Most times we do things because everyone does them or because they feel completely normal, they are part of life, but if you take that step back and ask yourself why and where did they start, you will start realizing that some of these behaviors have somewhat of a prehistoric origin.
If you look at pictures of some off the grid Amazonian tribe, do you ever wonder why they paint peculiar patterns on their faces or why they would ever wear such ornaments in their bodies? The feeling of distance to that culture is huge and in that you are right, you both probably live in very different worlds, but how different are these two worlds in reality?
Today, all cultures use different types of makeup, hats, necklaces, bracelets and other jewelry; so what is the difference? None, the reason is that as cultures become mundane we tend to normalize what we perceive as ours and don’t react to it as we would if we were exposed to it for the first time, but how do you think the Amazonian tribe’s folk would see our use of ties and polished shoes?
As we continue to normalize behaviors we lose track of their true origins and why they came to be. In particular I was interested on why we buy and sell things and why it feels so natural, enough that a whole practice, art, and science has been created around it.
To help me understand this, we have to go back a couple of million years ago when our ancestors basically lived like animals, their sole existence was based on obtaining sustenance, but unlike most animals they had an advantage, this advantage consisted on the use of tools. The use of tools gave way to division of labor, some would hunt and others would gather, this division, in unison with our own particular capabilities led to the development and enhancement of skills, skills that would be used to create more intricate tools and gadgets that would ultimately make our lives more complex, kick starting this cycle of evolution and naturally forming markets where we trade our skillset, products and ideas for others, especially those that we cannot create on our own.
These young markets were basic and based on trading goods and services of equal or similar value, which limited the purchase and sale of all goods and services. The solution was the invention of money; this was a great enabler because it became a medium that allowed any good or service to be broken down into smaller units, allowing the exchange of goods and services of different values.
In today’s highly complex markets, the basic idea holds, for the most part we produce and sell goods and services to be able to acquire others, just like our ancestors did. We are so used to buying and selling that we no longer bother much on understanding why some good or service costs a certain amount; for most purchases in our life, excluding a few situation such as a house or a car, we just trust the price tag and pay. I believe we do this because we don’t have leverage, don’t dare to negotiate, or because of social stigmas associated to negotiating.
In other cultures, negotiation is part of their daily bread, you are able to negotiate for your food, your clothing and everything else, which for most of us is unthinkable.
Thankfully, in the business world things have been taken on a different direction, more and more businesses are walking away from this normalized behavior of buying things at face value and have taken steps to study these goods and services, learn how they are comprised, understand their trends, calculate the effort required for it, and how much it should really cost so that they only trade the exact amount of money that we think that particular good or service is worth.
This level of expertise has led us into being more conscious, especially as markets become more competitive and we are obligated to optimize our resources. Changing the way we look at things might help us understand better what it is we are acquiring and sprout fresh ideas of how to get them. Alternatively, if you don’t feel you have the time and energy, firms like Source One can help you make these decisions using real world data and subject matter expertize to accomplish your savings goals.
It is important to break from this purchasing and selling normalization state we are in, we could all benefit, materially and intellectually from the exercise. The break from normalization is applicable to all sort of exchanges, not just business to business, but also between people to people, business to people or vice versa.
Next time you are looking to buy something try to pull yourself away from the automatic notion that it is fairly price, take a second to look at what gives that product its value, break it down and provide the seller your rationale why it is not fairly priced, you might just save money; if not, at least you learned something about the product, the way it is priced, and even reach the realization that you really don’t need it.