How to avoid being outsourced or open sourced

Kevin Kelly has a post entitled Better than Free that lists eight things people will pay a premium for, even while closely related things are free or cheap:

  • Immediacy
  • Personalization
  • Interpretation
  • Authenticity
  • Accessibility
  • Embodiment
  • Patronage
  • Findability

Daniel Pink has a related list in his book A Whole New Mind. Pink says the skills that will be increasingly valued over time, and difficult to outsource, are:

  • Design
  • Story
  • Symphony
  • Empathy
  • Play
  • Meaning

In The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman says four kinds of people are “untouchable,” that is, immune to losing their job due to outsourcing. These are people who are

  • Special
  • Specialized
  • Anchored
  • Really adaptable

In Friedman’s terminology, “special” means world-class talent, someone like Michael Jordan or Yo-Yo Ma. Anchored means geographically anchored, like a barber. For most of us, our best options are to be specialized or really adaptable.

How do these three lists fit together? You could see Kelly’s and Pink’s lists as ways to specialize and adapt your product or service per Friedman’s advice.

  • Meet your customer’s emotional needs (design, authenticity, patronage, empathy).
  • Make things convenient (immediacy, accessibility, findability).
  • Bring the pieces together, both literally (personalization, symphony) and figuratively (interpretation, story, meaning).
  • Be human (embodiment, play).

5 thoughts on “How to avoid being outsourced or open sourced

  1. I’ll add two non-scientific observations: if you make someone a lot of money, they will overlook a multitude of sins, and people do business with (and employ) people they like. SB

  2. Not sure you need to be world-class to be special. Very, very good will probably do. Personally, I am opinionated, cynical, never met a morning I didn’t hate and if I need to wear a suit it is going to cost you extra. However, because I have brought in, and saved, a lot of grant money for my clients over the years, my rates and backlog have continued to climb. As Scott said, if you make people money, you will have work.

    Through business cycles ups and downs, I have never seen the supply of excellence exceed the demand. Of course, this may be related to adaptability. If I had specialized in philosophy or rhetoric instead of statistics, I might have a different view.

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