Your success is determined by the target group whose problems you solve
This is the essential point. If products of comparable quality are already on sale elsewhere, then your prospects of successfully earning money are minimal. We have already discussed the optimal strategy for establishing trust. This means focusing and eliminating the selected target group’s weak spot, preferably one that has not yet been identified or covered by the competition. The Mewes strategy boils down to this: “Make an offer that the customer simply can’t refuse.” And a refusal is unlikely because either your package is perfectly tailored to customer demand, or the customers simply cannot afford to let their competition enjoy the same advantage. This type of offer is the spark that establishes mutual trust, forges the partnership and initiates a process of “self-organization”.
The latter term could use some explaining. The common understanding of the word “organization” implies a conscious act of volition that establishes a suitable spatio-temporal framework for a particular purpose. This might be a machine that does the work we need or, in military conflicts, a combination of forces and actions that overpower the enemy. In business, this might be a combination of production means and production processes that leads to the desired goal. Cultural achievements, for example a festival or a work of art, also require the appropriate “organization”. It is difficult to imagine any organization without a conscious promoter: useful and efficient results simply cannot be created automatically. The term “self-organization” is reminiscent of an arm without a brain.
Nonetheless, it is entirely possible for highly useful structures or processes to arise unintentionally and unpremeditated. According to our current state of knowledge, natural evolution proceeded almost entirely along this path, even if this is difficult for us to imagine. This can be illustrated by two examples.
In a curious twist of the predator- prey relationship, each of the “partners” unintentionally influences the development of the other. When mutation alters the genetic makeup and improves the predator’s organs or behavior, then this promotes its success and the improvement can be passed on to the next generation. Should mutations improve the prey’s defense capabilities, then that prey will enjoy reproductive advantages and its offspring will be better adapted. Thus, each partner influences the evolution of the other – against it very own best interests. A faster gazelle is certainly not advantageous to the lion, but the lion itself ultimately promotes faster-running prey by eating those who are slower and preventing them from reproducing. The same holds true for the gazelle: its interests are by no means served by more efficient lions, but the gazelle itself ultimately promotes such predators. The gazelle can escape the less adept lion, leaving the more skillful hunters to reproduce. All these improvements are truly unintentional, unpremeditated, and automatic – self-organization at its best!
The second example involves climate change: even it can promote structures that boost selective (competitive) value. Let’s assume that the hue and color patterns of rabbits inhabiting a particular region are so well adapted to the ground that birds of prey have difficulty detecting them. This region becomes colder during an Ice Age and the ground becomes covered by snow for months longer than before. The rabbits are now highly visible against the white snow and are therefore easily recognizable and frequently preyed upon by the birds. Their numbers decrease correspondingly. Let’s also assume that random, i.e. unintentional and unpremeditated changes in the rabbit’s genetic makeup bring forth white rabbits. They are barely visible on the snow. While those individuals with the original color continue to be decimated, the white members of the population can forage undisturbed. They successfully reproduce and, after a few hundred years, virtually only white rabbits remain. Is this white color the result of purposefully planned wisdom? By no means. The snow had absolutely no direct influence on this development: not one quantum of the snow’s energy went into rabbit evolution. The birds of prey also had no interest whatsoever in the development of less detectable rabbits. Yet, both are ultimately responsible for the white coloration that proved quite useful to the rabbit. This important feature was therefore also produced via self-organization45.
Profit for employees and businesses involves demand, not prey. This demand governs the development of the supplier just like the prey does that of the predator. The maxim in both cases: “adapt yourself as well as possible to the energy source”. And this brings us full circle to our topic. Once the supplier has found the optimal customer, then this target group begins to control his or her development, whether it be consciously or through its spontaneous behavior. Promoting the target group’s interests or eliminating weak spots by selling the appropriate products will automatically benefit the supplier. Egoism and self-interest are the driving forces here not charm or other consideration. No one is more welcome than someone who has earned a reputation as a problem-solver and who can really help.
This, as I have pointed out in my Energon Theory, is the key point in the Optimal Bartering or Optimal Business Strategy (OBS)(compare Fig. 13). The prerequisite for optimal transactions, i.e. earning money by selling products or services that others require and then purchasing necessary goods you need with that money, is to find a customer or a demand that you can optimally satisfy – even if this is initially in a very limited sector. We need to overcome the predatory instincts triggered by the psychosplit. Identify with the target group’s problems instead of dwelling on your own immediate advantage. Gain trust by identifying and eliminating weak spots that hinder smooth operation (Fig. 15). This creates partnerships and positive feedback effects. The word about good performance spreads quickly. The target group will expand accordingly, and its other partners will make every effort to retain or even improve a good deal. The target group will, in its own self interest, voluntarily provide all the information (and sometimes even funding) that can help you to better fulfill its needs. In other words, the target group helps put you on the road to success.
Once mutual trust is established, the customer-oriented range of goods or services can be expanded, the business enlarged and the company’s future be put on a solid footing. In all cases the motto is: “Don’t gear production to maximize profits (as our predatory instincts would have us do), but focus on the target group’s advantages and adjust production to the customers’ ever-changing needs.” This leads to higher and more stable profits than potential windfalls from predatory strategies, especially in branches that rely on long-term clientele.
Mewes very successfully applied this concept, which is anchored in evolutionary principles, in practice. He used business terms to describe demands that are not being met (“gaps in the market”); he referred to the spot at which this bottleneck can best be eliminated as the “cybernetically most effective point”. Sometimes a supplier cannot deliver the “minimum factor” necessary to eliminate the bottleneck, but knows others who can (the “minimum group”), keeping the supplier at the pivotal point. When one bottleneck is eliminated, the efforts can be turned to the next one46.
Mewes writes: “Previously, people, businesses and governments based their strategies on experience, role models or certain schools of thought, i.e. on what was (or at least was considered to be) correct in the past. The EKS strategy, however, focuses on bottlenecks, specifically on the cybernetically most effective point to deal with the problem at hand.” “This bottleneck is analogous to a leak in a dam or to drilling a hole: once a small opening is established, it tends to propagate itself almost automatically. Such breakthroughs, however, require focused efforts, i.e. on the weakest point or ‘tightest bottleneck’.”
The underlying principle is universal. Animals can learn to more successfully strike their prey, and suppliers who identify the correct point and eliminate a “burning” problem will reap greater rewards. The dynamics of the control mechanisms are plain to see. If I somehow manage to sell an item to someone who is not satisfied with that product, or if I do a sloppy job, then I will never be recommended to others. The opposite is more likely the case. The customer’s understandable reaction is “never to have anything to do with that person again.” If, on the other hand, I can meet or even exceed expectations, then it will be in that customer’s best interests to support me and, to the extent possible, help me reduce prices even further or better adapt my services. We are not talking about spontaneous friendship or sympathy, much less about “love”, although the positive, benevolent attitude involved can solidify over the course of the business relationship and ultimately prove to be stronger and more durabler than many a friendship or romantic attachment.
The lock-and-key relationship determines what is – and what is not – ultimately successful in both the natural environment and the business world. The fittest survive, whether they be a pine tree, a gazelle, a shoemaker, or the Volkswagen factory. Our decisive advantage over all other organisms is that we can change our capabilities at will. This was treated in the framework of the Energon Theory, but one aspect deserves mention here: “Up to the human level, evolution always had to overcome the strict hurdle that every link in the evolutionary chain had to be fully functional. If fitness was in any way compromised, that link would very quickly be eliminated and that line of development stopped in its tracks. Intermediate steps, whether they be entire organisms or organismic features, only succeeded if they did not tilt the balance negatively. Our new organs or tools bypass such intermediates. We can simply skip them because our fantasy can design and redesign, and we can then market the functional, ‘well-thought-out’ final products.”
The manufacturer, however, cannot dictate market success. Advertising and other measures can exert a certain influence, but only temporarily in a free market economy. Demand, i.e. the energy source that is tapped, makes the ultimate decision. Positive and negative “environmental” influences (for example government edicts) can also exert control, while “internal framework conditions” can impact overall efficiency (compare Fig. 16).
Mewes used a very convincing illustration to demonstrate the stimulatory effect of an optimally serviced target group. This spiral diagram was variously adapted in the various phases of his program (Fig. 19). He very logically argues that it all comes down to the right strategy! The dynamics of self-organization spring into life the moment you help your target group achieve above-average success, even if this is in a very narrow sector. “Catering to the greater needs of the target group” by eliminating some bottleneck (i.e. at the cybernetically most effective point), helps you and boosts demand for your services. This allows higher production volumes, reducing costs. Once you lower retail prices accordingly, you become even more attractive. The cycle of greater productivity and cost reductions has been kick-started. Profits rise, your liquidity and freedom of action increase. All the prerequisites for rapid, accelerated growth are met.
Fig. 19. The EKS success spiral. Offering your target group a
distinct advantage over the competition boosts attractiveness and creates
greater demand. More units and increased productivity lead to corresponding
cost degression, higher profits, more liquidity and freedom of movement,
and to more rapid growth. Passing these successes on to the target group
keeps the positive development in motion. See text. After W. Mewes 1972-1976,
(größerer Nutzen für die Zielgruppe...greater benefits for target group, größere Anziehungkraft...greater attractiveness, größere Nachfrage...greater demand, größere Stückzahl...greater number of units, größere Produktivität...increased productivity, schnellere Kostendegression...more rapid cost degression, höherer Gewinn...higher profits, mehr Liquidität...more liquidity, mehr Bewegungsfreiheit... more freedom of movement)
EKS students translate this very logical cause-and-effect sequence into an important impulse that helps them to accept and assimilate the new thought process, the new approach (target-group versus personal interests). On the other hand, “self-organization” should never be confused with a “takes-care-of-itself organization” in which we can twiddle our thumbs and let things take their course. New windows of opportunity require unbroken concentration, both on the target group’s behavior and on the changing market environment. Note that the above-mentioned spiral also harbors pitfalls: beyond positive effects, growing success also has negative effects. These need to be recognized and factored into the overall picture.
The increased profits and power delivered by optimal strategies will attract competitors. Moreover, the advantages reaped by discovering a new market niche can be short-lived. Semi-predators are quick to hatch plots and oil the machinery to partake in this success or to shunt profits their way. More money in the bank tempts us to pursue personal pleasures that divert our focus. Family members and employees make ever greater demands. Increased stature goes hand in hand with envy and resentment. The highly developed human instinct to seek new pursuits distracts us from the narrow strategies involving weak links, cybernetically most effective points, minimum factors and minimum groups, and potentially useful innovations in our sector. We are drawn to the bright lights elsewhere, frittering away our energies. Our innate urge to impress others is also a distracter with negative repercussions. Another factor is the drain of co-workers who open up their own businesses: they are perfectly equipped to penetrate new market niches and siphon off business. Finally, stressed business magnates are known to vent their moods on underlings. When success goes to our heads, once suppressed desires often begin to surface. In 1987, under the title “When power distorts the manager’s mind”, the journal “International Management” presented a telling analysis about how we become transformed under such conditions, i.e. how our situation changes when we become successful.
Today’s often quoted catchphrase “integrative concepts” helps make sure that we don not ignore previously overlooked side effects. In our case, this means keeping an eye on the “opposite side of the coin”. Focusing only on the positive benefits is bound to quickly undermine the synergistic, buoying effect exerted by the target group47.
This is perhaps the opportune moment to address the issue of fundamental life philosophies. Are you a member of the “work to live” or of the “live to work” faction? The US economist Galbraith distinguished four motives that prompt human beings to subordinate their personal desires and to devote themselves to disciplined work in the community48. The first was fear of punishment, the second the pursuit of money. He termed the third “identification”: individuals can gain satisfaction – above and beyond monetary gain – by immersing themselves in a particular task, by becoming “one” with an organization or some predefined goal. The fourth motive was termed “adaptation”. Here – and this pertains particularly to those striving for managerial positions – the individual serves the organization not because he or she puts company goals above personal goals, but because they seek to more closely harmonize the company’s goals with personal ones. In effect, these persons hope to draw the business, the organization or the state into their own sphere of influence, transforming it into an organ of their personal powerbase.
Galbraith’s first two motives coincide with the “work to live” philosophy. When such persons earn more than needed for bare necessities, they strive to improve life for themselves and their families, to enjoy the pleasures and beauty that life has to offer, to delight in culture, art, sports, travel and everything else that technological and economic progress has to offer. Galbraith’s motives three and four (identification and adaptation) largely correspond with the philosophy of the second, smaller group, which is less oriented toward social pleasures than toward actively confronting the problems of this world, whatever they perceive them to be. This group “lives in order to achieve” and follows inner rather than external compulsions. They derive their greatest sense of reward and satisfaction from success in their field, whether it be science, art, business, or politics. Risk is a challenge they rise to. It motivates them to prevail, to overcome resistance, and to achieve the aims they hold high, regardless of cost.
Hans Bürkle, one of Mewes’ most experienced partners, was specialized in counseling employees on how to best climb the career ladder, either in their present company or by moving from one company to the next. The foreword of his very instructive book “Active career strategies” states, “If you find your job to be a tiresome way to earn a living and therefore seek an easier, more stress-free job, then this book is not for you – it will only disturb your peace and quiet. If, on the other hand, you subscribe to the notion that yesterday’s achievements no longer suffice, and if you want to have fun with your job, enjoy pursuing success, have the courage to take risks, and are willing to leave the beaten path, then this book was written for you. Because you belong to that select group of people who understand the dynamics of our economic system and who will control its future course.”
As everywhere in the evolutionary process, no sharp borders delimit the above two groups. Many Group A persons live modest lives (choosing a career that enables them to live their envisioned lifestyle) when, suddenly, they are confronted with a task, a responsibility or an idea that causes them to jump their tracks and become classical Group B persons. Their friends hardly recognize them anymore – they have become transformed. This might well apply to Gauguin, who left his wife and steady job to become a painter in Tahiti and ultimately perished in the Marchesas Islands: only long after his death was he accepted for what then so shocked his family and friends. At the same time, others leave home to take the world by storm and end up as dutiful rowhouse husbands or homemakers. In Europe at least, statistical analyses show that nearly 30% of all 18-year-old males are “career-oriented”, whereby this percentage drops to 10% and less at the age of 30 (note: these values differ widely depending on the fundamental predispositions in various peoples and countries, on the climate, ideologies and other factors). This proportion meshes quite well with the evolutionary perspective: there is only a limited need for people who strive to fill high-level positions. The multitudes that actually effect the overall course of human development are, contrary to Nietsche’s bold propositions, equally important and valuable. We have become an immense, complexly interwoven plurality that has transcended the original communities from which we stem.
Let us return to the essence of the 6th Consequence –
the controlling influence that target groups exert on those devoted to
optimally serving them.
Pursuing success as an individual or as a business requires determining the means and abilities at your disposal. The next step is to identify what demand you can most efficiently satisfy with your profile. In energetic terms, the key must find the best-fitting lock. The psychosplit is disruptive here because it tends to highlight sectors where current success stories are being written and where money seems to flow freely. Many who follow this path, and choose their university studies or steer their companies in that direction, find themselves out of business or cashing unemployment checks 3-8 years later. The pitfall is that such success stories magically attract hoards of other people as well.
Even today, many standard careers or business fields still have a relatively steady need for new recruits evolve only very gradually. On the other hand, an increasing number of novel job opportunities find no graduates that can fit the bill, and unfilled positions eagerly await suitable candidates. Narrow specialization is in ever greater demand. From the economic standpoint, each one of us must be prepared to seek and identify such niches, motivated by personal initiative.
Successfully identify a need and muster the courage to occupy some initially barren niche: with a little luck, that previously unfulfilled demand can loft you to riches and success. Surfing this wave is no easy task and there is no autopilot function. Using the surfer analogy, keep one eye on the turbulences within the target group in order to allow your board to react to the wave’s direction. With a career-oriented attitude, you can ride the wave all the way to the highest managerial levels. Of course, persistence and character is also necessary and certain sacrifices will have to be made. Only a chosen few are up to the task, and many semi-predators are among them. Increasing market transparency, however, tends to make their lives more difficult and promotes optimal business behavior.
According to the OBS program, serving others is the appropriate strategy even for those who seek a leisurely, low-key life devoted to self-development and personal improvement rather than acquiring power and status. This approach can yield notable results – with minimum effort – even in the most trivial jobs. And it holds true for the strategies we pursue in our private lives …. and for the strategies pursued by governments.
From the dawn of evolution, evolutionary control
mechanisms put a limit on the number of organisms that survived. We are
now in a position to use our human intellect to promote and alter these
controls. What once required long successions of chance events can now
be implemented at a very fast clip. Does this mean we can direct the course
of events to our heart’s content? No. We can only temporarily influence
or control what goods and services the market accepts. In short: “Man proposes,
but success disposes.”
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