This site shall provide space for
critical and for constructive thoughts
about economic development with a
focus on developing and emerging
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Site launched: 20.01.2014
Last update: 09.04.2015
There is a profound change in the air: the rate of job changes in a
lifetime is ever increasing. The average American holds nowadays
about 11 jobs in a lifetime, the equivalent of one job-change every 4
years. For Canadians, the rate increased by about 20% within a
ten-year period. There are few differences by educational
attainment, gender and ethnicity. Some tax systems (e.g. Ukraine)
encourage "holding companies" that coordinate an army of
freelance laborers: “have desk and laptop (or tools) - can work.”
The on-demand economy decentralizes labor supply - worldwide.
When I once posted a work on freelance.com it took the first
respondent 4 minutes to reply: he was in Pakistan where it was 3
a.m.! Similar services pop up everywhere and offer labor supply
and labor demand an unbureaucratic, fast way of getting together.
I do not doubt that in the not too distant future freelancing is more
like the norm.
What does this mean for our labor systems and tax systems, for
society? How will "decent work" be possible? From which base do
governments generate their revenues? What impact will that have
on our social construct?
There are no answers as yet, not even tendencies. I can just
imagine that in such decentralized labor markets, regulations will
be ever more difficult to impose and control, and must therefore
focus on the bare essentials and be supported by strong incentive
oriented systems. And the social media and constant interactions of
today are certainly a good preparation for society.
Based on Piketty we speak of a New Gilded Age in terms of
inequality (but sadly not in terms of economic growth). Potentially,
in terms of labor markets, we have to reach out before that time
and even before the industrial revolution to encounter a period that
might have some similarity to the decentralized markets that look
certain to come.
Most development projects are intended as "pilots" to be
subsequently taken over, scaled and continued by governments,
markets or other actors. An uncountable number of these never
achieve this goal: the other actor's systems do not absorb them
sustainably. One very obvious, but often overlooked way to improve
this shortcoming is to adjust the project's complexity to the
absorption capacity of the intended actors. In short: focus and
Why is it often so difficult for projects to scale their ambitions to the
recipient's capacities? Behavioral economics provides ample proofs
for many judgment biases that play an important role. When we, as
project managers or donors, invested so much effort, time and
money in a project, we tend to believe that every activity we did is
essential and important for the system's survival. We suffer from
confirmation bias and fundamental attribution errors, and throw
good money after bad.
I would like to borrow an idea from marketing: the Minimum
Marketable Product (MMP). This contains the smallest set of
functionality which ensures not only value for the client, but also the
willingness of the client to invest in or pay for it. It is the
precondition for transfer and scaling of a project.
It is surely hard to identify this MMP, and to let go of all the
"decorations". A slightly adjusted method borrowed from M4P
provides an approach to this: divide your project into
activities/functions or blocks of activities/functions. Then analyze
which of these is a must (essential), should (you must do it if you
can do it), and a can. Focus on the "must" and identify who shall
take each one over and who pays, why they would do so, and if
they have the capacities and credibility to do so. If it turns out that
one of the must activities/functions appears to be on shaky grounds
go back to the "drawing board" as the product might not be
A lot. The printer will revolutionize society and the way we are
living. I will write about that in another blog and now start with
another thought: all development points to it that we will be able, in
the not too distant future, to print out our own electronic
components (a revolutionary way to print out electronic chips has
just been successfully tested) and much else (e.g., clothes, already
done and marketed now). So when we need, say, a new MP3-
Player (or whatever will then be leading the technology), we just
download the plan from the internet and print it out.
But there is a catch: 3D printing gets much more complex and
costly with every material added. So there will be a strong incentive
to reduce this complexity by reducing the number of materials
used, until many objects can be produced with just one or two
materials. This in turn will facilitate ... recycling. Currently, the
recycling of many electronic components is very costly because of
which most have to be treated as special solid waste. But being
produced from one material only will make recycling a breeze.
And the ideas generated and designs developed for the 3D printer
will have knock-on effects on the design of non-printed products. A
big step towards a full cradle to cradle product management.
Almost logically, after 3D printing comes 4D printing, or self-
assembly, wherein materials are programmed to assemble
themselves with the input of some random energy (for example
shaking). It exists. And it could someday be a very useful addition
to the 3D printing.