Dismantling Lock-ins and Tragedies of the Commons
Book chapter, 2014
Most of us are affected by “thought models” that lock us into mindsets and behaviors that create inertia for change. We may remain for long periods of time in this state without any need for significant changes. But the lock-in can become a threat to the individual, the organization or the society that is locked-in when the context in which one “operates” changes faster than one can unlock. The inertia to change inhibits sufficiently rapid adaptation. From an evolutionary perspective, such inhibitions can be life-threatening. Many examples can be given where individuals, companies and societies die off because of inabilities to adapt caused by lock-ins in mental models unsuitable for the contextual changes they experience (cf. Diamond, 2006).
This lock-in effect may be one important explanation for why society, despite our knowledge regarding human-caused environmental degradation, climate change and the extinction rate of other life forms, seems so reluctant to do something about it.
It may also be one important explanation for why companies seem reluctant to change their product offerings despite the insight that those who do – in directions that solve the environmental challenges in ways appreciated and valued by their customers – will experience “one of the biggest business opportunities in the history of commerce” (Hart and Milstein, 1999:25).
Lock-in can appear at all three system levels of society: the individual level, the organizational level and the societal level. Each of these three levels’ lock-ins pose threats and opportunities for the entrepreneur.
This article tries to dismantle these lock-ins and the tragedies of the commons that seem to be consequences of these lock-ins. The focus is the entrepreneur and it is discussed how the threats can be addressed and opportunities exploited in ways that will benefit the entrepreneur’s business.
tragedy of the common