A podcast based on the winning principle that entrepreneurs need only know the laws of economics plus the minds of customers. After that, apply your imagination.

107. Ivan Jankovic: The Special Understanding of Entrepreneurship by Americans of the Austrian School

Austrian economics has always been on the leading edge of innovative thinking applicable to business. Back in the last century, there was a group of American economists of the Austrian school who greatly advanced theories related to subjectivism; that is, the role of human beliefs and preferences, and of the market as a process. Here are some of the insights they gave us about entrepreneurial business.

Download The Episode ResourceEntrepreneurship Drives Markets, Innovation, and Value Generation – Download

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

The function of entrepreneurship is the generation of new subjectively perceived value.

These economists got the name The Psychological School, because they understood that value is a function of human feelings, preferences and beliefs. The secrets to the successful pursuit of new value are not found in data and mathematics, but in human motivation.

The activity of entrepreneurs is the development and implementation of value-generation business models.

The twentieth-century economists we talk about on the podcast this week would probably never use the term business model. But their concept of the market as a process governed by subjectivism would embrace this modern term. A business model is a recipe for identifying value potential — an analytical outcome of understanding customer preferences — assembling a value proposition — a creative act of the entrepreneur — and enabling the customer to experience value, some of which can be captured by the entrepreneur via exchange if the business model is well-constructed.

Who are entrepreneurs?

Historically, some economists have debated whether entrepreneurs play the role of managers of the assets and activities of firms, or the role of owners establishing the asset base and purpose of the firm, or the role of capitalists providing the enabling financial capital. From the subjectivist point of view, it’s not a difficult question. Entrepreneurs are those engaged in the business of pursuing and generating new value. They might play one or more roles (manager, owner, capitalist) at different times in the pursuit.

Those in business firms who do not have an entrepreneurial role are the bureaucrats engaged in governance actions with no customer value, imposed by external influencers, usually government.

How do entrepreneurs generate value?

These economists understood the market as a process of individuals interacting to exchange. Therefore, they were able to establish that entrepreneurial value generation is a process and that it can be systematized (which is the essence of our Economics For Business project). A process has a beginning — in this case the identification of value potential, which requires a deep understanding of subjective value) and an end — the facilitation of value to the point where the customer can easily exchange for it, activate it, and experience it. It’s not necessarily linear, rather it’s recursive and dynamic, a continuous creative flow of knowledge gathering and learning and responding via innovation.

How are entrepreneurs compensated?

These economists realized that it represents a poor reflection of real life to identify the compensation of entrepreneurs solely with profit. On the monetary axis, they can just as well be paid in wages or dividends or other forms of monetary compensation. On the non-monetary axis, these subjectivists fully understood the concept of psychic profit: that entrepreneurs can do what they do for their own individually-perceived motivations, including achievement, fulfillment, the reward of serving others, and the purpose and meaning found via the entrepreneurial journey.

 

Additional Resources

Entrepreneurship Drives Markets, Innovation, and Value Generation (PDF): Download Here

Professor Jankovic’s Book, Mengerian Microeconomics: The Forgotten Anglo-American Contribution to the Austrian SchoolBuy on Amazon

The Austrian Business Model (video): https://e4epod.com/model

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106. Mauricio Miller: Entrepreneurship as the Path Upwards From Anywhere, for Anyone

Entrepreneurship is the best pathway for all people out of unsatisfactory economic circumstances.

Mauricio Miller, who arrived in the US as a poor immigrant from Mexico, and who also experienced living in some of America’s worst neighborhoods, spent over 20 years running social services for people growing up and living like he did. His conclusion: social services are the worst policy for such people. It is entrepreneurship that will open up the pathway out of the neighborhoods and out of the traps of low income and limited prospects. Entrepreneurship lifts up individuals, families, and communities.

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

Job creation programs are not the answer. In the US, people can get jobs, but they are often on a dead-end track that doesn’t generate learning or leverage-able experience — waiter, assistant, security guard, etc. Outside the US, even these jobs might not be available. Often, people with these jobs are entrepreneurs “on the side”, exchanging in the informal economy. This is just another indicator how important entrepreneurship is to upgrading people in low-income situations.

Entrepreneurship is inherent in people.

Is entrepreneurship hard? Is it too daunting for some? Does it require skills that only special people possess? Absolutely not. People have the capacity, the capability and the creativity. They are typically smart and determined. The requirement is simply to let that come out — to remove the constraints. Entrepreneurship is already inherently there.

Furthermore, people are motivated for entrepreneurship. Everyone has a particular talent, or at least their own interests, and they always perform better when they’re working on what interests them. And people want to run their own life, and make their own decisions.

Release the constraints.

The constraints that face them trace to being stereotyped and labeled, and these are barriers to credibility. Reduced credibility makes it hard to institute relationships, establish partnerships, to get loan financing, and generally to build the network support and capital required to advance their businesses. Mauricio says that if we don’t label them, and simply let talent and commitment shine through, all kinds of people can demonstrate entrepreneurial potential and achievement.

Entrepreneurial achievement and success will emerge when people are unconstrained.

How does the entrepreneurial movement get started? Naturally, and without intervention. In any community, there will be one or more individuals who become “leading lights” in the sense of trying something unusual or unprecedented, and succeeding. The definition in sociology and innovation diffusion theory is “positive deviants” — those who deviate from the norm or from history with a successful outcome. Leading lights is a better term.

The leading lights are followed by early adopters, who see a strategy that is successful and copy it or follow it. Then comes community support, which Mauricio characterizes as mutuality — everyone in the community eager to help anyone who can demonstrate success.

In his book The Alternative, Mauricio tells the story of Ted Ngoy, a Cambodian immigrant to the Los Angeles area of California who got a job at Winchell’s donut chain. He quickly absorbed the techniques of donut making and decided to open his own shop. Members of the community pooled savings to provide equity capital to buy equipment. The single store became successful and Ted opened more. The mutuality of the neighborhood was activated and neighbors became delivery drivers and ingredient wholesalers and came together as a supply chain and value creation network.

The word spread across California and Cambodian immigrants in San Francisco and elsewhere started reproducing Ngoy’s strategy. In a more general sense, the learning is: people, whoever they are, can start and run a business and make some money and become independent.

A new mindset: No plan, no policy, no structure, no institutionalization.

Mauricio’s key insight is that any intervention by government or charities or social services that aims to provide a plan or a process or a structure or to configure institutionalized support is not only not needed, it is destructive. It distorts and undermines the natural human motivations and drives that people draw on in entrepreneurship. The opposite approach — or no approach — is the best. Honor the natural preference of communities for self-help and sharing — mutuality as Mauricio has named it — and let them discover the pathways for themselves, find the knowledge, pool the savings, get access to the technology, use their network to connect to the needed skills.

Entrepreneurship is catching.

Once the bright lights shine, once the positive deviants emerge, once the early adopters find follow-on success, once the natural mutuality builds the supply chain and the support network, no intervention or encouragement or policy is required. Stand back and admire.

Additional Resources

The Alternative: Most of What You Believe About Poverty Is Wrong by Mauricio Miller: Buy it on Amazon

Family Independence Initiative: FII.org

Community Independence Initiative: CIIAlternative.org

Mutuality Platform: Click Here

The Austrian Business Model (video): https://e4epod.com/model

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105. Per Bylund: Austrian Economics is the Science of Business Success

For any size and any type of business, the generation of value requires more than strategy, planning, and executional excellence.

It calls for the establishment, communication, and internalization of value-generation principles, solidly founded and consistently applied. This concept of the long-term, dynamic application of unchanging principles is the essence of the Austrian approach to business.

Download The Episode ResourceLong Term Value Generation As A Science Of Business Success – Download

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

In a podcast conversation, Professor Per Bylund reviewed and critiqued the popular business book The Science Of Success, and focused on these principles or guidelines.

Vision For Long Term Value

Vision in this context is not the transcendental futurism of a CEO-with-superpowers often envisaged in business school texts. This is Austrian vision: a deep understanding of what constitutes value and how to act to realize value over time, rejecting short-term opportunism.

Value, of course, is subjective, determined by consumers, and so businesses that generate long term value can be seen as creating value for society, a laudable ethical contribution to social well-being.

Virtue and Talents

It’s unusual to encounter the word virtue in a discussion of business. In this context, it applies to the selection and hiring of a team that will collaborate on the long term creative task. This requires dynamically melding people with the right values, skills and capabilities, and the capacity to develop skills and capabilities even further. Hiring becomes one of the most important and most value-generating business functions.

Knowledge Processes

Entrepreneurial value creation is a knowledge-based and knowledge-intensive process. Knowledge is actively pursued, curated, combined, and processed. Knowledge advantages may be available, where firms are able to craft uniquely superior processes, methods and technologies. Crucially, these are never permanent. They can always be competed away, and rendered redundant by changing markets and evolving consumer preferences, although some forms of knowledge advantage, such as brands and culture, can be more long-lasting. Knowledge processes must include not only knowledge management but also the creation of new knowledge.

Decision Rights

Business books often talk about organizational design, but less often about the details of the processes of decision making. Whether the organization is hierarchical or flat and networked, it must still be able to make decisions and have them accepted and supported and implemented. Putting people in the right roles with the right degree of authority and accountability is the business challenge. This is different from the mythical business school idea of “leadership”; it’s a more a matter of productive collaboration among multiple individuals and teams, all of whom have some authority. The concept of decision rights breaks the ties and the logjams and enables corporate dynamism.

Incentives

The idea that behavior is responsive to incentives is core to the science of economics, of course. The same is true in business, and it’s important to use economic reasoning to get incentives right and avoid adverse incentives. The proposition given in the Science Of Success is that people are rewarded according to the value they create. Thus, we come full circle, back to the vision of value that constitutes the first of these 5 principles. If a business is clear on its definition and understanding of value, then it can be successful in incentivizing its people to generate that value.

Additional Resources

Long Term Value Generation As A Science Of Business Success (PDF): Download Here

QJAE Special Double Edition on Entrepreneurship (PDF): Download Here

The Austrian Business Model (video): https://e4epod.com/model

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104. Professor Mohammad Keyhani on Generativity, The New Digital Pathway to Business Growth

Our metric for business is value generation. The scope of Economics For Business is not determined by business size or type — we don’t label firms as small, medium or large, or by the stage of their development, or by industry.

Download The Episode ResourceHow Generative Is Your Business? – Download

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

We see business through the lens of entrepreneurship, defined as the intentional pursuit of new economic value. A reasonable proxy metric we can use is growth. Business growth is consequence of generating new economic value. That value is determined by customers, and a growing company is creating more customers and/or adding to its share of customer dollars spent in value exchange.

The changing dimensions of business growth.

The economic route to growth is changing. In today’s markets, we often see speed of growth that goes beyond historical expectations. Business models can expand their reach and accelerate their performance over networks faster than ever before.

An Austrian perspective on business enables entrepreneurs to perform in a high-growth environment: Austrian entrepreneurs recognize the boundaryless-ness of markets, the flexibility of capital combinations, and re-combinations to respond to the rolling flow of value learning signals from consumers, and the benefits of shedding control in order to accept complexity and emergence. Austrian entrepreneurs are well-placed to enjoy success in today’s markets.

Professor Mohammad Keyhani sums up the Austrian entrepreneur’s advantage in the term Generativity.

The generativity of a system is the capacity to produce unprompted, unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from a large, broad, and varied audience. The concept of generativity is closely aligned with the Austrian ideas of spontaneous order and emergence.

By way of an example, the concept has been applied to technologies, where the characteristics of generativity can be identified as the increase in participation as an input and the increase of innovation as an output. One of the results of this thinking has been open innovation: anyone can participate (e.g., when corporate research is not limited to a corporate R&D lab, ideas can come from anywhere outside the corporation), and more and better innovation is an outcome.

One of the potential effects of generativity is to overcome knowledge constraints. Open innovation is an example: even the biggest corporation with the best minds in its employment can not possibly have a majority of good ideas. They don’t even know what answers they should be looking for.

Detaching the search process from the searcher.

When we face knowledge constraints, we search for answers. But a searcher only knows to search in certain places. Generativity can separate the search from the searcher, unleashing the search process to look in places that would be blind spots for the searcher. Similarly, generative design can generate product ideas that the human designer could not.

The incentives of the market can take control of the search process. The demand side (via broad, unfiltered participation) defines the problem to be solved and the supply side (via equally broad and equally unfiltered participation) creates solutions.

Generative characteristics can be built-in to a product or service.

5 characteristics of generativity in products are:

Leverage: the product can be put to many uses, and users can do many things with it, including those that the product designer could never anticipate.

Adaptability: the product can be further modified to broaden its range of tasks even further; new code can be contributed by users, accessories can be added, and so on.

Ease Of Mastery: there are no or low barriers to broad usage and broad adoption due to unusual or hard-to-acquire skills.

Accessibility: the product is accessible to everyone and its usage is not limited to a specific set of users.

Transferability: The advances in and changes to the technology made by some users are transferable to all users; new users can build on what previous users have contributed.

Generative products are tools for entrepreneurs.

Generative products are a little hard to describe or categorize. They’re more like toolkits rather than specific use products. Professor Keyhani started a website to curate some of these kinds of tools / toolkits for entrepreneurs: Entrepreneur-Tools.Zeef.com/Keyhanimo

Some examples he mentions:

Zapier.com and Integromat.com link web apps and digital tools together via API’s to assemble automated workflows.

Airtable.com — flexible and powerful cloud-based relational database for regular users.

No-code software development tools like Adalo.com (build your own app), Voiceflow.com (build your own voice app) and Bubble.io (anyone can be a software developer).

There is a broad future growth path in generativity.

Let users generate innovations; let them accumulate (new users can build on the innovations of earlier users); focus on capturing as much of the value as is appropriate for the entrepreneur-as-orchestrator.

Additional Resources

Professor Keyhani’s website: MohammadKeyhani.com

How Generative Is Your Business? (PDF): Download Here

“A Theory of Digital Firm-Designed Markets: Defying Knowledge Constraints with Crowds and Marketplaces” by Mohammad Keyhani, et al  (PDF): Download Here

The Austrian Business Model (video): https://e4epod.com/model

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103. Steven Phelan: Embrace Complexity, Pursue Continuous Innovation, Don’t Waste Time on Planning

A rapidly advancing strand of theory has enabled great advances in the understanding of complex adaptive systems. Austrian economics is quintessential complexity theory; Austrians recognize that economic systems exhibit emergent outcomes as a result of the myriad interactions of consumers and businesses, value propositions and value perceptions, technologies and channels, and the innumerable transactions and exchanges that take place. The future is unknowable — we can’t know what will happen, and we don’t even know what can happen — and the system can sometimes feel turbulent and chaotic.

How should businesses manage complexity? They shouldn’t. It’s not manageable. No plan survives the first contact with customers is the way Steve Blank famously puts it.

What’s the answer? Don’t plan. Implement an Austrian Business Model and embrace the complexity of the marketplace.

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

How do you do that? Professor Steven Phelan uses the complexity theory metaphor of the dancing rugged landscape. Think of the market or business sector in which you are operating as a landscape of peaks and valleys. You can see some of them but not all of them. Your view may be improved if you have more knowledge about where you are and where you are trying to get to, but knowledge is never complete. And the landscape is not stable — new peaks form, old peaks move and crumble, valleys become deeper. The pursuit of new economic value is the search for peaks, locations of high value that your business can capture, if you can get there. A plan won’t get you there, because you can’t see a pathway and the destination is going to move and change anyway. And you might identify another, better peak as you explore, and you’ll make an unplanned change in your journey to switch destinations.

Professor Phelan sums up the many choices open to entrepreneurs in complex environments under two approaches.

Approach 1: I believe I can see a peak, and identify a pathway to reach it.

You will never be right. But there are smart actions:

  • Be humble: be conscious that you may be proven wring.
  • Act fast: test, test, test to prove the peak and the path.
  • Be agile: prepared to change or pivot when circumstances and data change.
  • Be aware of competition and fast followers and adjust accordingly.
    • Refine / redefine your niche to further differentiate.
  • Build fortifying uniqueness around any peak you find.
    • Culture
    • Brand
  • Build-in continuous change and innovation.
  • Assemble multiple peaks, reducing dependence on any single one.

Approach 2: I don’t know where the peak is, but I believe I am in an opportunity-rich landscape.

Don’t get trapped — and waste all your resources — in blind random searching.

  • Run multiple experiments — small, medium, and large.
  • High speed of sorting through outcomes.
    • Example: Big Pharma seeds multiple biotech startups, acquires winners.
  • Choose customers to serve first, rather than choose products or services to produce.
    • Customer need is the beacon to guide the search
    • The customer need is never fully understood
    • And it’s always changing
    • The work of identifying it is never complete
    • But it is the guiding light
  • There are no events (like product launches) only the continuous flow of searching, responding to customers, and changing in response.

As Professor Phelan states: the work is never done. No landscape is unchanging. No peak lasts forever.

Additional Resources

“The Entrepreneur In A Dancing Rugged Landscape” (on Twitter)

“The Complexity of Opportunity” by Steven Phelan (PDF): Download Here

“Austrian Theories of Entrepreneurship: Insights From Complexity Theory” by Steven Phelan (PDF): Download Here

“The Austrian Business Model” (video): https://e4epod.com/model

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102. Dale Caldwell: Entrepreneur Zones Will Drive Accelerated Growth For Cities

Can entrepreneurship be a collaborative undertaking across multiple firms? Entrepreneur Zones are an idea from Dale Caldwell to boost the economic performance of cities, and represent one form of collaborative entrepreneurship. The business platform the Mises Institute is building — Economics For Business — represents another: an online collaboration of entrepreneurs to share knowledge, experience, and practices, while competing individually to be the best at serving customers.

How will this work? We can answer this question using our “5 Cs Framework”.

Download The Episode ResourceThe 5 C’s of Entrepreneur Zones – Download

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

1. Consumer Sovereignty / Customer First

The first principle of entrepreneurship is that value is subjective, and one way to express that principle is that consumers determine value. Entrepreneurs facilitate value for consumers. That principle is never relaxed. Deviation from it is fatal for entrepreneurial businesses. Therefore, even in circumstances where we see opportunities for entrepreneurial collaboration, it is never in violation of consumer sovereignty. Any collaboration is directed towards the facilitation of consumer value, and does not detract from it.

2. Collaborative Efficiency.

In an Entrepreneur Zone, as envisioned by Dale Caldwell, there is the opportunity for a group of entrepreneurs (geographically co-located in a city in his case, but potentially grouped along other dimensions) to search for shared advantage. To speculate, the shared advantage in an Entrepreneur Zone might be found in shared services, reducing unproductive overhead for all firms and releasing resources for exploration, innovation, and customer service. It could be found in shared or pooled marketing.

In the case of Economics For Business, we aim to provide shared knowledge (reducing search and knowledge acquisition costs and overcoming knowledge constraints), processes and tools that can be applied by all for greater effectiveness, and shared experience that can speed up learning.

3. Competitiveness

“Collaborating to compete” sounds contradictory on the surface, but is the essence of capitalism. While firms look for shared advantage where it is available, they equally search for individual advantage through innovation, better ideas, better customer service and stronger relationships. The rivalrous drive to serve customers better and therefore enjoy the resultant revenue streams is primary. It’s the energy of economic growth. Success can be replicated by imitators, which is one of the ways the system works for all. By that time, the innovators have advanced to the next stage of competitive advantage. The system never stops and progress never ends, because of the competitive drive.

4. Creativity

Behind competitiveness is creativity. New ideas and new knowledge, the result of new experiments, provide the fuel for continued growth. The collaborative entrepreneurial group can share ideas, bounce ideas between them, pursue their own ideas, ask for help, and merge ideas into new combinations. Creative ideas remain the original source for all entrepreneurs.

5. Cumulative Improvement

Entrepreneurship is a journey, with many twists and turns. It calls for learning, which might often require abandoning a path that once looked promising and taking up another. Success comes over time, via more and more learning, more and more feedback from the marketplace, more and more experiments run and recorded, more and more customer experiences logged. Improvement accumulates over time. For a collaboration such as Entrepreneur Zones or Economics For Business, participating entrepreneurs can anticipate long term success without any certainty about the length of the timeline.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

“The 5 C’s of Entrepreneur Zones” (PDF): Download the PDF

White Paper: “New Jersey Entrepreneur Zones” by Dale Caldwell (PDF): Download the PDF

“Dale Caldwell Believes that Jobs Can Drive Societal Change”: Read the Article

“Healing Divided Country with Entrepreneurship”: Read the Article

“Opportunity Zones… We Need Entrepreneur Zones”: Read the Article

“Trauma in Employment” (PDF): Download the PDF

“The Austrian Business Model” (video): https://e4epod.com/model

Start Your Own Entrepreneurial Journey

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