I did one blog demolishing all the wrong reasons people use to explain what created the modern world, The only source of the modern world is modern commerce, beginning with the industrial revolution.
I did another blog explaining the three main varieties of modern commerce, trade, clientry and industry. Understanding these three categories is necessary to see the elements of business around us otherwise not knowing these categories, living with the absence of noticeable differences, obscures the nature of modern commerce. Only the unique presence of ‘industrial business’, the category that aims to reduce costs, defines the modern commercial world.
There are four more steps to fully understand and appreciate why modern commerce is the source of the modern world. This blog is one of the four. This blog concerns the values that promote modern commerce and allow it to thrive. Meritocracy, diversity and openness are the three values and each gets a blog of its own,in this sequence. Meritocracy is first.
The meaning of diversity is next. The one after that attends of openness.
The final blog covers the history of modern commerce which I hope will offer a solid basis for understanding the sources of modernity. History explains how the ‘industrial’ model evolved out of meritocracy, diversity and openness as these qualities entered society to coalesce into modern commerce.
You can’t see the role of meritocracy, diversity and openness as vital values of commerce merely by walking through a shopping mall. Nor can you see it by working for a profit making business. If you could, everyone would be a pro commerce advocate.
I only saw these three values working as a consultant, all over the world, with more than two thousand businesses.
What is meritocracy? And why does it matter so much to modern commerce? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word ‘meritocracy’ was first used in 1958. I believe that. It is a recent term and a recent concept.
A meritocratic society is one that values individual merit over all else. The two most common forms of society that are not meritocratic are hereditary class societies and tribal societies. In an hereditary class society all important functions are offered to fellow members of the hereditary class, usually in birth order. In most of the world with an hereditary class society, such as England, France, Turkey, Spain, Brazil, the Philippines and hundreds more, valuable places in society go to the oldest son. That would be the top management position in the company, the legislative seat held by the father, the partnership in the watch business or any other valuable position. Sometimes the entire family receives the benefits of the hereditary family membership for entrance to the college, clubs and occupations of the father.
The other form of society that is not meritocratic is a tribal society. In a tribal society all the benefits of the tribe accrue to other members of the particular tribe. A tribal society can also have an hereditary family structure; and often does. All of Arabia, Africa and South America are tribal societies. In Jordan, the person chosen for a job or apprenticeships is always a member of the same tribe. In Jordan these tribes are: Abbas, Malik, Mustafa, Quraysh, Ghassan etc. Tribes have very extensive cousin relationships so all jobs go to ‘cousins’.
In China the tribes have names such as Wang, Li, Zhang, Liu, Chen, Xu etc . A nice apartment might become available in Shanghai but only a member of the Liu network will hear about it.
Some tribal societies use a little bit of merit in assigning valuable social assets. At a trucking firm run by the Malik family the cousin who is best with numbers might get the accounting job in the firm’s office. In the Kahn family dance school, the top teacher might occasionally be the best dancer. But the head of the school will be a Kahn.
In the very few meritocratic societies we have the rarest of strange behaviors. When we have position to fill, say a nurse at a VA hospital or a line cook in a French restaurant, we actually interview many people for the job and ask everyone we know to send us the most competent referrals. Then we pick the one who will fit into the business and do the best job. That is meritocracy. That is unheard of in most of the world and is largely irrelevant outside of modern industrial commerce.
Since merit is relevant to high levels of production, management and technology it becomes obvious that meritocracy is a keystone of industrial commerce in a modern commercial society.