#014 – Blue Pill Brokenness – Business As Usual – Scarcity

In addition to “Profit as Purpose”, another aspect of “business as usual” that leads to brokenness is “Scarcity”–the assumption that resources are scarce and everything is a zero-sum situation (my gain is your loss and vice versa).

The idea of a “scarcity mindset” is certainly not original–just Google “scarcity mindset” and you will get hundreds of articles (including many management resources) written about why it can be so destructive to businesses and individuals.  In fact, the abundance of “scarcity” resources (pun intended) is pretty clear evidence that it is a common aspect of “business as usual”.

When scarcity is the assumption, it can impact how all resources are viewed–financial resources, human resources, customers, inputs, knowledge and influence. Integriosity comes, in part, from the word “generosity” and a scarcity mindset is antithetical to generosity.  In a scarcity mindset, you believe that there is never enough–it is a fixed pie and you need to grab your slice.  There are actually studies suggesting that a scarcity mindset reduces IQ and functional bandwidth, leaving people less rational and more prone to bad decisions.

Importantly for Integriosity, a scarcity mindset in an organization can have a profoundly negative impact on how people are treated.  For example:

  • People may be paid what is “just enough” to keep them (rather than what is fair).
  • People may be underpaid for overtime.
  • People may be overworked to reduce overhead.
  • Salespeople may feel like they are competing against each other.
  • People may feel they must compete internally for resources.
  • People may guard information and knowledge that could help others and the organization.
  • People may use influence only for their own advancement or protection and not to help others.

With a scarcity mindset, organizations and people operate out of fear and use fear to manage others. These behaviors are certainly not in alignment with the Biblical principles of love, generosity, mutuality and Shalom.

In their book Completing Capitalism, Bruno Roche and Jay Jakub identify four key types of “capital” needed by a business: natural, human, social and financial (the thesis of the book is that the problem with “capitalism” is that business has focused on just one “capital” and failed to steward and manage appropriately the other three–for “capitalism” to work, it must be “completed”).  Interestingly, they suggest that Milton Friedman’s singular focus on financial capital may be a reflection of the fact that, in 1970, financial capital was perceived as scarce while the other types were perceived as abundant.

In an industrial economy, the game is zero-sum. Every productive action generates a reward, and that reward belongs either to management or to labor. (Seth Godin)

Noted economist Paul Samuelson defined economics as “the study of how men and society choose, with or without the use of money, to employ scarce productive resources which could have alternative uses, to produce various commodities over time and distribute them for consumption now and in the future amongst various people and groups of society.”  Scarcity is at the heart of a market economy, which makes it no surprise that it is a common aspect of “business as usual” and a contributing factor to the brokenness of workplaces and workers.

SPOILER ALERT:  If you read the many articles that pop up on Google about a “scarcity mindset”, they all counsel to have an “abundance mindset”.  But on what basis does a business or person embrace “abundance” in an economy defined by an assumption of “scarcity”?  In a future post, we will explain why Faith is one of the five key ingredients (along with Flexibility, Leadership, Humility and Commitment) in executing the third step of Integriosity–Re-Align.

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