September 14, 2010


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We're told to think "out of the box". That's great for brainstorming but we live in a world of constraints.

Necessity spurs our latent creativity. We may not realize the benefits of limitations until later.


If transportation costs don't matter, we could ship cheap commodities like steel from distant parts of the world. That's what's happened. So much is Made In China or other faraway countries. It's sad when your placemats travel farther than you do.

As transportation costs rise, the effect at the high end is marginal but the price sensitive low end gets devastated.

Economist and author Jeff Rubin spoke at the inaugural Business Without Borders event this morning. Membership is free, if you'd like to join.

Jeff feels the price of oil will go up and devastate economies around the world. You've heard dire predictions like that before. Some say that water shortages pose a bigger threat since we can't drink or bathe in oil. Optimists say abundant renewable energy will power desalination plants, our buildings and our vehicles at prices too cheap to meter.

Jeff predicts we'll never run out of oil. Lest you rejoice, that's because the prices will get beyond our reach. Let's assume that oil prices shoot up drastically and permanently. Expect pain as the economy adjusts.
As prices rise, distance adds cost. Economies might respond by returning to their local and regional roots.

What's the effect on you and your clients (and their clients)?

Inside The Box

Productivity becomes more important.

Maybe you do more online (e.g., build better websites, finally harness social media, conduct webinars). Risks arise if your organization or suppliers empower your clients to buy direct, bypassing you.

Clients may move closer to work or find work closer to home. Would this increase population density and mean the return of the door-to-door salesman. Maybe we'd even get milk delivery. A geographical focus works better if your competitors have one too.

If more clients work from home, you could go to them and meet at lower traffic times of the day. They're probably longing for contact from the "outside world", which could make them more attentive. They don't have to worry about phone calls from home.

Maybe there'll be more concern about quality of life, balance and relationships. We might sleep earlier to cut back on electricity consumption — a bigger sacrifice for the nocturnal.

Maybe you'll switch your focus to bigger clients. That could create new clients for competitors who are adept at dealing with volume and can attract clients to facilities in high traffic areas.

Just as you want your clients to deal locally, why not you?

Who Knows?

Like any constraint, borders create opportunities for creativity. Who thought we'd communicate in 140 characters with Twitter or do meaningful work on a tiny smartphone?

Even if fuel were free, wasting time in transit takes away from our lives. Why not be proactive? Make your box smaller to spark better use of your resources, renewable or not.


PS If you're still worried about the future of energy, visit Ellen's Energy Adventure with Bill Nye the Science Guy at Epcot for another perspective.

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