Rabbi Avigdor Miller once marveled at the notion that “two gases [hydrogen and oxygen] — neither of which can quench thirst – can be united into a clear and sparkling liquid which pours down one’s throat in a life-giving stream.” He added that “No liquid in the world can take the place of water for relief of thirst. This fluid is the most potent of all elixirs, although its availability and its inexpensiveness cause it to be overlooked. It is the universal solvent and the vehicle of digestion and of blood circulation. If water could be obtained only from the pharmacist, it would be the most costly of liquors, both for its vital properties and for its enjoyment.” And yet, most likely very few in the U.S. open a faucet and marvel as water pours out… precisely because it is so abundant and available.
Yet, in places like Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and even places in the U.S. such as Flint, Michigan and drought-affected parts of California, water is very scarce and the cost (and value) of water has skyrocketed. In such places, people have a genuine and profound appreciation for clean drinking water. That’s because the value of everything is deeply affected by abundance or scarcity, whether the item is essential for life or not. In the U.S., the abundance of water has caused the value of “this most potent of all elixirs” to be mostly taken for granted. On the other hand, other commodities that are not essential to life – such as diamonds, gold, rhodium, platinum, plutonium, taaffeite, tritium, painite, californium – are highly valued because of their scarcity, even if they have no life-giving properties. This value is subjective. This is known as commodity theory, and it is something that every entrepreneur, business leader, and sales professional should understand thoroughly. This is where the laws of economics and the actions of sales and marketing professionals meet. Continue reading
Language – written and spoken — is the primary tool people use to communicate. While babies are not born speaking, they begin to acquire language skills relatively shortly after birth. By about one year old, babies are babbling and saying some words, and by two years of age most toddlers are learning new words daily and starting to form sentences. Based on the results of over 2 million people testing their vocabulary on www.testyourvocab.com, by age 9, the average American test-taker already has a vocabulary of 10,000 words and most American adult test-takers have vocabularies ranging from 20,000-35,000 words. That is for Americans learning one language: English.
It is generally believed that a person with a large vocabulary is better able to communicate with others, and that is usually a sign of intellect. If language is tied to intelligence, then it stands to reason that someone with the ability to speak more than one language would thus have an even larger overall vocabulary and would be even better able to communicate with others. Yet, there has been a great deal of debate in the U.S. over the years regarding teaching and speaking “English only”. Indeed, only 19.7% of Americans speak more than one language, versus 56% of Europeans. Looking at this issue strictly from a business standpoint, it appears that having bilingual or multilingual employees is good for business. Recent research shows that being able to speak more than one language is not only useful to businesses in places with a lot of diversity, it also makes for better – as in more talented – employees even in places where everyone speaks English. Continue reading
It’s been said that “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.” The point is that sometimes you have to break routines and try new processes, products, systems or strategies to find better ways of doing things. Innovation usually leads to improvement, and refusing to ever try new things is futile and foolish. Consider the Luddites. The Luddites were 19th-century English textile workers and weavers who, fearing the end of their trade, protested against newly developed labor-saving technologies between 1811 and 1816. New inventions such as the stocking frames, spinning frames and power of the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace Luddites with less-skilled, low-wage laborers, leaving them unemployed and obsolete. The Luddite movement culminated in a region-wide rebellion in Northwestern England that required a massive deployment of military force to suppress. So famous was their rebellion that today the term Luddite has become synonymous with anyone opposed to industrialization, automation, computerization or new technology, in general.
Of course, there is also an argument to be made that a business that is always changing processes, products and strategies may find itself wasting both time and talent. It can be expensive to constantly be shifting gears and updating systems. Learning new software or revamping procedures takes time and can be confusing – and even frustrating — for employees. So change for the sake of change can also be counterproductive and costly. It is important for businesses to evolve, but it should be done carefully and thoughtfully to ensure it causes the least amount of disturbance, distraction and distress internally and externally. Continue reading