In the animal kingdom there are predators, prey, and scavengers. The predators are highly adapted and specialized; they have vision. Prey are also highly adapted, for survival. Both co-evolve under the laws of natural selection. The third category, scavengers, are opportunists. And there are interesting comparisons in the business world. Energy, vision, and specialization are key to attracting millions of new customers. Once critical mass is achieved, predator companies can leverage their new market strength into acquisitions. Other companies have a strategic plan that includes getting acquired. The liquidity event is their reward for successful opportunism. Prey are targets of hostile takeovers, or they are victims of extinction due to a failure to adapt. The ultimate scavengers are the regulators and their cronies. They act as legislator, judge, and tax collector. Awesome power concentrated in one entity.
The Animal Kingdom Meets The Magic Kingdom.
Category-of-one companies are the king of the jungle among predator businesses. Their creativity spawns disruptive new ways of doing things. They create markets that never existed, own first mover advantage, and have no peers. A notable example is Walt Disney. He started with a dream, assembled a network of investors, artists, and engineers to fulfill it, and changed the world. Disney’s enterprises have since enhanced millions of lives in wonderful ways, and the brand became a global entertainment powerhouse.
At his essence, Disney was an entrepreneur. He was an innovator who was empathetic to the desires of people. He wanted to do something meaningful, and he was willing to accept the rewards or the rebuke of the marketplace. Disney was guided by rigid principles and a long-term vision. His strategy was to sell an experience that celebrated the humanity of cultures from around the world. The successful execution of his ideas established Disney as the post-war icon for tolerance, individualism, and western civilization. He set the example for a new generation of entrepreneurs who value creativity, embrace risk-taking, and aspire to category-of-one impact.
The Postmodern Category Of One.
Today’s category-of-one brands are dominated by businesses creating amazing new technology. But unlike the animal kingdom, these businesses can quickly morph from a network of prolific entrepreneurs to a hierarchy of opportunists. As such, the largest big data firms have become cronies to the government protection racket. They have also rejected the entrepreneurial principles of individualism and free markets. The environment has changed. Rigid new company cultures devoted to the Marxist fallacies of identity groups now dominate. PayPal founder Peter Thiel observes:
It’s striking how what had always been a very liberal place has become almost a one-party state. When you have complete unanimity that tells you that political correctness may have gone a little bit too far.
Big data companies accept the market’s rewards, but in trying to avoid any market rebuke, they have turned themselves into scavengers. Their rationale is more about collection of data rather than provision of service. To maintain their capability to collect data, they feel the need to navigate today’s social minefields, and their strategy is appeasement of identity groups.
The Sanction Of The Victim.
As communitarian philosopher Philip Devine tells us, these “identity groups are tribes organized for war”. Psychiatry professor Jordan Peterson explains:
The postmodernists built on the Marxist ideology. They started to play a sleight of hand, and instead of pitting the proletariat against the bourgeois, they pit the oppressed against the oppressor. That opened up the avenue to identifying any number of groups as oppressed and oppressor and to continue the same narrative.
This mindset intentionally ignores reality. Entrepreneurs contribute mightily to the peace and prosperity of everyone, but this role is never understood or celebrated. Funding non-profits is celebrated, and temporarily buys goodwill. But that is not enough, it never is. A business must also pay homage to the social reconstruction narrative sold as enlightened thinking.
The Art Of The Package Deal.
A company starts by establishing its virtue credentials; this is called “giving back.” Its corollary is “you didn’t build that.” Prosperous people do so because the tug of guilt, disguised as social affirmation, is that strong. And since the media-education complex has done such a good job of indoctrination, inclusion, diversity, and equity are treated as original and unique corporate values. Speech codes are next. In this environment, an established company, on the road to becoming a first choice brand, will make compromises.
They err in trying to blend the principles of reason and entrepreneurship with the fallacies of tribalism and entitlement. This is not yin and yang – they are not the complementary forces. Its an insidious package deal. Besides, how does the adoption of an “enlightened” fallacy help achieve category-of-one status? It doesn’t, but heck, it buys off the cultural opportunists lest they become predators.
Another wonderful innovator was Maria Montessori. She achieved international fame for her work on childhood development. Her movement featured teacher training academies and lectures that inspired Montessori societies throughout the world. At one time she had many government benefactors, but they were really more interested in exploiting public education for indoctrination, and were only trying buy her influence. But Montessori refused to conform to the demands of authoritarian regimes in fascist Italy and progressive America, so they became adversaries.
Montessori had discovered self-reliance and individual creativity as marvelous teaching aids. She would not compromise her values to unprincipled opportunists, and nor should we. In a society that champions individual liberty, creativity, and self-reliance, no one has to compromise. Instead, we should be grateful for the opportunity to be more than we are.