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Reciprocate giving – for start-ups

Reciprocate giving – for start-ups

For once, Product Managers will introduce you a sociology topic rather than a marketing one !

Some trendy notions: cooperation, network and … ethology, through which we will see how “Mother Nature” often gives us business lessons.

These more sociological than economic notions contribute to the development of start-up companies evolving in a competitive environment.

By network, we do not only mean social network in the “internet” way, but more a network of individuals and companies in an exchange system way. This is for example, the whole of the relations of the head of the company: with whom he can exchange and think about various subjects, to whom he can ask about a particular issue, etc. This network is most of the time informal and does not have any independent existence of its efficiency. Furthermore, these exchanges are not only ruled by in an economic-only interest. The basis of this network is the reciprocate giving principle, which is much more flexible but also much more engaging than the pure economic logic.

What is reciprocate giving?

This mechanism has been highlighted by B. Malinovski (“Les argonautes du Pacifique occidental – Gallimard, 1989) and explained by Mauss. It is based on 3 actions: giving-receiving-reciprocating, which occur in different place, circumstances and time. This market is by essence never balanced.

This permanent imbalance represents the basis of social exchange. It put the participants in a reciprocity situation, a debt vis-à-vis the others. Finally, it does not concern only 2 people but a chain of people linked by the gift. This is the social body in its whole that is the guarantee of the well-functioning of the system.

Winning association: the vampires blood donation

Ethology teaches us that cooperation between the members of the same specie has largely contributed to the survival and development of the species.

A good example is the blood donation of the Azara’s Vampires. This bat living in Central America, feeds itself with horses and donkey’s blood. It lives in groups of 8 to 12 individuals.

This vampire is extremely weak because it cannot survive more than 2 consecutive nights without eating. However, another member of the group which has been well fed can share with the starving one a little quantity of blood that will enable it to stay alive for another night.

The cost of the sharing for the donor is of about 5 to 6% of autonomy and the benefit is of about 30% for the receiver.

G.S Wilkinson has shown thanks to mathematic modeling that the annual death rate of vampires would be of 82% without blood donation whereas it is of 24% in reality.


It turns out that donors and receivers are individuals that spend 60% of their time next to each other. We observe that the donors became receivers more than by sheer chance.

We point out that at the basis of this altruist system, there is the possibility of reciprocity which has, to be effective, to be based on total trust in the others.

Catherine KOKOREFF


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