Business Development: Doc Searls on relationship economics

Doc Searls talking about the values that open source development methods can bring to the economy came up with an interesting old story from the developing world. Few years ago he met a Nigerian pastor named Sayo, sitting next to him on an airplane trip, and he was on his way to give a talk about The Cluetrain Manifesto, a book I would recommend to everyone in this market.
Since Doc Searls was going to give a speech about the “Markets are conversations” chapter he spoke with Sayo about that, and he asked him what he meant by that.

After his answer, Sayo said that Searls’ observations were incomplete, in his opinion something more was going on in markets, and he asked him what was it:

I said I didn’t know. Here is the dialogue that followed, as close to verbatim as I can recall it…

“Pretend this is a garment”, Sayo said, picking up one of those blue airplane pillows. “Let’s say you see it for sale in a public market in my country, and you are interested in buying it. What is your first question to the seller?”

“What does it cost?” I said.

“Yes”, he answered. “You would ask that. Let’s say he says, ‘Fifty dollars’. What happens next?”

“If I want the garment, I bargain with him until we reach an agreeable price.”

“Good. Now let’s say you know something about textiles. And the two of you get into a long conversation where both of you learn much from each other. You learn about the origin of the garment, the yarn used, the dyes, the name of the artist, and so on. He learns about how fabric is made in your country, how distribution works, and so on. In the course of this you get to know each other. What happens to the price?”

“Maybe I want to pay him more and he wants to charge me less”.

“Yes. And why is that?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You now have a relationship”.

Doc Searls than shared that conversation with Eric S. Raymond, who told him that:

All markets work at three levels. Transactions, conversations and relationships.

Doc began to catch that there is something more to the relationship business:

Development communities are notoriously long on conversation (check out the LKML for starters), and on relationship as well. Not a whole lot of transaction there, either, since the code is free. Next question: Are there economies involved?

I think the answer is yes, and they are concentrated on the manufacturing end. We make useful code for its “because effects”. Thanks to Linux, much money will be made; but because of it, far more than with it.

Read the full article, I found it inspirational if not informational.