Ferengi, the sniveling money grubbers of Star Trek (pictured here) seem to me to be motivated by one principle above all else: PROFIT! Conversely, entrepreneurs seem to be motivated by a different principle above all else: VALUE!
The important question then becomes: Is there any difference between PROFIT and VALUE?
The people tell us that profit generally refers to the making of gain in business activity for the benefit of the owners of the business. The word comes from Latin meaning “to make progress”. Elsewhere, the people tell us that value, or in this case, “economic value” in something is how much a desired object or condition is worth relative to other objects or conditions. Economic values are expressed as “how much” of one desirable condition or commodity will, or would be given up in exchange for some other desired condition or commodity.
Adam Smith’s “diamond-water paradox” or “paradox of value” is an effective illustration of economic value. Water is far less valuable than diamonds in the market but it is far more useful to our survival.
So, you’re in the desert for a week or two with a bag of diamonds and no more water and up walks Gunga Din with a bag of water. Sadly, he turns out to NOT be ‘a better man than you are’ as Kipling had assumed. So Gunga demands the bag of diamonds from you in exchange for the life saving water. Now the value of that water has increased even beyond the current market value of printer ink (NB: Uncle Leo once claimed printer ink to be worth around $5000 a gallon).This brings us to the saving grace of relativity and the power of entrepreneurs’ natural talent for analytic induction. Analytic induction is the very best and most original of the ethnographic skill set. Ethnographers train long and hard to hone this skill whereas many entrepreneurs seem to have it naturally. Analytic induction is often glossed as “thinking out of the box” among entrepreneurs but it is far more than that. How does one think out of the box?
Ethnomethodologists are very good at thinking out of the box because they are the best observers of social interaction. What makes their method so strong is their unwillingness to trust anything until they have seen it many times. They are so concerned that their own common sense will get the better of them, that they are perpetually trying to avoid the most natural action for all of us – making sense. Some are better at this than others are. There is evidently a knack for this sort of work. The sort of work that, I argue, is very much akin to the knack entrepreneurs have for knowing that something (like personal computers) will be valuable one day.
In summation, I therefore conclude that entrepreneurs are not Ferengi in disguise! At least not the ones I know.