Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Seth Godin

Since when does Capitalism exist to maximize civilization?

Unbridled

There’s a school of thought that argues that markets are the solution to everything. That money is the best indication of value created.

That generating maximum value for shareholders is the only job. That the invisible hand of the market is the best scorekeeper and allocator. “How much money can you make?” is the dominant question.

And frequently, this money-first mindset is being matched with one that says that any interference in the market is unnecessary and inefficient.

That we shouldn’t have the FDA, that businesses should be free to discriminate on any axis , that a worker’s rights disappear at the door of the factory or the customer’s at the lunch counter–if you don’t like it, find a new job, a new business to patronize, the market will adjust.

Taken together, this financial ratchet creates a harsh daily reality. The race to the bottom kicks in, and even those that would ordinarily want to do more, contribute more and care more find themselves unable to compete, because the ratchet continues to turn.

The problem with a race to the bottom is that you might win. Worse, you could come in second.

There are no capitalist utopias.

No country and no market where unfettered capitalism creates the best possible outcome. Not one.

They suffer from smog, from a declining state of education and health, and most of all, from too little humanity. Every time that the powerful tool of capitalism makes things better it succeeds because it works within boundaries.

It’s worth noting that no unbridled horse has ever won an important race.

The best way for capitalism to do its job is for its proponents to insist on clear rules, fairly enforced.

To insist that organizations not only enjoy the benefits of what they create, but bear the costs as well.

To fight against cronyism and special interests, and on behalf of workers, of communities and education. That’s a ratchet that moves in the right direction.

Civilization doesn’t exist to maximize capitalism.

Capitalism exists to maximize civilization. (And failing because it confused optimum and sustainability with maximization?)

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Impossible, unlikely or difficult?

Difficult tasks have a road map.

With effort, you realize that difficult is easy once you have the resources and commitment. Paving a road is difficult, so is customer service and fixing software bugs.

But impossible and unlikely are where we get hung up.

On Tuesday, Apple launched a thousand dollar phone. The engineers and designers had unlimited time (ten years since the first one), unlimited resources, unlimited market power.

It’s possible that there hasn’t been that much unlimited in one place in our entire lives. And, yet, all they could build was an animated emoji machine. A slightly better phone. A series of difficult tasks, mostly achieved.

It’s not that another breakthrough is impossible. It’s not that we’ve explored all the edges of human connectivity, of alternative currencies, of education, of personal transformation or generosity.

It’s not that we’ve already performed all the leaps in safety, in technology, in identity. Or even productivity.

Of course not. It’s not impossible to leap again with the magic computer we all have in our pocket.

What tripped up Apple, as it trips up many successful organizations or careers, is that the next leap isn’t impossible… it’s merely unlikely.

It was unlikely that the original iPhone would have actually been transformative, but Steve took a huge leap and got lucky on the other side. It could easily have gone sideways. He tried for something that was unlikely to work, but it did.

That same sort of leap, the one into the unlikely, is available to all of us, at different scales. It’s unlikely that our next brave novel, our next breakthrough speech, our next scary but generous project will succeed.

Unlikely but worth it.

Unlikely never feels quite the same as difficult, and sometimes it appears impossible. It’s neither. It’s something risky, and something without a map or a guarantee. We hesitate to do it precisely because it might not work, precisely because it’s more than difficult.

Working on an unlikely project takes guts and hubris. It requires us to have the insight to distinguish it from the impossible, and the desire to not merely do the difficult.

What percentage of your time are you spending on the unlikely?

Appropriate collusion (organizing the weaker side)

Businesses with power are prohibited from colluding with one another to set prices or other policies.

For good reason.

Public officials and economists realize that it’s quite tempting for an oligopoly to work to artificially create scarcity or cooperate–it creates significant short term profits and hurts those without the power to do something about it.

But that doesn’t mean that organizations don’t continually try anyway (and consistently)

Organizations with power now use data mining and software licenses to gain ever more one-sided relationships with those they used to serve. (Especially in the financial sector, with seconds of decisions)

They trade data about your credit and your surfing habits, among a thousand other things.

But what about the opposite?

What about the power shift that could result from the disconnected masses working together to push organizations to make change or to limit their upsides?

By banding together and coordinating information, they can prevent asymmetrical information and leverage from causing as much harm.

What would happen if 10,000 Wells Fargo customers had found each other years ago?

Years ago, twenty of AOL’s largest content providers got together (I think it was in a hot tub) at an event AOL was running.

We exchanged information about our contracts, our advances and our royalty rates. As a result of the shared information, everyone who participated got a better deal the next time around.

Coordination led to a shift in market power.

Kickstarter gives a small hint of this.

A creator says to disconnected people–if enough of you get together and indicate an interest, we’ll do this thing. This is also in the spirit of Fred Wilson’s Union 2.0. Organization creates market power.

But the internet can let us take this much further.

It can create enforceable group dynamics and help people find one another. And once found, they can insist on policies and offerings that the powerful organization would never have proposed.

And it turns out that this more equal engagement can help both sides in the long run.

This is particularly effective in high-value business to business settings, where a company might sell a very expensive service to 20 or 30 companies.

Knowledge about the best deal and coordination of desired features can make a huge difference for all concerned. That’s why computer user groups were so important back in the day.

What would happen if the 1,000 top high school football prospects all agreed not to play a few games unless colleges paid them for engaging in the health-endangering sport that makes these non-profits so much money they can afford to pay their coaches millions of dollars?

What would happen if the fifty cities in the running for Amazon’s second HQ established a binding agreement on what they wouldn’t do with taxpayer money? By creating a mutually shared line in the sand, they’ve ensured that the flow of capital won’t bankrupt any of them. The auction will still happen, but not in a destructive way.

They could make a similar deal about future sports stadiums or Olympic bids, a sucker bet in which the winner almost always loses.

Creating “I will if you will” contingent agreements is significantly easier once we use the block-chain and the real-time coordinating power of the net.

A conceptual example (hard to do with four weeks notice, though): The 50 cities agree that if all fifty cities agree, any tax break from a city or state to Amazon must be matched by that city or state with a 5x amount invested in their public schools.

If the mutual agreement doesn’t reach the critical number, no deal happens. If it does, then every mayor and every governor has a great reason to use other less costly incentives to win the ‘auction’ without violating the mutual agreement (or invest in schools, which is okay too).

The alternative is that we’ll continue to see large, powerful corporations and institutions peel away individual players (people or cities), one by one, without the famed free market there to ensure equity.

You probably have more in common with your neighbors than you think. If only you could coordinate the discussion…

Processing negative reviews

Assumption: Some people love what you do. They love your product, your service, the way you do your work (if that’s not true, this post isn’t for you. You have a more significant problem to work on first). (And they love and strongly hate my humors and good nature?)

So, how to understand it when someone hates what you do? When they post a one-star review, or cross the street to avoid your shop, or generally are unhappy with the very same thing that other people love?

It’s not for them.

They want something you don’t offer. Or they want to buy it from someone who isn’t you.

Or they don’t understand what it’s for or how or why you do it.

Some of these things you can address by telling a story more clearly, some you can’t.

Either way, right now, they’re telling you one thing: It’s not for them.

Okay, thanks for letting us know.

How complex are decision making?

Complex decision making is a skill—it can be learned, and some people are significantly better at it than others.

It involves instinct, without a doubt, but also the ability to gather information that seems irrelevant, to ignore information that seems urgent, to patiently consider not just the short term but the long term implications.

The loudest critics have poor track records in every one of these areas.

Mostly, making good decisions involves beginning with a commitment to make a decision.

That’s the hard part. Choosing the best possible path is only possible after you’ve established that you’ve got the guts and the commitment to make a decision.

 

Is better possible?

The answer to this is so obvious to me that it took me a while to realize that many people are far more comfortable with ‘no’.

The easiest and safest thing to do is accept what you’ve been ‘given’, to assume that you are unchangeable, and the cards you’ve been dealt are all that are available.

When you assume this, all the responsibility for outcomes disappears, and you can relax.

When I meet people who proudly tell me that they don’t read (their term) “self-help” books because they are fully set, I’m surprised.

First, because all help is self help (except, perhaps, for open heart surgery and the person at the makeup counter at Bloomingdales). But even this sort of help requires that you show up for it.

Mostly, I’m surprised because there’s just so much evidence to the contrary.

Fear, once again fear, is the driving force here.

If you accept the results you’ve gotten before, if you hold on to them tightly, then you never have to face the fear of the void, of losing what you’ve got, of trading in your success for your failure.

And if you want to do this to yourself, this is your choice.

But don’t do it to others. Don’t do it to your kids, or your students, or your co-workers.

Don’t do it to the people in under-privileged neighborhoods or entire countries.

Better might be difficult, better might involve overcoming unfair barriers, but better is definitely possible. And the belief that it’s possible is a gift.

We owe everyone around us not just the strongest foundation we can afford to offer, but also the optimism that they can reach a little higher.

To write off people because you don’t think getting better is comfortable enough is sad indeed.

Better is a dream worth dreaming.

What makes your sirens go off…

Somewhere, someone is doing something that got your attention, inciting you into action.

Somewhere, someone is:

  • Taking your share
  • Wasting an opportunity
  • Cutting ahead in line
  • Suffering at the hands of bully
  • Invading your territory
  • Announcing a deadline
  • Sharing breaking news
  • Disrespecting your tribe
  • Going hungry
  • Whispering juicy gossip
  • Misinterpreting your words
  • Not being offered an opportunity
  • Libeling a cause you believe in
  • Living with loneliness
  • Promising a shortcut
  • The victim of cruelty
  • Being cruel
  • Giving something away
  • Picking winners
  • Asking for help

Which of these is your kind of urgent, a chance to take umbrage or perhaps, a call to action?

Which one turns our heads, gets our attention and breaks our rhythm?

We notice what we care about and work hard to ignore the rest.

You can change what you care about by changing what you notice.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

November 2017
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