over time, Walmart greatly expanded and improved its business processes at a far more rapid pace than did Kmart,” eventually leaving Kmart in the dust, even in the larger towns.

The third core belief is that in order to make a complex process creates more value, it’s not enough to pick individual components and improve them; you have to identify where the constraints are in the process. If the bottleneck is at process B in the production line, improving the efficiency of process A will merely increase the size of the problem at process B. The problem is that the managers of process A in centralized operation have every incentive to propose “improvements” that actually create no value. The merits of distributed systems over centrally planned systems, including “lean thinking” concepts, justify “A lean culture as a horizontal orientation in order to better coordinate work and reduce waste along the entire value streams that end with the customers.… In contrast, a command-and-control orientation is composed of vertical silos with incentives to improve local efficiencies.”

Placing this belief in a much broader context “nature has a propensity for distributed solutions” and, echoing Hayek, “when a society’s institutions evolve through a naturally “evolutionary” process, rather than one of an imposed human design, the result tends to reflect decentralization and a selection of whatever works best.”

The fourth core belief should appeal to all those who have read Ludwig von Mises’s magnum opus, Human Action or are even moderately familiar with the central insights of the Austrian school that Mises represents. When you’re dealing with people, you’re dealing with independent actors who will respond to stimuli according to their own “control systems,” which I liken it to a thermostat. Their reaction to something depends on whether it will move them closer to a desired state that represents their goals. So you can’t ignore the incentives — you can’t move people around like pieces on a chessboard, as Adam Smith’s central-planning “man of system” tries to do.

This is where government programs almost always fall down. The private businesses also can easily fall into the same trap if they’re not mindful — in which case; the market gives them the feedback that they’ve made a mistake, something that rarely if ever happens to the people running government programs.

If you take my advice and reconstruct your worldview through the prism of his four core beliefs, you’re likely to think and behave more like a seasoned entrepreneur. Success becomes more probable, though never assured in an uncertain world. In an age in which changes happen fast, labor and capital are more mobile than ever, and technology opens doors widest to those who grasp it first, every little bit helps.

Intellectual Article written By: Prof. Lawrence Reed

Published By: Bastiat Ghana Institute

Categories: Uncategorized

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