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89. Jeff Booth: How Entrepreneurs Can Harness The Power Of Technological Deflation

What is technological deflation, and how can entrepreneurs take advantage of it? By combining already available and easily accessible technologies to facilitate the accelerated information flows that constitute value in the 21st Century: higher quality, faster speeds, lower costs. Jeff Booth explains.

Download The Episode Resource Value Then vs. Value Now PDF – Download

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

Technology reduces the labor factor, lowers costs, and frees up time.

These are the components of deflation: less labor and effort for any unit of output, faster speed, lower material costs, and re-allocation of time to from lower to higher productivity activities.

The speed at which this technological change is happening is “staggering” in Jeff Booth’s words, and will accelerate. More and more time will be freed up to allocate to higher uses.

The result is deflation: higher quality for lower cost at faster speeds.

The only reason price deflation is not pervasive throughout the economy is the status quo governmental system.

Federal Reserve money printing, more and more debt, lower interest rates – these are actions designed to drive price inflation. This scheme defies the natural order of technological deflation. It is the great fight of our time, says Booth, to end the inflationary scheme.

But for entrepreneurs, the right action is to embrace and harness tech deflation.

There is tremendous leverage for entrepreneurs in the current economy of technological change.

Jeff uses his “folding analogy”. If you could fold a piece of paper 50 times, it would reach the sun. Technological change is at the early folding stage today, but each new fold doubles the growth rate and the impact.

The way for entrepreneurs to put this folding analogy to work for them is by combining technologies. Several folds at once.

One of Jeff’s examples is Elon Musk. In Jeff Booth’s words, Musk forecast three exponentials: the exponential improvement in battery technology, the exponential increase in the role of software in automotive engineering, bringing information flow into the vehicle, and the exponential improvement in A.I. to bring self-driving features to automobiles. Taken together, these three widely available technologies made Tesla a revolutionary venture, surpassing GM in market capitalization.

The same “crazy opportunities” are available to all entrepreneurs.

We don’t all have to be Elon Musk. The possibility to increase customer value and reduce costs at the same time are available to all entrepreneurs. One of the keys to success is to direct technology towards increasing data capture: more and more data signals to drive deep learning via algorithms, leading to better and better and faster and faster decision-making. Data collection platforms managed with A.I. algorithms can generate the exponential growth that Jeff refers to.  Google and Amazon are the examples everyone talks about; but here on E4E, in episode #84, Bob Luddy talked about sensor-based data collection in his CaptiveAire restaurant ventilation systems, feeding performance data back to the central platform for increased learning and improvement. The opportunity is available to all types of business.

Value looks different today than in the past, and it will look different again in the future.

“What will value look like in the future?” is one of the questions Jeff Booth urges all entrepreneurs to ask for themselves and their business.

He cited one example from history: the Blockbuster video rental business. To Blockbuster’s owners and managers, value looked like the convenience for consumers of movie entertainment of 9000 stores across the country, each with a huge selection of videotapes to choose from. Their idea of adding value was to provide popcorn and candy in the checkout aisles. But when Netflix came along, value starts to look different. It’s the convenience of streaming movies directly to your digital TV or tablet in your home or on the go, with constant additions to the offering, both of original content and content from other channels. The 9000 Blockbuster stores no longer look so convenient. Information flow and digitization make value look different.

Another example Jeff cited is the university education business. Traditionally, its value is based on real estate – an exclusive set of physical buildings in one specific place to which students must travel (or rent a dorm room) in order to access an exclusive faculty of high-reputation teachers. Now, with technology and information flow, the core knowledge is accessible anywhere / anytime, and is tending towards free. Offline educational ventures can hire the teachers to make video classes available to the world, and virtual reality will make the experience even more vivid and more enjoyable. The knowledge is the same. Students’ questions are probably the same. The cost structure is totally different.

Three principles for entrepreneurs to facilitate new value in the future.

Given these examples, and given the trends of accelerating digitization, data flow, multiplicative combinations, and algorithmic analysis and intelligence, what are the principles for business to follow to be able to facilitate new value for customers?

1) Aim for 10X improvement in the customer experience.

The rate of acceleration is so fast, and the exponential potential of new combinations of technology is so great, that innovators must aim for a 10X improvement in customer-perceived benefit to command attention, turn heads and dislodge customers from their current choices. (Curt Carlson made the same point in episode #37.)

2) Make your thinking boundaryless.

One of the great restrictions on entrepreneurial creativity is the institutionally and historically imposed tradition of thinking in silos, and thinking that industries have boundaries. Universities have their faculty departments and corporations have their divisions, and they tend to put silos around thinking. But the Elon Musk example of batteries + software + A.I. crosses industry boundaries, technology boundaries, performance boundaries, and financial boundaries. Boundaryless thinking can open up endless new possibilities. Entrepreneurial economics teaches the re-combination of assets, not necessarily the creation of new ones. Busting silos can lead to new combinations.

3) Forecast the exponential.

Where in your frame will exponential change occur? Use your imagination to try to forecast it. The future can’t be predicted but it can be imagined. The challenge is to imagine the next fold of the paper and the next one and the next one; and the next combination of two or three or four or more new technologies. The idea of the exponential can be applied everywhere.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

Value Then vs. Value Now PDF: here.

Get Jeff’s Book The Price of Tomorrow here.

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

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77. Ralph Welborn on the Ecosystem-Based Strategy

Business strategy and business model design has traditionally been firm-centric. Entrepreneurs are called upon to establish firms, to make the firm the locus of value creation through value proposition design, assembly of resources, and production; and to ensure competitive advantage in comparison to rival firms pursuing the same customers.

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

There is an entirely different way to approach economic value creation (see our E4E Knowledge Map). Ralph Welborn discusses this new approach for the 2020s on the Economics For Entrepreneurs podcast, and in his book Topple: The End of the Firm-Based Strategy and the Rise of New Models for Explosive Growth (Buy It On Amazon).

The innovation of the new strategic approach is the focus on ecosystems instead of firms. The new approach preserves — and, in fact, elevates and intensifies — the Austrian business model principle of customer sovereignty and the deep understanding of the customer as the first step on the value creation path. But it changes the perspective to the ecosystem level.

Defining the business ecosystem.

Ralph defines a business ecosystem as the methods of orchestrating capabilities from diverse organizations to capture new sources of value. Austrians see entrepreneurs as orchestrators, and so we are very comfortable with this starting point. We are equally comfortable with the core analytic action Ralph proposes: studying where value is being created and destroyed within an ecosystem, and taking steps to capture emergent new value.

As an example, think of a consumer’s nutrition ecosystem, and how it might have changed — that is, how new value has been created and old value destroyed — over the past twenty years. In the past, value was created by Big Food firms (think Kraft Heinz) via low prices, convenience packaging (e.g. canned foods and frozen foods), standardization, high volume, and supermarket distribution. But then some consumers sought new value in fresh food, organic food, less processed food, fewer preservative ingredients and fewer additives and new recipes. New brands took advantage of the emergent value opportunities. And even more recently, new value has been created by delivery platforms that can bring the food directly to the home, and escape the “war in the store” for shelf space and distribution slots. You can begin to appreciate how a business ecosystem such as “consumer nutrition” can change, how new value creation can emerge, and how entrepreneurs might take new action.

Ralph mentions another example in his book: the ecosystem in which automobile companies operate has changed from transportation to mobility. The companies must now deliver value in areas such as in-car productivity, entertainment, communications, connectivity and more.

In order to implement an ecosystem-based strategy, Ralph recommends the following steps:

First, shift your unit of focus.

Business schools have told us that our point of focus should be our firm, or corporation, or business unit or department: to maximize the performance of that unit in comparison to other firms or units.

The shift is to focus not on the firm but on the ecosystem in which you and your customers engage, in order to develop a new value perspective.

Step one in business is always to identify and know the customer. The added perspective is to identify, and study, the ecosystem in which you and the customer are engaged.

Second, see the ecosystem as a locus of shifting value.

Once you’ve defined it, observe the ecosystem as a network of economic interactions where value is being created and destroyed via changing customer preferences and needs. A consequence of these changes will be shifts in the competitive environment, and you can observe these too, as clues.

To continue with our nutrition ecosystem as an example, you can observe the shifts in market share between traditional and innovative food companies, and use these shifts as a signal of changing consumer preferences. Of course, you can also simply observe consumer behavior and conduct traditional research. Plug all of this observation into a dynamic ecosystem perspective: where and how is value being created and destroyed in the ecosystem?

Ralph’s memorable phrase is: value seen is value captured. If you can see where value is shifting and where new value is being created (or will be created in the future) you will be able to capture it.

Third, answer the questions: “How can I fit in to the ecosystem?” and “How can I contribute to the ecosystem?”

The changed perspective of the ecosystem approach is the shift from “how can my firm compete with other firms?” to “how can I qualify to be invited into the customer’s ecosystem?” If you have a new line of organic, healthy food products for health- and diet-conscious consumers, how can you engage with the communication channels within the ecosystem to make those consumers aware, how can you utilize those channels to communicate your benefits, how can you engage with ecosystem retailers and distributors to make it convenient for the consumer to buy your physical products, and how can you participate in the consumer’s preparation systems to provide extra service in addition to your physical product? Where is new value emerging? Where is old value being destroyed? How can you take advantage of the shifts?

The answer to the question “How can I contribute to the ecosystem?” requires an analysis and articulation of what are the capabilities required to meet new needs, who has those capabilities (if your firm does not have them all), and how can you orchestrate these capabilities in service of those needs? Perhaps home delivery is required for ultimate customer convenience. Who does that and how can you orchestrate that capability on the customer’s behalf? Perhaps food preparation videos will help the customer get the most value from your product — who can prepare the content (a celebrity chef, perhaps) and which is the best platform to host and deliver the content to the kitchen? Perhaps your packaging can be recycled — how can you orchestrate that to make it convenient for your customer (as Nespresso does, for example, with recycling bags for their capsules, which can be mailed back free, or dropped off at a Nespresso boutique).

To fit in and contribute, choose a bundling or un-bundling strategy.

Austrian economics directs entrepreneurs to assemble resources to facilitate customer value in a unique manner. In the book Topple, Ralph Welborn calls this a bundling versus unbundling decision. If you decide to be a bundler, you improve customer value by providing multiple services around the desired benefit — such as amazon does with retailing and delivery, making shopping more convenient. Unbundling refers to a focus on a single benefit-delivering capability, such as manufacturing a new organic food product that is clearly differentiated from the preservative-laden portfolio of the Big Food company. You can choose to be a bundler or an un-bundler based on how you want to deliver value to customers.

Fourth, audit your own capabilities and identify the 20% that deliver the majority of your value.

The capabilities underlying your product or service (skill sets, software, distribution, customer relationships, media channels, process) decay over time, often at an accelerating rate. Ralph points out that entrepreneurs should be creating new capabilities continuously, and making those new capabilities into the 20% that drive explosive growth. This is pure Austrian Capital Theory — identifying the business assets that most contribute to customer satisfaction and keeping them refreshed and up-to-date as customer preferences change.

Ralph cites Uber as an example: the new capabilities are mobile connectivity (from carriers), payment transactions (banks and credit card companies) and dynamic GPS and mapping software (from Google and others).

These capabilities are:

  • Centered around what the customer wants to do.
  • Taking friction out of what it is they want to do, making it extraordinarily convenient.
  • Orchestrating different capabilities from different types of actors and organizations.
  • Reserving the enabling orchestration capabilities to Uber.

The implications for business are to: (i) identify your assets and their half-life — the rate of decay; (ii) identify where to play in your newly understood ecosystem and how to develop the new assets and capabilities to do so. This is a continuing process.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

“An Ecosystem-Based Development Strategy” (PDF): Click Here to Download

Ralph Welborn’s book, Topple: The End of the Firm-Based Strategy and the Rise of New Models for Explosive GrowthBuy It On Amazon

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The Genius Of The Consumer

Entrepreneurship is the intentional pursuit of value. This pursuit fuels the engine of economic growth. The entrepreneurs who achieve the realization of value become folk heroes, and the great firms that create value at scale – Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google – are stock market heroes.

All of this is acceptable wisdom. However, it’s the wisdom of outcomes, of recording the score after the play has been completed. Who drew up the play? Don’t we concede some genius to the coach and the offensive co-ordinator as well as the quarterback and the wide receiver?

Who Is Pursuing Value?

In order to understand cause and effect, we have to start at the input, not the outcome. Who is actually pursuing value? How did the entrepreneur – or Apple – know that something new was needed? That some improvement was required to retain the role of stock market hero?

Henry Ford is often quoted as saying (although he probably didn’t), “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The implication is that he placed no faith in the identification of consumer needs. His preferred method was invention (coming up with something new through his own genius) followed by innovation (translating the invention into something that could be produced, and then sold on the market).

In fact, Ford’s attitude, according to Harvard Business Review, “had a very costly and negative impact on the Ford Motor Company’s investors, employees, and customers”. Because it turned out that, once consumers had Model T’s, they quickly decided that what they wanted was better cars. General Motors developed a response in the form of their “A Car for Every Purse and Purpose,” strategy which aimed to produce cars for distinct market segments aided by installment selling, used car trade-ins, closed car models, and annual model changes. The Ford Motor Company was quickly relegated to a minor, small-share role in the American automobile market.

Think of this as the genius of the consumer. One minute, they don’t have cars. Next minute they are demanding not only better cars, but also better ways to buy them, better aesthetics, greater variety and frequent upgrades. Such boldness, such expansive thinking, such imagination! Edison brought them lightbulbs, and they imagined a world of devices attached to an electricity grid providing on-call productivity services of all kinds. Steve Jobs brought them the iPhone and they interconnected themselves to each other and to sources of knowledge and to global supply chains.

The double genius of the consumer.

What is this genius? It is twofold. 

First, it is consumers who actually create value. How so? Because they are the ones pursuing it.  Entrepreneurs and the innovators put resources – such as cars and refined gasoline and silicon chips and touchscreens and internet connections – into consumers’ hands, and then the consumers roar into action, their creativity unleashed by new affordances. They try to create as much value as they can with the new resources. They drive to work and drive to school and drive across America and put grocery and tools in the backs of their cars (Hey, Henry! Make me a pick-up truck!), and maybe sleep in the car (Hey, Henry! Make me an RV!) and maybe make music in the car by singing and whistling to themselves or to their kids in the back seat (Hey, Henry! Where is the radio?), and maybe find themselves wishing they could call home to say when they’ll be home for dinner (Hey, Henry! How about a carphone?). Value occurs entirely in the consumer’s domain (or the customer’s if you are in B2B). Value is a feeling of satisfaction in the consumer’s mind.

Which brings us to the second aspect of the consumer’s genius. It’s their dissatisfaction. Henry Ford wanted to accuse them of lacking imagination. He got it all wrong. Anyone can imagine the future (flying cars for example). Not many can get it right. Consumers don’t waste their time on such high error rate activities. They concentrate on a subject where they are always right: their own feelings of dissatisfaction. “Henry, we get wet driving your car in the rain!” “Henry, it’s really hard to change the tires.” “Henry, I can’t afford to pay you that amount of money all at once. Give me some time, won’t you?” “You said it only comes in black, but blue is my favorite color.”  “Henry, your Model T looks the same this year as it did last year.” “Henry, can you speed this thing up?” “Henry, I need to work remotely. Can you make my F150 like a mobile office?”

The consumer has big dreams.

How genius is this? Dissatisfaction indicates that the consumer is able to dream bigger than the producer. Every new invention that becomes an innovation and is introduced to the market is immediately scrutinized under the lens of dissatisfaction, critiqued and criticized. No matter how many millions or billions of development dollars went into it, no matter how many Ph.D. engineers and Harvard MBA’s brought it to market, it can not survive the consumer’s examination unimproved. Because the consumer has big dreams.

The genius of the consumer outstrips that of the entrepreneur. Economists see the entrepreneurial process as one of trial and error, with the emphasis on error – a lot of mistakes before arriving (with the help of consumer feedback, of course) at a salable proposition, which is defined as one that generates less dissatisfaction than some alternative on which the consumer could spend their money.

Entrepreneurs are still heroes of course. If they weren’t willing to invest time, money and ego into the process of trying to please consumers, despite all the rejections, then there would be no progress. We might still be driving Model T’s, because no entrepreneur was willing to suffer the wrath of dissatisfied customers. We love our entrepreneurs. And we especially love those with more empathy – more ability to listen to consumers’ complaints to stimulate their imaginations for future betterment.

But let’s not err in identifying the locus of genius in this market process. Let’s help consumers achieve their dreams (before those of the entrepreneur).

37. Curt Carlson’s Systematic, Repeatable Process to Generate Customer Value

Is successful value creation through innovation the product of genius? Or of luck? No, it’s the product of a system, applied with discipline. Utilizing the system can result in repeated success in customer value generation.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

Curt Carlson is the world’s leading expert practitioner. He is the founder and CEO of Practice Of Innovation, LLC, and was President Of SRI International, identified as the most successful innovation company in the world based on its development and introduction of globally important innovations like Siri for the iPhone4 and HDTV. Under Curt’s leadership, SRI grew 3.5X and created tens of billions of dollars of new customer value.

Curt believes any company can systematically generate new value for customers, and reap the rewards of the market for doing so, when they rigorously apply three fundamental rules.

  1. They have a simple value creation methodology that everyone in the company (and its collaborative partners) can describe, understand and apply every day in every job function. (Curt’s test: ask everyone in the company what the firm’s value creation method is: if they can’t describe it, there isn’t one.)
  2. They have metrics to define innovation work that is important rather than merely interesting. While subjective value is not quantifiable, there are proxies for measuring importance and market potential.
  3. They have a system for active learning. Innovation is a learning science, and active learning is a specific, high speed, high productivity version of learning, applying the best learning science principles.

In this week’s podcast, we focused especially on the simple, effective value creation methodology that Curt identifies by the initials N-A-B-C.

NABC Innovation Process

Click the image to view and download the full PDF

N is the identification and quantification of the important customer need. In B2B businesses, it’s possible to monitor financial flows and identify needs based on quantifiable elements – cost savings, time savings, and measurable quality improvements. In consumer businesses, need identification is much harder, and quantification impossible except by proxy, since needs are subjective and individual. Importantly, they are also multi-dimensional, and need identification must encompass all the dimensions.

It’s important to deeply understand human wants, whether it’s for convenience, or higher order wants such as pride and identity. Surveys told Steve Jobs that consumers wanted a “new keyboard” for existing Nokia phones that were hard to use. Jobs’s intuition was that what they really longed for was convenience. The touchscreen on the iPhone provided convenience and opened a doorway to all kinds of additional services.

A is the Approach the entrepreneurial innovator takes to meet the customer need. The approach is the design of an experience that the customer will desire. The Approach mist embrace both the assembly of the right resources into a technical solution, and the business model so that the solution makes money. There’s an iterative back-and-forth between technical solution and business model that can continue for years. Nike’s technical solution for shoes is good but not unique; its business model for sponsoring athletes to inspire aspirational consumers who wanted to “be like Mike” (or today like LeBron) elevated their offering from product to experience.

B is Benefits Per Costs. Curt uses this construction to emphasize that there are large buckets of both benefits and of costs. Benefits include not just features and performance and appearance, but also the feelings produced by the experience. Costs are similarly multi-layered: not just dollars, but also the effort required to acquire the product, and perhaps to master its use, the opportunity cost of what is given up, durability, and more. The innovative entrepreneur must look at costs from all of these angles and calculate that the “benefits per costs” for customers are much better than alternatives.

Curt’s rule of thumb is 2X to 10X better. People measure perceived benefits in percentages. 10% better, 50% better, 100% better than the status quo or the alternatives. Transformational innovations are 2 – 10X better.

C is the competition and other alternatives – both today and in the future. What are all the other ways the customer can experience the benefit they seek? What are alternative ways for them to spend their money – perhaps on a different experience that’s not a direct substitute but on which they’ll spend instead of buying our solution. How does your innovation fit into their lives so compellingly as to become preferred over all these alternatives?

N-A-B-C is a simple framework, but it’s not easy to achieve results. It requires iteration at speed among many collaborators (including customers, and possibly investors), all with different and specific talents and tacit knowledge. No individual can command sufficient knowledge, so team learning – active, comparative learning, frequently updated – is critical to the outcome.

The result is transformational: for customers who experience new value, for the firms that facilitate it, and for the individuals who practice the discipline of innovation.

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Ideas Are Not Scarce. Excellent Implementation And Great Execution Are Scarce.

We gathered together another insightful tweet stream from the entrepreneur’s highest rated economist, Dr. Per Bylund.

The problem of #entrepreneurship is not to come up with a unique idea or product, but to do it well–which means to supply a good or service that is well in line with what consumers value. It is as much about figuring out something new as it is to implement the idea well.

It’s a problem that people believe that the idea is what makes the entrepreneur, whereas the truth is that it is a lot of hard work. Very often the first mover has no advantage, while the second mover learns from the failures of the first mover. Which disproves the idea that profit is about the idea. It is not. Profit is about satisfying consumers’ wants, whether with a new type of good or just a better iteration of an already existing one.

Which means the uncertainty that entrepreneurs face is not about simply being able to “milk” the idea, but about running the business. Consequently, it’s not about only supply or demand, but about positioning what one offers with respect to both. This is why patents, copyrights, and other monopoly privileges are so dangerous: they provide the first mover with all benefits, whether or not they were deserved (meaning whether or not consumers value the offering).

Consider, for instance, if there were no iPads because the Apple Newton received monopoly rights on the modern tablet device market; if there were no iPhones because Windows Mobile received monopoly rights; if there was no VHS, DVD or Blu-ray because betacord received monopoly rights; etc.

First mover, or even the more efficient technology, may not be highest value. Consumers decide, and that’s the point. Entrepreneurs create value for consumers, and if consumers don’t like it entrepreneurs make no money but lose their investment. Then what do patents, copyrights, and other privileges do but cement and prolong the errors of the first mover–which means consumers *could have* received more value, but will not because legal privilege props up the *idea* at the expense of the *value* that’s not created. The loss is not only this difference, but under-utilized resources that could have created more value elsewhere as well as the innovations and elaborations of the new idea that could have satisfied consumers better.

And we’re missing out on the innovations following the first, but inefficient, attempt at a new good. This real loss is enormous. And, to put it bluntly, there really is no reason to reward the first-entrepreneur if s/he does not provide real value to consumers. Doing so is at the expense of society overall.

Why Austrian Economics Is The Economics You Need For Entrepreneurial Success.

Jeff Deist, President of the Mises Institute, recently penned a metaphorical comparison of Austrian economics to the punk rock bands of the 70’s and 80’s who composed, created, and played but were denied recognition because they were locked out by the music industry establishment. They developed a do-it-yourself ethic when it came to publishing and touring and promotion; they referred to their own music as unheard. Jeff’s metaphor is that Austrian economics is unheard today, locked out by the neo-classical mainstream and its academic and publishing establishment.

Jeff pointed to specific areas of economic theory where Austrians are unheard, but have the chance to be vindicated when outcomes confirm Austrian insights: money and monetary policy, malinvestment resulting from bad monetary policy, misallocation of resources as a result of socialist welfare policies, the bureaucratic mismanagement of the interventionist state, and economic distortions that favor a political elite.

This is all macroeconomics. There is a field where Austrians are being heard and where Austrian theory is tremendously influential, and that field is dynamic entrepreneurial capitalism.1 To be sure, this is not a locus of government policy. Neither government nor mainstream economics recognizes the role of the entrepreneur in the economy. The Austrian school, on the contrary, defines that role, and builds a cogent theory of innovation, economic growth and individual and social betterment on entrepreneurship. Austrian economists build a necessary bridge between economic theory and strategic and organizational management studies.

There are elements of Austrian economics that are uniquely suitable for building this bridge, including:

Individualism

The unit of analysis for the Austrian school is the individual, both as producer and as consumer. The consumer is sovereign, the captain of the economic ship. The entrepreneur is the helmsman,2 steering toward the goal that the sovereign consumer sets. Each role is aimed at improving the individual’s circumstances. The two roles interact with the result of betterment for all. Mainstream economics start from a different place, with the focus of analysis on false aggregates, like GDP, money supply, the price level and even “gross” supply and demand. Austrian economics can help individuals make better decisions, both as producers and consumers, and that recognition is beginning to dawn.

Subjective Value

Austrian value theory is unsurpassed in its ability to help producers with the critical economic task of value creation. Value is a consumer perception, and occurs exclusively in the consumer’s mind. Therefore, it is the consumer who creates value. The descriptive adjective “subjective” means that value is personal, emotional, idiosyncratic, and inconsistent. It most certainly can not be modeled or “formalized” in any way, which places it well outside the boundaries of modern economics. Yet value creation is central to civilizational progress, economic growth, and the success of firms. Austrian economics holds the exclusive key to the understanding that guides these processes, a key that is highly prized in the business community, if not by government and its economists.

Entrepreneurship

In Austrian economics, the role of the entrepreneur is to sense, through the application of empathy, the dissatisfactions of consumers — the signal that they are not experiencing the value they seek — and to rearrange resources into a solution that addresses that dissatisfaction. Because value is subjective in the consumer’s mind, and because the future is unpredictable, entrepreneurs exercise what Austrians call judgement: the commitment to action required to bring their new solution to market for the consumer despite the uncertainty of a profitable outcome. Mainstream economics is unable to comprehend entrepreneurial judgment. Why do 9 out of 10 entrepreneurial initiatives fail? Because, explain Austrians, such a high failure rate is to be expected as a consequence of high levels of uncertainty, consumer subjectivity, the limits on present knowledge. These cause entrepreneurial initiatives to be experiments in new knowledge creation, and the rivalrous actions of multiple entrepreneurs conducting contemporaneous experiments so that the sovereign consumer can choose the best one. Entrepreneurship is the dynamism of the unhampered economy, as more and more people are beginning to understand.

Austrian Capital Theory

In the real world, as opposed to the world of economic models, Austrian capital theory (ACT) provides a guiding light to entrepreneurs on how to assemble, organize, and manage their companies. In Austrian economics, capital is called heterogeneous. That means, every unit of capital is different, and entrepreneurs can combine these units in innumerable ways, reflecting their own knowledge, preferences and experience, and the results of their previous experiments. They can continue to reshuffle and recombine assets in dynamic adaptation to market signals, so that the resultant capital structure can be viewed as unique. The value of the capital structure is based on its ability to facilitate the experience of value by the consumer, so that the entrepreneur-assembled capital structure reflects consumer preferences. This is all anathema to neo-classical economics and its static concept of the production function. For entrepreneurs, ACT guides them toward dynamic and flexible capital structures and new forms of organization which facilitate that dynamism. Modern “virtual” organizations and new commercial processes such as Direct-To-Consumer are reflections of the insights of ACT.

Innovation

Modern mainstream economics lacks a theory of innovation, primarily because there is no role for the entrepreneur. The field has been left to business writers who attribute it to creativity in the “design process,” and promote innovation processes and innovation workshops. In Austrian economics, innovation emerges as the result of consumer sovereignty, subjective value, and entrepreneurship. Austrian economists can help businesses to innovate not through process and tactics, but through understanding the mind of the sovereign consumer (via insights tools such as the means-end chain), capacity development, and dynamic resource allocation accelerated by consumer-response capabilities.

In addition to these principles, entrepreneurship is also a decentralizing process. Knowledge is highly distributed, and because entrepreneurial initiatives stem from individual entrepreneurs’ empathic knowledge of a small number of consumers’ dissatisfactions, so is entrepreneurial action. Entrepreneurial specialization will tend toward increasing narrowness in the search for unique capabilities and unique capital combinations. This decentralization runs counter to the centralizing tendency of government regulation and intervention and of crony capitalist and globalist corporations. In this sense, the dynamic entrepreneurial capitalism of Austrian economics represents not only a route to personal and societal betterment, but also a better route to freedom than political action.

1.See, for example, The Theory Of Dynamic Efficiency, Jesus Huerta de Soto, https://www.jesushuertadesoto.com/the-theory-of-dynamic-efficiency/

2.Bureaucracy, Ludwig von Mises, p226 https://mises.org/library/bureaucracy