Wired posted a great article on thinking/acting abundantly from the “long tail” wizard Chris Anderson this week. His basic premise is that businesses tend to think and act on the basis of scarcity and not abundance. He article offers excellent insights for businesses, families, and even churches. In fact, he is echoing a thought that shows up again and again in Scripture. Jesus tells a parable of the sower. While we tend to focus on the various places the seeds are sown and which seeds produce. We might also step back and think about a sower who sows everywhere–whether it looks like fruitful ground or not.
Anderson offers an excellent chart comparing the scarcity management model vs the abundance management model. Most often, I’ve worked around the scarcity model, but one boss at Philips Magnavox demonstrated the abundance model on a regular basis. One point of comparison is on the nature of rules in the two models. Rules in a scarcity paradigm sound like this, “Everything is forbidden unless it’s permitted.” On the other hand, the abundance framework suggests that, “Everything is permitted unless it’s forbidden.” The church has often operated within the former model, but Chesterton wisely pointed out that the latter model is the real thing. Listen to Chesterton on the Ten Commandments:
“The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.”
In one sense, this is what Anderson is exploring in his article on Managing for Abundance. Here are the highlights, but be sure to visit the article because he models his premise by giving away the audio of his latest book: Free.
One theme that shows up in his article is the “power of waste.” Anderson writes:
When scarce resources become abundant, smart people treat them differently, exploiting them rather than conserving them. It feels wrong, but done right it can change the world.
He illustrates this with a reference to Cory Doctorow and his ideas on “thinking like a dandelion.”
The science fiction writer Cory Doctorow calls this “thinking like a dandelion.” He writes: “The disposition of each—or even most—of the seeds isn’t the important thing, from a dandelion’s point of view. The important thing is that every spring, every crack in every pavement is filled with dandelions. The dandelion doesn’t want to nurse a single precious copy of itself in the hopes that it will leave the nest and carefully navigate its way to the optimum growing environment, there to perpetuate the line. The dandelion just wants to be sure that every single opportunity for reproduction is exploited!”
Read his article, his book, and don’t forget to visit his blog, The Long Tail.