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By business development, we mean how to make the value chain more efficient so we can better serve our customers. This might include making it more cost and time efficient, reducing stock-keeping or minimizing its environmental impact. Whatever the case, it involves lots of people, companies and processes.

Let’s take another example. Have you ever considered how many people it actually takes just to get a fried egg in the morning (my favorite)? There must be thousands, maybe millions, of people involved in that process because we have to include the man who brews the coffee for the people on the oilrig that is pumping up oil for the plastic handle on the frying pan and the truck driver driving the steel to the manufacturing plant. And don’t forget the electrician who installed my stove and, of course, the farmer who fed the hen.

Wow, it’s amazing isn’t? There are millions of people working for me every day.


As a species, our number one success factor is that we have learned how to specialize and work for each other. We have learned how to exchange goods and services between groups. Trade is ten times as old as farming, so why do we say that we have moved from an agrarian and industrial society to an information and innovation society? It’s the “trade society” that has taken us to where we are now. I tried to Google “trade society”, but there were no hits.

Through trading we have learned to specialize and exchange products and services with each other. Thanks to specialization, our society has developed because we can utilize time much more efficiently. I do what I do best and get paid for that knowledge (my salary check every month) and buy the things I can’t produce myself. You do what you do the best, get paid every month and buy the things you can’t produce yourself.


So what happens when you cut off the ability for people to specialize and exchange? The answer is that you slow down technology progress—or even regress. There are studies to prove this, e.g. what happened Tasmania 10 000 years ago when it was isolated as the waters rose. But we don’t have to look back some 10 000 years. Look what has happened with societies such as North Korea or some of the Arab countries when people have been cut off from the ability to specialize and trade.

Being specialized is the only way to succeed; the development of our society proves that. The scary thing, however, is that we all know a bit, but no one knows it all. Take a pencil, for example; one set of experts know how to mine graphite, another how to fell trees, and yet another how to assemble it —but no one knows or can manage the entire process on their own. Through specialization and exchange, we learn how to create things that we don’t even understand. We have gone beyond the capacity of the individual human mind.


It’s irrelevant how clever individuals are within your company; it’s how good they are at communicating ideas that counts. It is the ‘meeting and mating’ of ideas that creates technology progress and competitive advantage. Companies that facilitate this meeting and mating are the winners in the society we today call the innovation society. It will be a success factor in 2012 too.

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