So there's "No such thing as a free lunch."
That is the saying.
This is really a myth,
“In 1875, The New York Times elaborate free lunches as a "custom peculiar to the Crescent City" (New Orleans) saying, "In every one of the drinking saloons which fill the city a meal of some sort is served free every day. "
"A free lunch-counter is a great leveler of classes, and when a man takes up a position before one of them he must give up all hope of appearing either dignified or consequential. In New-Orleans all classes of the people can be seen partaking of these free meals and pushing and scrambling to be helped a second time."
Rudyard Kipling wrote in 1891, how he came upon a barroom full of bad salon pictures in which men with hats on the backs of their heads were wolfing food from a counter. It was the institution of the "free lunch" I had struck.
You paid for a drink and got as much as you wanted to eat. For something less than a rupee a day a man can feed himself sumptuously in San Francisco, even though he could be a bankrupt.”
Free is surrounded by myths.
The Freedom of Free
Increasingly both life and business is being dominated by the concept of free.
Free is a quiet revolution which has been steadily evolving over a long time.
Multiple expressions of “Free” exist as innovative and disruptive forces.
Free is driving new consumer patterns, creating new products and collapsing billion dollar industries.
Free is not a new idea.
Free has rapidly evolved into more and more complex concepts.
So you see, we have lots of types of free.
Today, we find ourselves at a unique point in history.
Where people globally, largely have unbridled access to a wide range of free information, services and products.
Unleashing “free” is amazingly powerful and potentially disruptive force.
The shades of Free includes free knowledge, free services, free-ium products, free products creating paid products, paid products subsiding free products, free products in non-financial markets through gift economy, labour exchange or free through piracy, are just some shades of Free.
So how may this affect you?
Is this concept of Free in Business? Freaky---economics or Free---conomics
Let explores some free paradoxes.
Free crumbles industries
A rite of passage during September school holidays was a trip to the Royal Agricultural Show.
I distinctly recall in 1977, after inspecting the wood-chopping, dogs, cows, show bags and scones in the CWA hall, my dad being bailed up by the Encyclopedia Britannica sales-man.
No “knowledge aspiring” household was without a set of these fine bound books.
After a good sales pitch, my father left with a lighter wallet and substantially heavier full-set of hard back encyclopedia.
In 1991, the encyclopaedia industry was approximately $1.2 billion.
Britannica was considered the Gold Standard with approximately $650 million sales, closely followed by World Book.
Both companies sold 100’s of thousands of sets for over $1000’s
By 1993, this permanently changed.
Microsoft launched Encarta for $99.
It started as a poorly regarded low grade encyclopedia on a CD.
They recognised changing technology and reduced production costs disrupted the competitive landscape.
By 1996 the market shrunk by half, decimating the incumbents.
Microsoft made $100M for a $600M reduction in the overall market.
Fast forward to 2009, Microsoft killed Encarta as Wikipedia which costs nothing, and again destroyed both printed & CD Rom encyclopedia markets.
Wikipedia makes virtually no money, however it provides a crowd built and incomparable information resource at no cost.
No self-respecting millennial or Gen y would consider paying for this knowledge.
They would expect it be free, instantaneous, 24x7x265 on tablet or mobile real-time.
This is the power of what free can do.
It can turn a billion $ industry into a zero dollar industry.
The Rise of Digital Free
The chant of the internet is
“Information – I want to be free”
The quandary is that information wants to be free in the same way water wants to find the easiest path and run downhill.
It becomes inevitable that it becomes unrestricted.
In a digital age information can be created and distributed at low or no cost, information wants to be free.
A guiding principle of information and free is:
"Abundant Information wants to be free, scarce information wants to be expensive.”
But the problem is scarce information is getting rarer.
Listen for the swirling sound…..
That is the money being sucked out of a market.
Free is rapidly evolving and accelerating with the cost of digital production rapidly diminishing.
Innovations like "Craigslist" killing classifieds, Wikipedia killing encyclopedia, e-trade killing stockbrokers is the sound of free process killing off industries.
Thinks of all the commodities we once purchased like videos, music, video, books, papers, magazines, long distance phone calls, messaging, mobile communication, medical & professional advice that are now free as an ever increasing trends.
This is where industries lose their pricing power.
Billion industries turn into million industries.
What does this mean for services and professions which are increasingly getting commoditised, and may eventually disappear or become free?
Free as the disruptive force.
How will professions respond, when traditionally, their services and knowledge have been sold for a premiumand then, it becomes free or very cheap elsewhere?
The new kings of free information are the influencers and systems who provide the 4c’s “content, conversations, community and connections.
Essentially category killers of influence creating billion dollar companies.
The successful winners are providing the platform for free information and prospering.
Free creates demand and builds profits.
Let's have a look, at another interesting story about Jelly and “Free” from the book
“Free, How Today’s Smartest Businesses profit by giving something for nothing.”
Now every kid loves jelly, but it was not always so.
Essentially Jelly is really a bit disgusting.
For anyone who has made beef stock, you will know it is a glutinous substance made from boiling flesh and bone.
When you collect enough, you purify it, add colour and flavour, put it a branded package and then you have created a product, a long way from its abattoir roots.
In 1895, Perle Wait, a carpenter with a side business of medical packaging looked to get into the package food business. Medical packaging meets food packaging.
The market struggled to understand what this “jiggly, translucent fun” was.
The main problem was that consumer didn’t understand what the product was and how to eat it.
So it took some time to prove popular with 1890’s consumers.
In 1902, a marketing genius tried something new.
They ran a very expensive advertisement announcing Jelly as the “most famous desert” and printed 10,000’s of recipes for salesman to give to households for free.
This created a large demand resulting in local shops stocking the product.
By 1904, this campaign turned into a runaway success and into millions $ sales.
Continuing on, they printed as many as 15 million free in the next few year and over 25 years, they distributed 250 million cookbooks door to door across the country.
This created a 20th century phenomena giving away one thing to create demand for another.
Free led to reset of consumer psychology, create new markets, broke old ones and make, almost any product more attractive.
Free did not mean “profitless”.
Free Money for a Free Life.
In a world of free, will the need for work could become redundant?
If key commodities in your life become free, how will you act in this new abundance landscape?
How about Free Money?
"Now, that is crazy talk,"
"Or is it?"
Across the world, countries are starting to create experience in Free Money or the Universal Free Wage.
Free Money or the Universal Wage is the “System of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, in addition to any income received from elsewhere”
We see multiple countries across the world trying this social experiment.
The concept of a universal basic income revolves around the idea of offering every individual, regardless of existing welfare benefits or earned income, a non-conditional flat-rate payment, with any income earned above that taxed progressively.
Can you imagine the explosion of debate “Free Money” will create?
The genie is already out of the bottle.
In the UK, a parliamentary motion was called to commission research into universal basic income which would be paid unconditionally to all citizens.
The motion states “an unconditional, “non-withdrawn” income paid to everyone, has the potential to offer genuine social security to all while boosting entrepreneurialism and the creation of small businesses”.
The intention is to provide a basic economic platform on which people can build their lives, whether they choose to earn, learn, care or set up a business.
Would “Free money” acts as a way of guaranteeing a minimum financial independence, and allow for an expansion in scope of the "social economy", by granting citizens greater means to pursue activities (such as the pursuit of the arts) that do not yield strong financial returns.
The concept of “Free Money” is a disruptive force on traditional concept of work.
What would you do if you received “Free Money”?
Free and Abundant.
How would people operate in this world of “abundance”?
Well that’s another story….
Living a Free Life of Possibility