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Less and better
(part one of two)

January 2003

disponibile anche in italiano

  Giancarlo Livraghi
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Slowly, but steadily, a new way of thinking is gaining momentum. People are feeling less comfortable with the myth of growth for growth’s sake and more for the sake of more. This isn’t just a mood in those parts of society and culture that disagree with the prevailing economic system. It’s being understood and discussed also by business analysts.

“Less and better,” some say, Or “less is better:” The two statements sound the same, but they are quite different.

Of course this doesn’t mean limiting desires to “bare necessity”. People have every right to want (and get) what they wish, including many things that could be labeled as “not necessary”. Such as culture, information, education – but also fun, amusement and entertainment. Freedom of choice is a right that can not, in any way, be reduced or hampered. What appears to some people as irrelevant may be valuable to others.

That said – let’s look at the first of the two concepts: “less and better”. In places, or parts of society, emerging from poverty the initial desire is for “more and more”. Abundance, per se, is a new and exciting experience. Over time, that perception changes. People are no longer interested in mere quantity, they want quality. “More and better”.

“Affluent” societies are moving into a third stage: “less and better”. This isn’t just to avoid wasting money. People don’t have room in their homes for more stuff that they don’t need. They don’t have the time to fiddle with unnecessary gadgets or to manage too much clutter.

There was a perception of this trend when Christmas sales were disappointing. But it isn’t just a temporary mood at a time of uncertainty. There is a deeper evolution, with long-term roots and effects. The exaggerated “more and more” approach still appears to be dominant, but the time has come to understand that there are other ways to business success.

This isn’t the end of the “consumer economy.” It’s a change of direction, that points to value, quality, service, instead of more for the sake of more, or new for the sake of new.

If that is true for all sorts of goods and services, it’s also very relevant for information and communication. There is too much of the same, or the irrelevant, that makes it difficult to find what is really interesting.

Especially online the lack of quality and service is more immediately perceivable – and instantly irritating. The clutter is unbearable. With ever-growing spam and never-ending invasive gimmicks, the rhetoric of abundance is heading for suicide. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone who can offer an alternative: a bit less and much better. Considering the average quality of online offerings, that isn’t difficult. And it can be very rewarding.

Internet data tell us that the quantity is there and continues to grow. There is an increasing, and largely unsatisfied, need for quality.

See also part two – Less is better


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