Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Greed!


I’m convinced that greed, in all its destructiveness, is basically hard coded into our genes. While it may be fashionable to attribute just about anything to genetic predisposition, there is a compelling parallel.

Greed is a bit like gluttony: it’s not because we’ve had enough to eat that we actually stop eating. No, we stuff our faces with some more cheese cake, later some nuts and crisps in front of the box. And so we pile on the pounds and the flab we don’t really need, while others quite literally starve to death. Eating in times of plenty is probably the body’s way of creating a reserve, a back up if as it were. After all, the feast may well end some day…

And that’s something greed and gluttony have in common: successful companies stop at nothing to acquire more market share, get even richer, even if it means blasting smaller competitors out of business. Winner takes all. The cash flow might just stop one day and then capital reserves mean everything.


And in no marketplace does the winner-takes-all attitude apply more than the Internet itself. Search engine traffic and Search Engine rankings relate to each other according to Zipf's law. But if you ranked 100% online Companies by their annual sales revenue and plotted that revenue versus the Company's rank, you'd find it also follows Zipf's Law closely. In plain English, the No 1 ranking Company (the highest revenue earning Company) has a revenue that's 10 times higher than the No 10 ranking Company, which in turn has a revenue that's ten times higher than the No 100 ranking Company, which has in turn... etc, etc [ad nauseum]. Revenue drops off very quickly with increased rank. A few make most of the money, leaving the others to pick up a few crumbs...

On the whole, greed is not a good thing, but we may never be able to avoid it.
Here’s an excellent essay on all aspects of greed that got me thinking. Fascinating reading…

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