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Winners and Losers-Market Decides Best

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

From the headline, you may think this column refers to the recent mid-term election. No, I wouldn't touch that topic with a ten-foot pica pole. (Pica pole is a special kind of ruler, now obsolete, that was once an essential tool in printing and newspaper production.) 

Some Reality Shows Improve Contestants' Lives 

Wife Susan and I really enjoy the segment of "reality" TV that celebrates and showcases talent and skill. "The Voice" in its fifteenth season puts much emphasis on coaching the contestants to help them each become better performers. Since music is an integral part of so many of their lives, win or lose, the whole "Voice" experience improves their lives. So, when we watch, we not only see and hear great performances, but we see the contestants grow in their skill and self-confidence each week. Since I make my living helping people improve their skills and self-confidence it's a very enjoyable experience for me to watch the show and follow the contestants. 

Not a Good Predictor of Winner and Loser 

Still, it is a contest. America loves the contest where winners float to the top and "losers" go home. Every week, the contestants are pared down, the winners moving on and the losers going home. The implication is that the winners will make it big in the music industry; the losers may not. In reality, many of the losers can make it in the music business too. The marketplace of entertainment audiences will best decide. All contestants, making it to the TV shows regardless of whether or not they win have a great opportunity. The exposure to millions of viewers gives them a shot at the entertainment business, seeing if there are customers that will buy what they have to offer, a great performance. "The Voice" is great television and sells a lot of advertising, but it is not necessarily an accurate predictor of who is really a winner or loser. 

So it is with various kinds of business or business plan contests and even TV shows like "Shark Tank." Participation is a good experience, but whether or not a particular business or business idea is selected as a "winner" is not a good indicator of whether or not the business will actually work. The marketplace, with all its customers and all their various needs is really the ultimate judge. That's why, in all the training and business coaching we do, we emphasize the need to start small and make some sales before trying to determine if a business idea is good or bad. All of us that are in the business of supporting businesses, teachers, coaches, economic developers, chambers of commerce, etc. are really not very good at knowing whether or not a business idea is good or bad. Only the market can determine that. 

Marketplace Best Determines Winners and Losers 

In a previous column, I pointed out the fallacy of the fundamentals of socialism. People don't do their best work when they know they are getting the same reward regardless of results. In developed socialist models, the government ends up determining which business ideas are good in a centralized or managed economy. Thus, the government chooses the winning and losing business ideas. Governments will never be any good at choosing anything like that. Only a free marketplace can best choose the winners and losers. 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks.  


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