This is the story of two towns set on opposite sides of a small mountain range.
The towns were close enough to each other that people living in one could easily visit the people living in the other without having to cross over the mountain range or circumnavigate its base. They were also far enough apart that each community developed an increasingly distinct identity over the years.
The town set at the eastern edge of the mountains was known for its friendliness and its generosity toward others. The town to the east generated little knowledge or innovative products of its own but neighboring communities attracted to the town’s open friendliness, gladly shared their resources and knowledge This sharing and collaboration benefitted the entire region and expanded into strong cultural, commercial, and political alliances, providing a stable foundation that allowed all the towns and communities in the east to flourish over time.
The other town, the one set at the western edge of the mountains, was known for its innovation and proprietary advancements in technology. This town was proud of its amazing products and maintained guarded secrecy around the knowledge underlying them. The town’s deliberate isolation and limited access to its technological secrets drove up the value of its innovations and made its citizens extremely wealthy.
For many years, the town to the east maintained a certain dependency on the town to the west.
At first, the Easterners relied on the Westerners’ technological innovations to support their town’s infrastructure, as well as its citizens’ lifestyle choices. As the years passed, however, and the Easterners shared knowledge and resources with other neighboring communities, their dependency on the West lessened significantly.
Yet even as their dependency on the town to the west diminished, some Easterners continued seeking the Westerners’ products. But now, instead of purchasing the Westerners’ products as necessities, the Easterners pursued them as luxury items valued for their scarcity and uniqueness.
In this way, the town to the west continued to prosper economically, but it also began to stagnate in other ways. The decrease in outside demand for its products quelled the Westerners’ motivation to develop new creations. Their self-isolation and general contentedness with their own wealth gradually extinguished their pursuit of innovation.
As time passed, the town to the west generated less new knowledge and produced fewer resources of their own, eventually even losing the ability to be self-sustaining. Newer generations from the town migrated to eastern communities, looking for new ideas and experiences. Eventually, the last remaining occupants of the town either died or were taken to one of the thriving eastern communities.
Today, they say it is still possible to find the occasional Westerner antique in one of the shops on the eastern side of the mountain range, but that is all that remains.
Isolation and false scarcity can inflate the perceived value of ideas and products but sustained growth and innovation are inevitably the results of collaboration and openness.