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A few weeks ago, a friend contacted me with a business conundrum. His company was looking for help with a web-related issue. A foreign firm had provided an original and cost-effective plan for solving the issue. Domestic companies too had submitted solutions which were less original and cost-effective than that of Foreign Firm. My friend wished to hire Foreign Firm.
Various employees at my friend’s firm vetoed his decision. Let’s support local business, they said, we must encourage our fellow citizens.
Hence my friend’s conundrum. Should he choose the most original, cost-effective plan and hire Foreign Firm, thereby upsetting his employees? Or should he follow his employees’ voice and hire local, thus foregoing the best solution for his web-related issue?
Locavores are en vogue. You must buy locally grown produce, never mind that it can take more energy to grow tomatoes in your local Canadian greenhouse than to fly them in from New Zealand.
Life cycle assessment considers the environmental impact, from cradle to grave, of producing our tomato. It does not, however, consider the roads not taken by the tomato grower. Perhaps the tomato grower could have, instead of churning out tomatoes, developed a new way of harnessing wind energy. Or something else that he was better at than producing tomato after tomato.
By buying local, locavores encourage local firms to persist in doing what they may well not excel at. The roads not taken by local firms can represent missed opportunities at finding out what they are truly great at. So solving web-related problems is, in the end, not your thing? Find something else that is your signature. Develop it.
In today’s interconnected world, we do not need to excel at everything. We can easily identify who is real good at making stuff or providing a service, and get it from them. Information sources abound: the internet, social media and specialty sites that review products and services. Companies inform about their offerings on their website, as do individuals who run their own show (whether that information can be trusted is a whole different question I tackle in other posts, here and here).
We are thus free to concentrate on doing what we are good at. And spread the joy to others.
Matt Ridley at Zeitgeist captures this idea in the video below.
Photo courtesy of Michael Heiss.