Feb 11

About pies

What is the only type of pie that doubles in size when shared with another person instead of halving it?

-a happiness pie

Derived from a comment made by Felix Starck, who starred in and directed the film, Expedition Happinesshttps://www.facebook.com/expeditionhappiness/.

It’s his journey with girlfriend, Selima Taibi, together with their faithful dog (Rudi) through Canada, the US and Mexico on a school-bus converted to a tiny (handmade) home on wheels.

Prof Bruce

postscript: this is actually not literally true. There are other kinds of “pies” that increase in size when shared.

What is the value of owning the first ever fax machine in the city of Ottawa (guilty), if there is no one else to fax to?


But after cajoling my lawyer into getting one (after convincing him that a facsimile machine was better than a bike courier), the network of two nodes proved mighty useful. Of course, in a few years, there were millions of the gadgets…

Same thing is true about email or, for that matter, social media, search or the internet as a whole. Value increases exponentially as more people, more websites, more nodes, more use, and more communication take place.

The modern economy is all about creating more options so that the statement, “More pie for you, means less for me,” does not hold.

Here’s an excerpt from Entrepreneurs Handbook II (which I wrote in 2013, https://brucemfirestone.com/product/entrepreneurs-handbook-ii/) that tackles this more fully:

Teamwork in the 10th Millennium BC

Another ‘secret’ to making entrepreneurial endeavors work is teamwork. According to noted urban economist Jane Jacobs all human economic development stems from development of villages, towns and cities. Think about that for a minute. What is so special about cities, towns and villages?

Well, it’s by proximate cohabitation that we learn about each others strengths and weaknesses and learn to share and divide tasks according to individual skill sets.

Many people have the view, ‘More pie for you means less for me.’ Folks fighting a number of years ago on Canada’s East Coast at Burnt Church over lobster quotas clearly believe this old economy saw and, maybe they are right.

But it is possible that they aren’t.

Economic growth derives from a multiplying of options, from specialization, from comparative advantage, from the development of standards and, in the new economy, from network effects, disintermediation and scalability.

Now let us go back in time to the land of Ugh, Nnn and Zll.


The Local Economy of Ugh and Nnn, Circa 8000 BC

In the land before time, the family of Ugh lived by themselves on the savannas of Africa. Ugh was an expert antelope hunter providing his family with four antelopes a month. His carving skills, however, were poor, producing only one set of flint knives per month. A mile away, the family of Nnn is hungrier—Nnn is a good flint knife producer, producing three sets of flint knives per month but only bagging one antelope.

Ugh and Nnn meet by accident one day at the river and, for some reason, decide not to kill each other. Instead they decide that their families should co-locate to form a village, at first, for the protection of both. By co-locating and forming this first primitive village, they also open up the possibility of observing each other more closely which in time leads to more cooperation and the possibility of trading between their families.


Ugh Carrying Spear, Nnn Looking for Flint Material

The result is that after a few months, they decide that Nnn will concentrate entirely on producing flint knives while Ugh focuses on hunting. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of their two families before co-location is five antelopes and four sets of flint knives per month. After co-location and specialization, GDP has increased to seven antelopes and six sets of flint knives. This represents a phenomenal increase in the wellbeing of the two families. So much so that this first village is producing goods surplus (profits again) to their needs. This sets up the possibility of trading with a third family, the family of Zll, who are expert in producing textiles (hand sewn animal skins) resulting in a further substantial increase in value for an emerging regional economy.

This simple example demonstrates why ‘more pie for me’ doesn’t necessarily mean less for you. You will note too that this primitive economy works because information about Ugh’s hunting prowess is flowing from Ugh to Nnn and information about Nnn’s skill with flint knives is flowing from Nnn to Ugh. What this means is that it is the beginning of an information economy that first opened up the opportunity for explosive economic growth—it shows how improved communication even in the 10th Millennium BC causes economic growth through the multiplication of options and opportunities. It wasn’t until after the 1994 introduction of the Mosaic Browser which turned PCs into mass communication devices that productivity took off and the long promised payoff from huge investments in technology finally arrived.

People need people like no other animal on the planet—we are uniquely codependent on each other. Skill sharing is the most fundamental reason for the improvement in the human condition. What we seem to be missing in many of our communities today is the feeling of belonging to a ‘tribe’; that feeling of belonging to ‘Team Ottawa’ or ‘Team New York’. We get that feeling during times of great stress like the September 11th, 2001 bombings of the World Trade Center Towers during which we all stand together against evil. But what about the rest of the time, can we do better?

I have given a lot of thought about how to engender more of this type of fellowship in our cities and towns. It is about more than just feeling good about yourself and your team. It’s about improving living conditions and productivity too. Sports teams, festivals, artist colonies, the performing arts, entrepreneurs, researchers, designers, all those people involved in creative pursuits seem to add to the feeling of belonging which leads to higher team spirits. People working in teams can create far more than individuals working alone.

City-State Creativity + Productivity = FUNCTION (City-State Team Spirit)

City-State Team Spirit = FUNCTION (Bohemian Index)

Bohemian Index = FUNCTION (Festivals + Performing Arts + Universities + Entrepreneurs + Researchers + Artists + Sports Teams + Tolerance of Diversity)

Ottawa’s Tulip Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2002 by creating five-foot high tulips (partly in answer to the wildly popular Toronto Moose). Each tulip was then painted by a local artist, shown around town and then auctioned off in support of charity. It was fun, it was memorable and led to good feeling amongst our citizenry. Cities and towns all over vie to have the biggest something-or-other—hockey stick, strawberry, apple, axe, lobster, catfish, bowling pin, Cuckoo Clock, Lava Lamp, penny or whatever. Why not the tulip?

Biggar, Alberta has a cool slogan, ‘New York is big, but this is Biggar.’ (Just a little bit better than Ottawa’s former $200,000 slogan: ‘Technically Beautiful’ don’t you think?)

People are always talking about limits but ideas aren’t limited. They are for all intents and purposes infinite. There are no limits to human ingenuity. But you need a great team to make these ideas actually work for you.

Tags: 10000 bc ugh nnn economic development pie sharing happiness

Bruce M Firestone, B Eng (civil), M Eng-Sci, PhD
ROYAL LePAGE Performance Realty broker
Ottawa Senators founder
Real Estate Investment and Business coach


Spread The Word

About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.