Every value chain involves, broadly, three archetypes.
The prospectors (or explorers) driven to discover, or create, something new. Something that the world needs, or that is in short supply. Over time; spices, precious stones, gold, oil, money, mass production techniques, the internet. Prospectors bring these into being though passion, commitment, love. In their first iterations they are often quite crude, but start a landslide.
The craftspeople who take these first iterations and develop them through experimentation, collaboration, initial offerings. They get a sense of the potential of the idea, product or material and refine them. they are artists, and have the same endless drive for perfection.
The merchants understand where the needs are, and act as the bridge between the concept of the craftspeople and the demand in the market. As demand develops, they find others who can produce facsimiles of the craftspeople’s art in order to meet volume demand, and increase margins. In the end, whilst the original art remains at a premium, the majority of the market is served by good enough, formulas, algorithms.
For the last hundred years at least, we have been in the age of the merchant. I suspect however, that it has just about run its course. We can buy versions of all that is desirable, even if we can’t afford the original. We’re becoming sated with “stuff”. Originality, meaning and beauty is harder to find when we measure everything in money.
We need prospectors to find us new sources of value in age where we have to reframe how we live and work on a planet we are putting under pressure.
What we need to discover is out there waiting for us to find it, and we have the imagination and skill to polish and perfect what we find.
But first, we have to go looking. It will not just be served up on demand.