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Matt McCaffrey

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Latest 13 Aug 2022 | Updated Daily

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Matt McCaffrey: Austrian Business Strategy (Part 2): Principles

Economics For Business

Austrian economics helps entrepreneurs to develop and implement more effective business strategies, and to open up streams of continuous innovation. As Joe Matarese, CEO of Medicus Healthcare Solutions, said about Austrian economics in relation to business: It just works (see Mises.org/E4B_126). In episode #127 (Mises.org/E4B_127), Matt McCaffrey outlined the Austrian strategy process of Explore and Expand, and its logic development. This week, he helps us dig deeper to identify the principles of Austrian economics that underpin our distinctive approach to business strategy.Key Takeaways and Actionable InsightsRealism: real people, real markets, real entrepreneurs in real firms.Mainstream economics has never been able to help business, because of its focus on math, models, and prediction. Real people and their decisions and interactions and motivations and emotions can not be captured in equations and mathematical functions. Austrian economics has carved out a particular area of focus in the behavior of real people in its study of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Austrians examine real entrepreneurial decision making day-to-day; they highlight real people experiencing value and entrepreneurs’ role in generating that value. From this base, Austrian economics investigates how individual actions and choices and interactions lead to the formation of markets.Dynamism: The market is a process.Austrian realism sees the market as a dynamic process, continuously unfolding in interaction and innovation and change. Mainstream economics, with its preference for the greater mathematical tractability that comes with abstraction, has no capability of dealing with this real world dynamism. The embrace and study of dynamic processes gives Austrian economics much of its applicability in business. The business world is never static. It can’t be understood in abstractions. It’s real and messy and changeable and unpredictable. Uncertainty and complexity: embrace emergence. Uncertainty is a keyword for Austrian economists. It’s a term that describes the real world in which entrepreneurial businesses operate. They can never know for sure what comes next; they can’t anticipate all of the interactions between competitors, changing customer preferences, technological advances and social and economic trends. There is no sure-footed way to plan for the future. Austrians recognize uncertainty, and help businesses think about how to cope with it, how to narrow it, how to accumulate knowledge to lighten it, how to weigh decisions in the environment of uncertainty. The new scientific term for uncertainty is complexity: in any system, the interactions are so many and their results are so unpredictable that modeling and forecasting are impossible, and outcomes are defined as emergent (i.e., outputs happen in a way that is not predicted by merely combining inputs). Austrian economics helps businesses deal with emergence.Subjectivism: People are people, both as consumers and as providers.One of the realistic principles of Austrian economics is to deal with people as people: we are all subjective in our valuations and judgments and emotions. We are not homo economicus: perfectly rational (in the mainstream economists’ definition of rational) in objectively weighing benefits and their opportunity costs. If all we are doing in producing goods and services for consumption is trashing the planet, then we can’t be rational, in their eyes. In order to understand business and understand entrepreneurship, it is absolutely necessary to begin with subjectivism. Consumers’ subjective values ultimately determine what is produced; if consumers don’t value something, producers won’t make it. On the producer side, entrepreneurs’ subjective valuations of the resources they have available to them to assemble in a production process affect the value of their business. It is entrepreneurs’ subjective evaluation that results in the identification of new uses for a resource, and the introduction of new innovations. Subjective values lie underneath every new business relationship with customers, from streaming movies to google searches to online travel booking. Subjectivism is everywhere in the economy and in business.Time: How to plan in the present to satisfy customers in the future.Austrians are unique in their understanding of the economic role of time in business. Entrepreneurs deal in future time. They imagine better futures in which customers enjoy greater satisfaction, and then they imagine how to bring it about and act on their imagination. Production — getting from imagination to consumption — takes time. Entrepreneurs are dealing with buying decisions in the present (such as hiring and buying inputs) for selling decisions in the future. They can’t know future prices or future customer preferences, so it’s a bet. The consumption decisions customers make today reflect entrepreneurial decisions that were made weeks, months, years or decades in the past. Austrian economics helps entrepreneurs manage the contingencies of time. Time makes the customer the boss. Austrians utilize the concept of consumer sovereignty as an analytical tool. It means that consumers are the ultimate decision-makers in all economic systems, because what they buy or don’t buy determines what is produced. Their power is a result of the time it takes to produce. The value of resources that entrepreneurs assemble today depends on what consumers think and feel in the future.Forecasting is tricky and best avoided, but patterns can be recognized.A consequence of time and consumer sovereignty is the fragility and inaccuracy of forecasts. How is it possible to forecast consumer tastes in the future? There are some exceptional entrepreneurs who get it right. What’s their secret? Austrians’ understanding of dynamics and complexity can help point to the processes most likely to be associated with success, without attempting to forecast it. One alternative to forecasting is pattern recognition. Jeff Bezos said that consumers are unlikely in the future to ask for higher prices, lower quality or slower delivery. That’s pattern recognition. It’s generalized and broad based and lacking in precision and specificity. But there is a consistency to some patterns that entrepreneurs can recognize and act upon, adding their own idiosyncratic insights and guesses to shape the actual value propositions they will make to consumers.Out of all this emerges the Austrian entrepreneurial method.We’ve all been educated in the scientific method. It’s utopian: experiments conducted with strict controls will yield the truth. The entrepreneurial method is different, but with equal status, and greater applicability in open — i.e., human — systems where control is not an option. It’s a bit messy and hard to characterize with precision, but it’s nonetheless real. It starts with imagination — imagining a future in which customer dissatisfactions are addressed and resolved. Their world is made better. This is proactive creativity on the entrepreneur’s part, triggered by existing highly dispersed knowledge, including tacit knowledge, held by the entrepreneur and others. The entrepreneur designs a business model that might be able to resolve the identified customer dissatisfactions in the future and assembles resources that he or she believes, in the right combination, could accomplish the task. There’s no correct way; the entrepreneur draws on the realism of Austrian economics to best understand the challenges and how to address them. The entrepreneur then advances with her or his own form of experiment. It’s not controlled in a closed environment. It’s a hard commitment of resources in a definite format to make a value proposition to customers. The experiment consists in ascertaining the customer’s response: like or dislike, buy or not buy, use and enjoy or use and reject? The experiment does not end there. It is continuous — receive the result, decide on how or whether to change the proposition, and try again. Gut feeling or intuition or personal subjective heuristics all have roles to play in entrepreneurial decision making. Austrian economics captures these phenomena in the concept of judgment under conditions of uncertainty.Organizing for the exercise of judgment.Since judgment is the ultimate generative energy in producing value for customers, and since it’s personal and individual, how do firms grow? If judgement rests with a single entrepreneur, such as a founder, growth can’t scale, and will quickly reach its limits. Austrians have the organizational design solution: delegated judgment. Austrian leaders are able to design and implement non-hierarchical organizations in which every employee is empowered to exercise entrepreneurial judgment. They do so by substituting value codes for authority. Value codes are the unwritten codes (although they might be found in the employee handbook) and conventions of “how we do things around here”, how we generate value for customers, the mission and purpose and internal methods of the firm.Additional Resources"Austrian Entrepreneurial Principles" (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_128_PDF Austrian Perspectives on Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Organization by Nicolai J. Foss, Peter G. Klein, and Matthew McCaffrey: Mises.org/E4B_127_Book

27 Jul 2021

Episode artwork

Matt McCaffrey: Austrian Business Strategy (Part 2): Principles

Mises Media

Austrian economics helps entrepreneurs to develop and implement more effective business strategies, and to open up streams of continuous innovation. As Joe Matarese, CEO of Medicus Healthcare Solutions, said about Austrian economics in relation to business: It just works (see Mises.org/E4B_126). In episode #127 (Mises.org/E4B_127), Matt McCaffrey outlined the Austrian strategy process of Explore and Expand, and its logic development. This week, he helps us dig deeper to identify the principles of Austrian economics that underpin our distinctive approach to business strategy.Key Takeaways and Actionable InsightsRealism: real people, real markets, real entrepreneurs in real firms.Mainstream economics has never been able to help business, because of its focus on math, models, and prediction. Real people and their decisions and interactions and motivations and emotions can not be captured in equations and mathematical functions. Austrian economics has carved out a particular area of focus in the behavior of real people in its study of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Austrians examine real entrepreneurial decision making day-to-day; they highlight real people experiencing value and entrepreneurs’ role in generating that value. From this base, Austrian economics investigates how individual actions and choices and interactions lead to the formation of markets.Dynamism: The market is a process.Austrian realism sees the market as a dynamic process, continuously unfolding in interaction and innovation and change. Mainstream economics, with its preference for the greater mathematical tractability that comes with abstraction, has no capability of dealing with this real world dynamism. The embrace and study of dynamic processes gives Austrian economics much of its applicability in business. The business world is never static. It can’t be understood in abstractions. It’s real and messy and changeable and unpredictable. Uncertainty and complexity: embrace emergence. Uncertainty is a keyword for Austrian economists. It’s a term that describes the real world in which entrepreneurial businesses operate. They can never know for sure what comes next; they can’t anticipate all of the interactions between competitors, changing customer preferences, technological advances and social and economic trends. There is no sure-footed way to plan for the future. Austrians recognize uncertainty, and help businesses think about how to cope with it, how to narrow it, how to accumulate knowledge to lighten it, how to weigh decisions in the environment of uncertainty. The new scientific term for uncertainty is complexity: in any system, the interactions are so many and their results are so unpredictable that modeling and forecasting are impossible, and outcomes are defined as emergent (i.e., outputs happen in a way that is not predicted by merely combining inputs). Austrian economics helps businesses deal with emergence.Subjectivism: People are people, both as consumers and as providers.One of the realistic principles of Austrian economics is to deal with people as people: we are all subjective in our valuations and judgments and emotions. We are not homo economicus: perfectly rational (in the mainstream economists’ definition of rational) in objectively weighing benefits and their opportunity costs. If all we are doing in producing goods and services for consumption is trashing the planet, then we can’t be rational, in their eyes. In order to understand business and understand entrepreneurship, it is absolutely necessary to begin with subjectivism. Consumers’ subjective values ultimately determine what is produced; if consumers don’t value something, producers won’t make it. On the producer side, entrepreneurs’ subjective valuations of the resources they have available to them to assemble in a production process affect the value of their business. It is entrepreneurs’ subjective evaluation that results in the identification of new uses for a resource, and the introduction of new innovations. Subjective values lie underneath every new business relationship with customers, from streaming movies to google searches to online travel booking. Subjectivism is everywhere in the economy and in business.Time: How to plan in the present to satisfy customers in the future.Austrians are unique in their understanding of the economic role of time in business. Entrepreneurs deal in future time. They imagine better futures in which customers enjoy greater satisfaction, and then they imagine how to bring it about and act on their imagination. Production — getting from imagination to consumption — takes time. Entrepreneurs are dealing with buying decisions in the present (such as hiring and buying inputs) for selling decisions in the future. They can’t know future prices or future customer preferences, so it’s a bet. The consumption decisions customers make today reflect entrepreneurial decisions that were made weeks, months, years or decades in the past. Austrian economics helps entrepreneurs manage the contingencies of time. Time makes the customer the boss. Austrians utilize the concept of consumer sovereignty as an analytical tool. It means that consumers are the ultimate decision-makers in all economic systems, because what they buy or don’t buy determines what is produced. Their power is a result of the time it takes to produce. The value of resources that entrepreneurs assemble today depends on what consumers think and feel in the future.Forecasting is tricky and best avoided, but patterns can be recognized.A consequence of time and consumer sovereignty is the fragility and inaccuracy of forecasts. How is it possible to forecast consumer tastes in the future? There are some exceptional entrepreneurs who get it right. What’s their secret? Austrians’ understanding of dynamics and complexity can help point to the processes most likely to be associated with success, without attempting to forecast it. One alternative to forecasting is pattern recognition. Jeff Bezos said that consumers are unlikely in the future to ask for higher prices, lower quality or slower delivery. That’s pattern recognition. It’s generalized and broad based and lacking in precision and specificity. But there is a consistency to some patterns that entrepreneurs can recognize and act upon, adding their own idiosyncratic insights and guesses to shape the actual value propositions they will make to consumers.Out of all this emerges the Austrian entrepreneurial method.We’ve all been educated in the scientific method. It’s utopian: experiments conducted with strict controls will yield the truth. The entrepreneurial method is different, but with equal status, and greater applicability in open — i.e., human — systems where control is not an option. It’s a bit messy and hard to characterize with precision, but it’s nonetheless real. It starts with imagination — imagining a future in which customer dissatisfactions are addressed and resolved. Their world is made better. This is proactive creativity on the entrepreneur’s part, triggered by existing highly dispersed knowledge, including tacit knowledge, held by the entrepreneur and others. The entrepreneur designs a business model that might be able to resolve the identified customer dissatisfactions in the future and assembles resources that he or she believes, in the right combination, could accomplish the task. There’s no correct way; the entrepreneur draws on the realism of Austrian economics to best understand the challenges and how to address them. The entrepreneur then advances with her or his own form of experiment. It’s not controlled in a closed environment. It’s a hard commitment of resources in a definite format to make a value proposition to customers. The experiment consists in ascertaining the customer’s response: like or dislike, buy or not buy, use and enjoy or use and reject? The experiment does not end there. It is continuous — receive the result, decide on how or whether to change the proposition, and try again. Gut feeling or intuition or personal subjective heuristics all have roles to play in entrepreneurial decision making. Austrian economics captures these phenomena in the concept of judgment under conditions of uncertainty.Organizing for the exercise of judgment.Since judgment is the ultimate generative energy in producing value for customers, and since it’s personal and individual, how do firms grow? If judgement rests with a single entrepreneur, such as a founder, growth can’t scale, and will quickly reach its limits. Austrians have the organizational design solution: delegated judgment. Austrian leaders are able to design and implement non-hierarchical organizations in which every employee is empowered to exercise entrepreneurial judgment. They do so by substituting value codes for authority. Value codes are the unwritten codes (although they might be found in the employee handbook) and conventions of “how we do things around here”, how we generate value for customers, the mission and purpose and internal methods of the firm.Additional Resources"Austrian Entrepreneurial Principles" (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_128_PDF Austrian Perspectives on Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Organization by Nicolai J. Foss, Peter G. Klein, and Matthew McCaffrey: Mises.org/E4B_127_Book

27 Jul 2021

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Matt McCaffrey: Austrian Business Strategy (Part 2): Principles

Interviews

Austrian economics helps entrepreneurs to develop and implement more effective business strategies, and to open up streams of continuous innovation. As Joe Matarese, CEO of Medicus Healthcare Solutions, said about Austrian economics in relation to business: It just works (see Mises.org/E4B_126). In episode #127 (Mises.org/E4B_127), Matt McCaffrey outlined the Austrian strategy process of Explore and Expand, and its logic development. This week, he helps us dig deeper to identify the principles of Austrian economics that underpin our distinctive approach to business strategy.Key Takeaways and Actionable InsightsRealism: real people, real markets, real entrepreneurs in real firms.Mainstream economics has never been able to help business, because of its focus on math, models, and prediction. Real people and their decisions and interactions and motivations and emotions can not be captured in equations and mathematical functions. Austrian economics has carved out a particular area of focus in the behavior of real people in its study of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Austrians examine real entrepreneurial decision making day-to-day; they highlight real people experiencing value and entrepreneurs’ role in generating that value. From this base, Austrian economics investigates how individual actions and choices and interactions lead to the formation of markets.Dynamism: The market is a process.Austrian realism sees the market as a dynamic process, continuously unfolding in interaction and innovation and change. Mainstream economics, with its preference for the greater mathematical tractability that comes with abstraction, has no capability of dealing with this real world dynamism. The embrace and study of dynamic processes gives Austrian economics much of its applicability in business. The business world is never static. It can’t be understood in abstractions. It’s real and messy and changeable and unpredictable. Uncertainty and complexity: embrace emergence. Uncertainty is a keyword for Austrian economists. It’s a term that describes the real world in which entrepreneurial businesses operate. They can never know for sure what comes next; they can’t anticipate all of the interactions between competitors, changing customer preferences, technological advances and social and economic trends. There is no sure-footed way to plan for the future. Austrians recognize uncertainty, and help businesses think about how to cope with it, how to narrow it, how to accumulate knowledge to lighten it, how to weigh decisions in the environment of uncertainty. The new scientific term for uncertainty is complexity: in any system, the interactions are so many and their results are so unpredictable that modeling and forecasting are impossible, and outcomes are defined as emergent (i.e., outputs happen in a way that is not predicted by merely combining inputs). Austrian economics helps businesses deal with emergence.Subjectivism: People are people, both as consumers and as providers.One of the realistic principles of Austrian economics is to deal with people as people: we are all subjective in our valuations and judgments and emotions. We are not homo economicus: perfectly rational (in the mainstream economists’ definition of rational) in objectively weighing benefits and their opportunity costs. If all we are doing in producing goods and services for consumption is trashing the planet, then we can’t be rational, in their eyes. In order to understand business and understand entrepreneurship, it is absolutely necessary to begin with subjectivism. Consumers’ subjective values ultimately determine what is produced; if consumers don’t value something, producers won’t make it. On the producer side, entrepreneurs’ subjective valuations of the resources they have available to them to assemble in a production process affect the value of their business. It is entrepreneurs’ subjective evaluation that results in the identification of new uses for a resource, and the introduction of new innovations. Subjective values lie underneath every new business relationship with customers, from streaming movies to google searches to online travel booking. Subjectivism is everywhere in the economy and in business.Time: How to plan in the present to satisfy customers in the future.Austrians are unique in their understanding of the economic role of time in business. Entrepreneurs deal in future time. They imagine better futures in which customers enjoy greater satisfaction, and then they imagine how to bring it about and act on their imagination. Production — getting from imagination to consumption — takes time. Entrepreneurs are dealing with buying decisions in the present (such as hiring and buying inputs) for selling decisions in the future. They can’t know future prices or future customer preferences, so it’s a bet. The consumption decisions customers make today reflect entrepreneurial decisions that were made weeks, months, years or decades in the past. Austrian economics helps entrepreneurs manage the contingencies of time. Time makes the customer the boss. Austrians utilize the concept of consumer sovereignty as an analytical tool. It means that consumers are the ultimate decision-makers in all economic systems, because what they buy or don’t buy determines what is produced. Their power is a result of the time it takes to produce. The value of resources that entrepreneurs assemble today depends on what consumers think and feel in the future.Forecasting is tricky and best avoided, but patterns can be recognized.A consequence of time and consumer sovereignty is the fragility and inaccuracy of forecasts. How is it possible to forecast consumer tastes in the future? There are some exceptional entrepreneurs who get it right. What’s their secret? Austrians’ understanding of dynamics and complexity can help point to the processes most likely to be associated with success, without attempting to forecast it. One alternative to forecasting is pattern recognition. Jeff Bezos said that consumers are unlikely in the future to ask for higher prices, lower quality or slower delivery. That’s pattern recognition. It’s generalized and broad based and lacking in precision and specificity. But there is a consistency to some patterns that entrepreneurs can recognize and act upon, adding their own idiosyncratic insights and guesses to shape the actual value propositions they will make to consumers.Out of all this emerges the Austrian entrepreneurial method.We’ve all been educated in the scientific method. It’s utopian: experiments conducted with strict controls will yield the truth. The entrepreneurial method is different, but with equal status, and greater applicability in open — i.e., human — systems where control is not an option. It’s a bit messy and hard to characterize with precision, but it’s nonetheless real. It starts with imagination — imagining a future in which customer dissatisfactions are addressed and resolved. Their world is made better. This is proactive creativity on the entrepreneur’s part, triggered by existing highly dispersed knowledge, including tacit knowledge, held by the entrepreneur and others. The entrepreneur designs a business model that might be able to resolve the identified customer dissatisfactions in the future and assembles resources that he or she believes, in the right combination, could accomplish the task. There’s no correct way; the entrepreneur draws on the realism of Austrian economics to best understand the challenges and how to address them. The entrepreneur then advances with her or his own form of experiment. It’s not controlled in a closed environment. It’s a hard commitment of resources in a definite format to make a value proposition to customers. The experiment consists in ascertaining the customer’s response: like or dislike, buy or not buy, use and enjoy or use and reject? The experiment does not end there. It is continuous — receive the result, decide on how or whether to change the proposition, and try again. Gut feeling or intuition or personal subjective heuristics all have roles to play in entrepreneurial decision making. Austrian economics captures these phenomena in the concept of judgment under conditions of uncertainty.Organizing for the exercise of judgment.Since judgment is the ultimate generative energy in producing value for customers, and since it’s personal and individual, how do firms grow? If judgement rests with a single entrepreneur, such as a founder, growth can’t scale, and will quickly reach its limits. Austrians have the organizational design solution: delegated judgment. Austrian leaders are able to design and implement non-hierarchical organizations in which every employee is empowered to exercise entrepreneurial judgment. They do so by substituting value codes for authority. Value codes are the unwritten codes (although they might be found in the employee handbook) and conventions of “how we do things around here”, how we generate value for customers, the mission and purpose and internal methods of the firm.Additional Resources"Austrian Entrepreneurial Principles" (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_128_PDF Austrian Perspectives on Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Organization by Nicolai J. Foss, Peter G. Klein, and Matthew McCaffrey: Mises.org/E4B_127_Book

27 Jul 2021

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Matt McCaffrey: Austrian Business Strategy (Part 1): Emergent, Not Planned

Economics For Business

Strategy is not the formulation of a plan. It is emergent from a process of exploration and discovery. Austrian economics is the best guide for entrepreneurial firms to put in place the methods and organization that unleash the power of emergence. Matt McCaffrey joins Economics For Business for a detailed exposition of the Austrian approach to Business Strategy.Key Takeaways and Actionable InsightsA firm is a vehicle for entrepreneurial action to generate value.All businesses and all firms are entrepreneurial. They start from — and continue with — an aspiration to generate value for both customers and the firm, and they act on this intention by assembling assets (resources, people, cash, machines, software, etc.) that are required to realize and deliver value. The goal is to bring a good or service to market that is valued by others. Value is the ultimate goal.There are clear conditions for this action to take place.There must be a decision-making authority for the firm, because someone (or some collaborative group) must decide how to select and assemble just the right combination of resources and make a specific product or service from the assembly. We call that decision-making authority the entrepreneur. A second condition is that someone or some group must bear the uncertainty of the action. It may not turn out the way that was expected. It may not be profitable. Less value may be generated, or none at all. This bearing of uncertainty is also the role of the entrepreneur.It's hard to get the operations of the firm just right, because of complexity and change.Why is all this so hard, and the outcome so uncertain? Two reasons: change and complexity. The subjective valuations of customers, who decide what is more valuable and what is less valuable, are changing and reshuffling continuously, depending on situation, mood, the choices of others, and a myriad of other influences. These changes can become trends, fads, segments, and competitive advantages and disadvantages. Continuous change contributes to the complexity of the resource assembly puzzle: there are innumerable ways in which resources can be combined and recombined in a firm, and getting the assembly just right is a difficult challenge that is never perfectly resolved.Therefore, the Austrian view of capital as a flow is a fundamental contribution to rethinking firm strategy.The resources assembled in an entrepreneurial firm are not valuable in themselves, but because they produce a good or service that the customer values and is willing to pay for. This value — translated into revenue through the customer’s willingness to pay — flows back to the firm as income. The flow of income is affected by each element in the firm’s capital combination and by the degree to which the combination is well-integrated for the value generation task. Customers drive the capital formation task. The entrepreneur is engaged in a never-ending process of combining different capital goods to find the combination that is the most serviceable in generating value. Treating capital as a value generating flow helps entrepreneurs in practice to manage the persistent process of applying resource combinations in the market to ascertain what value they generate. It’s dynamic process with no pauses.There are four implications for firm strategy — and they all contrast starkly with the traditional business school view of strategy.The business school view of strategy takes the form of sophisticated data-fueled top down planning models. Only a few special minds can take on this intellectually and computationally difficult challenge. Historically, the list of models has included Michael Porter’s Five Forces Model (a model of industry structure and how to create barriers to entry and competition); SWOT analysis (a model of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats from the firm’s point of view, with strategic implications for the management of each element); PESTEL analysis of the business environment (political, economic, social, technological, environmental, legal factors) and how they affect firm performance. The common thread for these models is that they are implemented top-down: the strategists apply the tools, draw conclusions, and instruct the rest of the organization how to act. Matt McCaffrey’s contrasted this top-down strategy approach to the Austrian strategy approach across four dimensions.Learning versus Rational DesignThe top-down models attempt rationalization: they view strategy as a rational design problem, to shape a distinctive internal competence to seize an external opportunity and evade external threats. This approach overlooks the crucial problem of learning. In circumstances of uncertainty, unpredictability, complexity and change, learning is the essential method of making progress. Changing conditions can never be known fully enough or fast enough by people at the center (in the strategic planning department) compared to front line employees. Firms must find a way to make use of this front line knowledge, through learning.Dispersion versus CentralizationTo enable the freedom to learn and to apply learning, decision making must be dispersed through the organization. A single mind or single planning unit can not centralize all the knowledge and can’t centralize decision making. A strategic plan is not feasible. Organizational design and decision-making processes must be decentralized and dispersed.Implementation versus Formulation.A comprehensive plan is impossible. Firms must seek a more adaptive framework. Processes and methods and forms of organization must be capable of adaptation to unforeseen events and new information. Continuous deliberate adjustments must be made in the light of new circumstances, which may arise every day. Therefore, Austrians see strategy as emergent not formulated via a planning process. Adaptive firms implement entrepreneurial actions, and then adapt to the learning, new knowledge and new circumstances that present themselves as a consequence.Structure versus StrategyThe business school approach is that strategy must be fully formulated, and only then can it be used to shape the structure and processes of an organization. Austrians take the opposite approach: the structure of the firm (its organization, processes and interfaces with the external environment) shapes strategy. Hayek used the term “structure of production”. This structure can be changed, but not instantly or seamlessly. Structure and strategy influence each other to some extent, but business schools tend to make strategy prior: that a firm is organized in response to the CEO’s vision. Austrians understand that this is not realistic because it’s not possible to restructure an existing organization every time a new vision comes along. There’s a high cost to structural change, and strategy must adjust.Emergent strategy is based on business rules.What, then, replaces top-down strategic planning? Austrians use the term “rules”. Rules are an internal device to help managers and employees make decisions on the spot in response to learning and new knowledge. Matt McCaffrey gave an example: whenever there is a break in the supply chain, repurpose old capital goods and bring them into the production process as a low cost way to fill the gap. It’s a broad and simple rule, and it enables decision making to go forward at the point of the supply chain break. People close to the action can use their local knowledge to solve the problem within the guideline of the rule. Another example was given by Bob Luddy, CEO of CaptiveAire, who set the rule for his firm to always have the best price in the marketplace. It’s a simple rule that requires tremendous local knowledge about prices of systems and components, of competitive offerings, and about turnaround time (a cost element of price) among many others. Sales and marketing people as well as engineers can make decisions following this rule.Rules sustain firm uniqueness.Business school strategists often focus on competitive advantage as the goal of strategy. But the concept of competitive advantage comes from neoclassical economics and the depiction of markets as bounded cage-fights for market share between similarly-resourced rivals. Austrian strategy focuses more on firm uniqueness. A firm’s distinctive rules can result in a unique mode of delivering value, and a unique perception in the eyes of customers. A brand is a set of rules that generates such a unique perception.The ultimate distinction: strategy is exploration.Strategy is emergent, not planned. Strategy is entrepreneurial. It’s a continuous process of learning through action and discovery. Sometimes, firms discover things they really wish they hadn’t. That’s part of the process through which, eventually, strategy evolves. It’s emergent. Over time, a firm can adopt some simple rules that seem to bring some order, but adaptation to new circumstances is always required. Profit is the signal that adaptation is successful. We use the term explore and expand to capture the Austrian approach to strategy. Firms are always exploring, seeking ways to improve performance. When some experiments yield promising results, they can be expanded. Explore and expand is a trade-off: how much of the available resources should be allocated to each type of activity. Entrepreneurs manage the trade-off in order to succeed. There’s no strategic plan from on high to make the trade-off for them.Additional Resources"Emergent Strategy Process Map" (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_127_PDF Austrian Perspectives on Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Organization by Nicolai J. Foss, Peter G. Klein, and Matthew McCaffrey: Mises.org/E4B_127_Book "Entrepreneurship and Firm Strategy: Integrating Resources, Capabilities, and Judgment through an Austrian Framework" by Matthew McCaffrey and Ulrich Möller (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_127_Paper1 "'When Harry Met Fritz': Rules as Organizational Frameworks for Emergent Strategy Process" by Nicolai J. Foss, Matthew C. McCaffrey, and Carmen Elena Dorobăț (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_127_Paper2

20 Jul 2021

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Matt McCaffrey: Austrian Business Strategy (Part 1): Emergent, Not Planned

Mises Media

Strategy is not the formulation of a plan. It is emergent from a process of exploration and discovery. Austrian economics is the best guide for entrepreneurial firms to put in place the methods and organization that unleash the power of emergence. Matt McCaffrey joins Economics For Business for a detailed exposition of the Austrian approach to Business Strategy.Key Takeaways and Actionable InsightsA firm is a vehicle for entrepreneurial action to generate value.All businesses and all firms are entrepreneurial. They start from — and continue with — an aspiration to generate value for both customers and the firm, and they act on this intention by assembling assets (resources, people, cash, machines, software, etc.) that are required to realize and deliver value. The goal is to bring a good or service to market that is valued by others. Value is the ultimate goal.There are clear conditions for this action to take place.There must be a decision-making authority for the firm, because someone (or some collaborative group) must decide how to select and assemble just the right combination of resources and make a specific product or service from the assembly. We call that decision-making authority the entrepreneur. A second condition is that someone or some group must bear the uncertainty of the action. It may not turn out the way that was expected. It may not be profitable. Less value may be generated, or none at all. This bearing of uncertainty is also the role of the entrepreneur.It's hard to get the operations of the firm just right, because of complexity and change.Why is all this so hard, and the outcome so uncertain? Two reasons: change and complexity. The subjective valuations of customers, who decide what is more valuable and what is less valuable, are changing and reshuffling continuously, depending on situation, mood, the choices of others, and a myriad of other influences. These changes can become trends, fads, segments, and competitive advantages and disadvantages. Continuous change contributes to the complexity of the resource assembly puzzle: there are innumerable ways in which resources can be combined and recombined in a firm, and getting the assembly just right is a difficult challenge that is never perfectly resolved.Therefore, the Austrian view of capital as a flow is a fundamental contribution to rethinking firm strategy.The resources assembled in an entrepreneurial firm are not valuable in themselves, but because they produce a good or service that the customer values and is willing to pay for. This value — translated into revenue through the customer’s willingness to pay — flows back to the firm as income. The flow of income is affected by each element in the firm’s capital combination and by the degree to which the combination is well-integrated for the value generation task. Customers drive the capital formation task. The entrepreneur is engaged in a never-ending process of combining different capital goods to find the combination that is the most serviceable in generating value. Treating capital as a value generating flow helps entrepreneurs in practice to manage the persistent process of applying resource combinations in the market to ascertain what value they generate. It’s dynamic process with no pauses.There are four implications for firm strategy — and they all contrast starkly with the traditional business school view of strategy.The business school view of strategy takes the form of sophisticated data-fueled top down planning models. Only a few special minds can take on this intellectually and computationally difficult challenge. Historically, the list of models has included Michael Porter’s Five Forces Model (a model of industry structure and how to create barriers to entry and competition); SWOT analysis (a model of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats from the firm’s point of view, with strategic implications for the management of each element); PESTEL analysis of the business environment (political, economic, social, technological, environmental, legal factors) and how they affect firm performance. The common thread for these models is that they are implemented top-down: the strategists apply the tools, draw conclusions, and instruct the rest of the organization how to act. Matt McCaffrey’s contrasted this top-down strategy approach to the Austrian strategy approach across four dimensions.Learning versus Rational DesignThe top-down models attempt rationalization: they view strategy as a rational design problem, to shape a distinctive internal competence to seize an external opportunity and evade external threats. This approach overlooks the crucial problem of learning. In circumstances of uncertainty, unpredictability, complexity and change, learning is the essential method of making progress. Changing conditions can never be known fully enough or fast enough by people at the center (in the strategic planning department) compared to front line employees. Firms must find a way to make use of this front line knowledge, through learning.Dispersion versus CentralizationTo enable the freedom to learn and to apply learning, decision making must be dispersed through the organization. A single mind or single planning unit can not centralize all the knowledge and can’t centralize decision making. A strategic plan is not feasible. Organizational design and decision-making processes must be decentralized and dispersed.Implementation versus Formulation.A comprehensive plan is impossible. Firms must seek a more adaptive framework. Processes and methods and forms of organization must be capable of adaptation to unforeseen events and new information. Continuous deliberate adjustments must be made in the light of new circumstances, which may arise every day. Therefore, Austrians see strategy as emergent not formulated via a planning process. Adaptive firms implement entrepreneurial actions, and then adapt to the learning, new knowledge and new circumstances that present themselves as a consequence.Structure versus StrategyThe business school approach is that strategy must be fully formulated, and only then can it be used to shape the structure and processes of an organization. Austrians take the opposite approach: the structure of the firm (its organization, processes and interfaces with the external environment) shapes strategy. Hayek used the term “structure of production”. This structure can be changed, but not instantly or seamlessly. Structure and strategy influence each other to some extent, but business schools tend to make strategy prior: that a firm is organized in response to the CEO’s vision. Austrians understand that this is not realistic because it’s not possible to restructure an existing organization every time a new vision comes along. There’s a high cost to structural change, and strategy must adjust.Emergent strategy is based on business rules.What, then, replaces top-down strategic planning? Austrians use the term “rules”. Rules are an internal device to help managers and employees make decisions on the spot in response to learning and new knowledge. Matt McCaffrey gave an example: whenever there is a break in the supply chain, repurpose old capital goods and bring them into the production process as a low cost way to fill the gap. It’s a broad and simple rule, and it enables decision making to go forward at the point of the supply chain break. People close to the action can use their local knowledge to solve the problem within the guideline of the rule. Another example was given by Bob Luddy, CEO of CaptiveAire, who set the rule for his firm to always have the best price in the marketplace. It’s a simple rule that requires tremendous local knowledge about prices of systems and components, of competitive offerings, and about turnaround time (a cost element of price) among many others. Sales and marketing people as well as engineers can make decisions following this rule.Rules sustain firm uniqueness.Business school strategists often focus on competitive advantage as the goal of strategy. But the concept of competitive advantage comes from neoclassical economics and the depiction of markets as bounded cage-fights for market share between similarly-resourced rivals. Austrian strategy focuses more on firm uniqueness. A firm’s distinctive rules can result in a unique mode of delivering value, and a unique perception in the eyes of customers. A brand is a set of rules that generates such a unique perception.The ultimate distinction: strategy is exploration.Strategy is emergent, not planned. Strategy is entrepreneurial. It’s a continuous process of learning through action and discovery. Sometimes, firms discover things they really wish they hadn’t. That’s part of the process through which, eventually, strategy evolves. It’s emergent. Over time, a firm can adopt some simple rules that seem to bring some order, but adaptation to new circumstances is always required. Profit is the signal that adaptation is successful. We use the term explore and expand to capture the Austrian approach to strategy. Firms are always exploring, seeking ways to improve performance. When some experiments yield promising results, they can be expanded. Explore and expand is a trade-off: how much of the available resources should be allocated to each type of activity. Entrepreneurs manage the trade-off in order to succeed. There’s no strategic plan from on high to make the trade-off for them.Additional Resources"Emergent Strategy Process Map" (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_127_PDF Austrian Perspectives on Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Organization by Nicolai J. Foss, Peter G. Klein, and Matthew McCaffrey: Mises.org/E4B_127_Book "Entrepreneurship and Firm Strategy: Integrating Resources, Capabilities, and Judgment through an Austrian Framework" by Matthew McCaffrey and Ulrich Möller (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_127_Paper1 "'When Harry Met Fritz': Rules as Organizational Frameworks for Emergent Strategy Process" by Nicolai J. Foss, Matthew C. McCaffrey, and Carmen Elena Dorobăț (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_127_Paper2

20 Jul 2021

Episode artwork

Matt McCaffrey: Austrian Business Strategy (Part 1): Emergent, Not Planned

Interviews

Strategy is not the formulation of a plan. It is emergent from a process of exploration and discovery. Austrian economics is the best guide for entrepreneurial firms to put in place the methods and organization that unleash the power of emergence. Matt McCaffrey joins Economics For Business for a detailed exposition of the Austrian approach to Business Strategy.Key Takeaways and Actionable InsightsA firm is a vehicle for entrepreneurial action to generate value.All businesses and all firms are entrepreneurial. They start from — and continue with — an aspiration to generate value for both customers and the firm, and they act on this intention by assembling assets (resources, people, cash, machines, software, etc.) that are required to realize and deliver value. The goal is to bring a good or service to market that is valued by others. Value is the ultimate goal.There are clear conditions for this action to take place.There must be a decision-making authority for the firm, because someone (or some collaborative group) must decide how to select and assemble just the right combination of resources and make a specific product or service from the assembly. We call that decision-making authority the entrepreneur. A second condition is that someone or some group must bear the uncertainty of the action. It may not turn out the way that was expected. It may not be profitable. Less value may be generated, or none at all. This bearing of uncertainty is also the role of the entrepreneur.It's hard to get the operations of the firm just right, because of complexity and change.Why is all this so hard, and the outcome so uncertain? Two reasons: change and complexity. The subjective valuations of customers, who decide what is more valuable and what is less valuable, are changing and reshuffling continuously, depending on situation, mood, the choices of others, and a myriad of other influences. These changes can become trends, fads, segments, and competitive advantages and disadvantages. Continuous change contributes to the complexity of the resource assembly puzzle: there are innumerable ways in which resources can be combined and recombined in a firm, and getting the assembly just right is a difficult challenge that is never perfectly resolved.Therefore, the Austrian view of capital as a flow is a fundamental contribution to rethinking firm strategy.The resources assembled in an entrepreneurial firm are not valuable in themselves, but because they produce a good or service that the customer values and is willing to pay for. This value — translated into revenue through the customer’s willingness to pay — flows back to the firm as income. The flow of income is affected by each element in the firm’s capital combination and by the degree to which the combination is well-integrated for the value generation task. Customers drive the capital formation task. The entrepreneur is engaged in a never-ending process of combining different capital goods to find the combination that is the most serviceable in generating value. Treating capital as a value generating flow helps entrepreneurs in practice to manage the persistent process of applying resource combinations in the market to ascertain what value they generate. It’s dynamic process with no pauses.There are four implications for firm strategy — and they all contrast starkly with the traditional business school view of strategy.The business school view of strategy takes the form of sophisticated data-fueled top down planning models. Only a few special minds can take on this intellectually and computationally difficult challenge. Historically, the list of models has included Michael Porter’s Five Forces Model (a model of industry structure and how to create barriers to entry and competition); SWOT analysis (a model of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats from the firm’s point of view, with strategic implications for the management of each element); PESTEL analysis of the business environment (political, economic, social, technological, environmental, legal factors) and how they affect firm performance. The common thread for these models is that they are implemented top-down: the strategists apply the tools, draw conclusions, and instruct the rest of the organization how to act. Matt McCaffrey’s contrasted this top-down strategy approach to the Austrian strategy approach across four dimensions.Learning versus Rational DesignThe top-down models attempt rationalization: they view strategy as a rational design problem, to shape a distinctive internal competence to seize an external opportunity and evade external threats. This approach overlooks the crucial problem of learning. In circumstances of uncertainty, unpredictability, complexity and change, learning is the essential method of making progress. Changing conditions can never be known fully enough or fast enough by people at the center (in the strategic planning department) compared to front line employees. Firms must find a way to make use of this front line knowledge, through learning.Dispersion versus CentralizationTo enable the freedom to learn and to apply learning, decision making must be dispersed through the organization. A single mind or single planning unit can not centralize all the knowledge and can’t centralize decision making. A strategic plan is not feasible. Organizational design and decision-making processes must be decentralized and dispersed.Implementation versus Formulation.A comprehensive plan is impossible. Firms must seek a more adaptive framework. Processes and methods and forms of organization must be capable of adaptation to unforeseen events and new information. Continuous deliberate adjustments must be made in the light of new circumstances, which may arise every day. Therefore, Austrians see strategy as emergent not formulated via a planning process. Adaptive firms implement entrepreneurial actions, and then adapt to the learning, new knowledge and new circumstances that present themselves as a consequence.Structure versus StrategyThe business school approach is that strategy must be fully formulated, and only then can it be used to shape the structure and processes of an organization. Austrians take the opposite approach: the structure of the firm (its organization, processes and interfaces with the external environment) shapes strategy. Hayek used the term “structure of production”. This structure can be changed, but not instantly or seamlessly. Structure and strategy influence each other to some extent, but business schools tend to make strategy prior: that a firm is organized in response to the CEO’s vision. Austrians understand that this is not realistic because it’s not possible to restructure an existing organization every time a new vision comes along. There’s a high cost to structural change, and strategy must adjust.Emergent strategy is based on business rules.What, then, replaces top-down strategic planning? Austrians use the term “rules”. Rules are an internal device to help managers and employees make decisions on the spot in response to learning and new knowledge. Matt McCaffrey gave an example: whenever there is a break in the supply chain, repurpose old capital goods and bring them into the production process as a low cost way to fill the gap. It’s a broad and simple rule, and it enables decision making to go forward at the point of the supply chain break. People close to the action can use their local knowledge to solve the problem within the guideline of the rule. Another example was given by Bob Luddy, CEO of CaptiveAire, who set the rule for his firm to always have the best price in the marketplace. It’s a simple rule that requires tremendous local knowledge about prices of systems and components, of competitive offerings, and about turnaround time (a cost element of price) among many others. Sales and marketing people as well as engineers can make decisions following this rule.Rules sustain firm uniqueness.Business school strategists often focus on competitive advantage as the goal of strategy. But the concept of competitive advantage comes from neoclassical economics and the depiction of markets as bounded cage-fights for market share between similarly-resourced rivals. Austrian strategy focuses more on firm uniqueness. A firm’s distinctive rules can result in a unique mode of delivering value, and a unique perception in the eyes of customers. A brand is a set of rules that generates such a unique perception.The ultimate distinction: strategy is exploration.Strategy is emergent, not planned. Strategy is entrepreneurial. It’s a continuous process of learning through action and discovery. Sometimes, firms discover things they really wish they hadn’t. That’s part of the process through which, eventually, strategy evolves. It’s emergent. Over time, a firm can adopt some simple rules that seem to bring some order, but adaptation to new circumstances is always required. Profit is the signal that adaptation is successful. We use the term explore and expand to capture the Austrian approach to strategy. Firms are always exploring, seeking ways to improve performance. When some experiments yield promising results, they can be expanded. Explore and expand is a trade-off: how much of the available resources should be allocated to each type of activity. Entrepreneurs manage the trade-off in order to succeed. There’s no strategic plan from on high to make the trade-off for them.Additional Resources"Emergent Strategy Process Map" (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_127_PDF Austrian Perspectives on Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Organization by Nicolai J. Foss, Peter G. Klein, and Matthew McCaffrey: Mises.org/E4B_127_Book "Entrepreneurship and Firm Strategy: Integrating Resources, Capabilities, and Judgment through an Austrian Framework" by Matthew McCaffrey and Ulrich Möller (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_127_Paper1 "'When Harry Met Fritz': Rules as Organizational Frameworks for Emergent Strategy Process" by Nicolai J. Foss, Matthew C. McCaffrey, and Carmen Elena Dorobăț (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_127_Paper2

20 Jul 2021

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Matt McCaffrey on Entrepreneurship and Chinese Military History

Interviews

Matt McCaffrey is an Austrian economist who is currently associate professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Manchester. He talks with Bob about American economist Frank Fetter, before moving on to a staple of his research: the connection between Chinese military history and entrepreneurship.Mentioned in the Episode and Other Links of Interest:Matt McCaffrey’s paper on Chinese military history and on Frank FetterHoppe on economic method​For more information, see BobMurphyShow.com. The Bob Murphy Show is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and via RSS.

28 Jun 2021

Episode artwork

Matt McCaffrey on Entrepreneurship and Chinese Military History

Mises Media

Matt McCaffrey is an Austrian economist who is currently associate professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Manchester. He talks with Bob about American economist Frank Fetter, before moving on to a staple of his research: the connection between Chinese military history and entrepreneurship.Mentioned in the Episode and Other Links of Interest:Matt McCaffrey’s paper on Chinese military history and on Frank FetterHoppe on economic method​For more information, see BobMurphyShow.com. The Bob Murphy Show is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and via RSS.

28 Jun 2021

Episode artwork

Ep. 205 Matt McCaffrey on Entrepreneurship and Chinese Military History

Bob Murphy Show

Matt McCaffrey is an Austrian economist who is currently associate professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Manchester. He talks with Bob about American economist Frank Fetter, before moving on to a staple of his research: the connection between Chinese military history and entrepreneurship.Mentioned in the Episode and Other Links of Interest:Matt McCaffrey's paper on Chinese military history and on Frank Fetter.Hoppe on economic method.Help support the Bob Murphy Show.The audio production for this episode was provided by Podsworth Media.

1hr 5mins

18 Jun 2021

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Matt McCaffrey: Revisiting Rothbard

The Human Action Podcast

Murray Rothbard would have celebrated his 90th birthday this past week, so the Mises Institute held a reception in his honor at the ISFLC conference in Washington DC. Joining us to explain why Rothbard remains so relevant today is University of Manchester professor Matt McCaffrey, a former Mises Institute Fellow and editor of our new Rothbard Reader. Matt discusses Rothbard's amazing range of interests and knowledge, his relationship with Mises, his great opus Man, Economy, and State — written in his early 30s — and his enduring legacy in a sea of forgotten mainstream economists.To read Professor McCaffrey's and Professor Joe Salerno's introduction to the Rothbard Reader, click here. And order your copy here.

3 Mar 2016