Scott Galloway’s The Four is a book on how to understand, navigate, and hopefully live in a fast-paced digital age that is currently dominated by the apocalyptical Four Horsemen named Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Referred to as Biblical “leviathans” these four technological companies have gained the power to defy law, control people’s private data, and create overwhelming business monopolies. They appeal to humanities need for love, sex, information, and selfies. While I may not support the Big-4’s underlying profit driven goals, I still believe we need to understand the digital landscape and pull out some leadership lessons than can be adapted and integrated into my dissertation research on spiritual warfare. This post will focus on the following two areas: how Amazon is forecast to influence my marketplace ministry and how the Big-4’s theme about getting serious about costs relates to Biblical principles.
Before I get into an LGP Elder style critical analysis, Bayard read-a-round, Newport deep review, and my reflections on how the book connects to my research I must first admit something. This book gave me a startling wakeup call for the future of my marketplace ministry. For starters, one of the Big-4, Amazon, may soon overshadow our marketplace ministry that focuses on residential and business parcel pickup and delivery services. Currently, about 10-15% of our package volume comes from people ordering from Amazon. But beginning this month Amazon is introducing their own business-residential delivery services that will reduce our parcel volume. They are building a distribution center 25 miles west of our current FedEx package terminal. I doubt USPS, UPS, DHL, or FEDEX saw this coming 10 years ago nor fully grasped the impact coming to their businesses. Nevertheless, according to Galloway’s assessment it looks like Amazon’s seemingly unchallenged success in retail sales and Prime service delivery is soon going to overpower, consume, and repurpose how my wife and I serve in our marketplace ministry. So, we wonder what our ministry will look like in five to ten years? We have used the Greek parable of the Hedgehog and the Fox. The Hedgehog, knowing one big thing, has been a type of business principle in our work and ministry that has yielded business growth and ministry fruit. It appears that the Fox, knowing many things, is becoming exceedingly clever by using AI, artificial intelligence, to overcome the traditional winning strategy of the hedgehog. AI is the game changer in the marketplace that watches and analyzes our digital footprint and then uses that information to feed our needs, fuel our desires, and create a type of digital addiction to the services provided by the Big-4. Galloway compares the retail merchandize and social services offered by the Big-4 to that of someone addicted to heroin.
I used to watch the Jetsons cartoon series in the early 1960’s when I was a youth. The flying cars, robots, and automated jobs were just some future thinkers’ fantasies, right? Yet, 50 year later they all exist! One thing is for sure, God knows! I take peace in knowing that He knows the beginning from the end and we are not to feel overwhelmed by the digital age. Instead, we should rest in Him, and continue to advance His Kingdom and complete the Great Commission, with or without the help of the Big-4.
Getting down to the business at hand; analyzing and integrating this book into my LGP leadership and global perspectives digital library. I compare the Big-4’s principle of getting serious about costs in business to the Biblical principle about getting serious about stewardship in ministry. The parable of the 10-Talents emphasizes that we are all stewards of our money, resources, and the congregants we might lead. I support the stewardship principle of managing costs, but not at the expense of our people. I believe there are times when we invest in others and pay forward with the risk that there will not be any financial reward. The Christian leader’s reward is knowing that everything belongs to God anyway, and the final solution is not earning 100% of the retail market share. Instead, the final solution is in seeing lives changed for Christ, one at a time. Amazon’s investment strategy, according to Galloway, borrows money to buy “extraordinarily expensive control delivery systems” so they can secure a future retail position that will “asphyxiate” their competition. For example, remote controlled drones used for parcel delivery.
While I believe in stewardship and controlling your costs, I think God’s investment plan does not align with the Big-4’s profit driven AI plan. God’s strategic plan is to invest in one life at a time so that each life might reflect the incarnational image of Christ to others, which will lead to the restoration and salvation of many. I do not see the salvation principle in the Big-4’s business plan. While the Big-4 might be gaining ground in the AI equivalent of some type of “all knowing” presence in the digital world, I believe their ability to collect personal data and predict spending behavior on humanity is shortsighted in comparison to the unfathomable omniscient characteristic of our triune creator God.
The following three reviewers round out this post on Galloway’s The Four. First, Kaufman leverages Galloway’s Big-4 and their digital world advances in his analysis of healthcare. He suggests that hospitals need to adapt to the fast-paced digital context if they are going to compete in the health care marketplace. He summarizes Galloway’s strategies for healthcare use as follows:
- Perfect your product
- Get serious about costs
- Remove friction
- Control the last mile
- Accelerate careers.
Second, Nadkarni says that Galloway’s book helps synthesize the strategies of the “Four Horsemen” Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google into personal applications that can improve “our lives to elevate our personal value.” Comparing “Google with God” is one of the stark comparisons that Galloway made in his book. Google does not have all knowledge, power, nor presence, but their use of AI and a free information search engine certainly dominate the global scene for information technology. Third, Gong says that Galloway criticizes the Big-4 because of their negative “impact on non-tech jobs” and their ultimate strategy of removing the human from the job. Also, Gong highlights Galloway’s business prophecy that “business mimics biology.”  He believe the Big-4 have the fate of mortality awaiting them like other business giants of the past like Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and others.
Finally, this is a must-read book for LGP leaders who want to understand, navigate, and withstand the influences of the digital age. Like spiritual warfare, AI and the digital age present a whole new set of schemes and challenges that must be understood. Only then can the Christian leader know how to prepare, train, and equip their analog flocks on how to survive against the digital wolf.