21st Century Strategy in Four Words
It’s as predictable as the chorus of a power ballad. Every time I discuss good and evil, howls of protest erupt. Is it polemic? Is it deliberately controversial? Isn’t hard-nosed business beyond good and evil, anyways?
Not a chance.
Here’s 21st century strategy, summarized in four words: minimize evil, maximize good.
Forget a snot-nosed punk like me for a second. Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Hayek laid the foundations (among others) of modern econ. Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments — the origin of the Invisible Hand — Bentham’s utilitarianism, Mill’s theory of liberty, Hayek’s catallaxy — all were fundamentally concerned with minimizing bad, and maximizing good. Economics is, at its heart, about good and bad. “Goods” and “bads”, remember? They’re the most elementary concept in econ 101.
But, in the search for a more perfect model, they’ve “rightsbeen left behind. Econ 1.0 assumed a perfect world — one of perfect information, rationality, zero friction, etc. That world, it was said, is a utopia: yesterday’s institutions — “free” trade, property ,” annual reports, self-interested managers, etc — are able to perfectly measure and weigh goods and bads. But the real world isn’t so simple. All too often, our economy works backwards. “Bads” literally overwhelm “goods.” Evidence? Try yesteryear’s mega-banking crisis on for size.
So the central, pressing question is this: How do we design better institutions that do minimize the production of bads, and maximize the production of goods? That is, of course, what Copenhagen is really about — not carbon. It’s about redesigning the fabric of the global economy, so bads are erased, and goods pop into existence.
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Umair Haque is Director of the Havas Media Lab, a new kind of strategic advisor that helps investors, entrepreneurs, and firms experiment with, craft, and drive radical management, business model, and strategic innovation. Prior to Havas, Umair founded Bubblegeneration, an agenda-setting advisory boutique that helped shape the strategies of investors, entrepreneurs, and blue chip companies across media and consumer industries. Bubblegeneration’s work has been recognized by publications like Wired, The Red Herring, Business 2.0, and BusinessWeek, and in Chris Anderson’s Long Tail, to which Umair was a contributor.
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