S-E-R-V-I-C-E Warriors and the Individual Economy, with Jeff Saperstein

Key Takeaways

There is a group of innovative thinkers in economics calling themselves i4j: innovation for jobs. They focus on an economic theme they refer to as the People-Centered Economy. When many innovators are exploring how to automate jobs and replace human with technology — especially the software called A.I. — they are exploring how to design the structures and incentives to make people even more engaged in the economic process of wealth creation, rather than less.

When thinking about the future of jobs and the people centered economy, we should think of entrepreneurs. In the future, everyone will be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is the people-centered economy, or what we call practical economic humanism.

Is our language right?

Entrepreneurship is a tough word for young people to deal with. What does it mean? What exactly is entrepreneurship? What might be more inspiring for them is to focus on the ethic of entrepreneurship. That ethic is service to one’s fellow man — service that is designed to improve their lives. Customers indicate whether or not the entrepreneur is successful in improving their lives by buying or not buying. And it is through the lens of ethical service that they can understand the role of profit. Profit is not the reason people become entrepreneurs — it’s the emergent result. Profit is the signal that society judges that the entrepreneur is allocating scarce resources well. Without profit, the entrepreneur does not continue the service. Service without profit is unsustainable. The ethic of service to others and the emergence of profit as an outcome — a signal of approval — go hand in hand.

In this podcast, we experimented with a new language of entrepreneurship via the acronym S-E-R-V-I-C-E.

S stands for Service: practical economic humanism is entrepreneurs serving others and doing so for profit. It’s the Austrian version of service: I serve you because it is good for me, in every way (purpose, meaning and autonomy). Profit is the signal from the marketplace that the act of serving is positively viewed by customers.

E stands for Empathy. In order to serve, one needs to understand the subjective needs of others and to understand how to meet those needs on the user’s terms. Subjective preferences are idiosyncratic, inconsistent and emotionally based. Empathy recognizes this, and treats everyone’s preferences with respect. Empathy is the number one skill of the entrepreneur.

R stands for Resourcefulness — to meet others’ needs in ways that are new, different and better, the entrepreneur assembles resources and persuades others to contribute to the initiative — financiers, employees, partners, vendors. An assembler of scarce resources must convince others that this is the best use that could be made of them — make a business case. There’s a self-reliant resourcefulness in the virtuous character of the entrepreneur.

V stands for Value — creating value and facilitating a valuable experience for customers is the point of entrepreneurship. Value is in the mind of the person who experiences it — it’s a feeling, a satisfaction, the kind you get when a promise is kept. Taken together, all the people whom the entrepreneur serves constitute the market and the market is the judge of what is valuable. Firms and entrepreneurs don’t create value or add value, they make it possible for customers to experience value.

I = Investment, the action of sacrificing in the current time period in order to produce greater value in the next time period. Investment is the opposite of hedonism. It requires the long term view — if I make this sacrifice now, or this investment now, I am giving up alternative current uses of that money or those resources, but I am willing to do so because I see the possibility of a return in the future. Society needs entrepreneur-investors to create the future.

C = Collaborativeness; entrepreneurship requires the assembly and molding of a team, and synthesis of team ideas and contributions; finding the right way to collaborate by maximizing individual talents and perspectives. A supply chain is a collaboration. A factory is a collaboration. A beauty salon is a collaboration. A construction site is a collaboration. Man is naturally collaborative in bringing value experiences to others.

E = Ethical: successful entrepreneurship is moral action, with pure intentions. Any other approach will fail. The idea of exploitation in capitalism is so far wrong and it doesn’t withstand scrutiny. The entrepreneur needs the approval of customers and markets, including the market for labor and for partners. It makes no commercial sense to be unethical.

Perhaps we could communicate the acronym S-E-R-V-I-C-E and the cogent set of ideas behind it, the integrated concept of what entrepreneurs do and what entrepreneurship is.

The mental model is that of SERVICE WARRIORS. Energetic committed people, combating need and want and dissatisfaction. Organizing people and resources in the fight to establish new improved value, to raise standards, to lead the way to a better place.

Models to Graphically Communicate Complex Ideas and Concepts

Another part of my discussion with Jeff Saperstein concerned the design of simple visual models to clarify complex processes and concepts. One example to which we referred was that of the Individual Economy. With today’s technology, any individual can become a Service Warrior entrepreneur, integrated into the larger ecosystem of economic services through interconnectivity, networks and global exchanges and supply chains. The idea of the individual economy is explained in Chapter 2 of our book, The Interconnected Individual: Seizing Opportunity in the Era of AI, Platforms, Apps, and Global Exchanges (Mises.org/E4E_76_Interconnected). See also the action model of “The Individual Economy” at Mises.org/E4E_76_PDF. It identifies a process and a journey, with a starting point, key structural elements, relationships and dynamics. That’s a complex system about which authors could write white papers and books — but a simple graphic can capture its essence in one page.

Each week at Economics For Entrepreneurs, we offer such knowledge graphics and models as free downloads. Recently, for example, Dr. Mark Packard offered his groundbreaking theory of marketing for the 2020s in a series of five podcast lessons. We captured the essence of his “Value Learning Process” in one process map: Mises.org/E4E_44_PDF.

Trini Amador presented the essence of three decades of learning about how to build and nurture powerful and effective brands for any kind of business: Mises.org/E4E_30. We captured this expertise in our “Brand Uniqueness Blueprint” (Mises.org/E4E_30_PDF).

Additional Resources

“The Individual Economy” (PDF): Mises.org/E4E_76_PDF

Hunter’s Author Page on Amazon.com: Mises.org/E4E_Hunter

Jeff’s Author Page on Amazon.com: Mises.org/E4E_Jeff

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History Of Innovation by Steven Johnson: Mises.org/E4E_76_Book

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