Friday, May 28, 2010

Emotional Transactions

It’s always nice when someone gets you.

Seeing this post by Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatch, about our work here at GlobalGiving gave me that sense.

He discusses how GlobalGiving uses the power of an “emotional transaction” to do good in the world—by allowing people not only to provide money to a cause, but to support an idea with which they genuinely connect.

This is the spirit we hope to foster through GlobalGiving: not only should we give to help change the world, but, in doing so, we should be engaging—intellectually and emotionally—with the people, ideas, and approaches that resonate with us and mean the most.

It is among those ideas—particularly when selected from among a vast marketplace—that we’ll find the most powerful ones (the “levers,” as Bill points out) to genuinely shift people and communities towards positive social change.

That’s what GlobalGiving is all about. Thanks, Kevin, for really getting us.
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Friday, May 14, 2010

A second bite of the Apple

In 1984 Apple launched the Macintosh. It was not the first graphical, mouse-driven computer, but it employed these concepts in a useful product. Then, in 2001, came the iPod. It was not the first digital-music player, but it was simple and elegant, and carried digital music into the mainstream. In 2007 Apple went on to launch the iPhone. It was not the first smart-phone, but Apple succeeded where other handset-makers had failed, making mobile internet access and software downloads a mass-market phenomenon.
That is from a nice article in The Economist about the launch of Apple's iPad.  As the article notes: "Apple...excels at taking existing, half-baked ideas and showing the rest of the world how to do them properly."  Earlier, I wrote about how we tend to think something WON'T work because it DIDN'T work when we (or someone else) tried it before.  But in fact most real breakthroughs come from someone tweaking something that has been tried before.  They may change the design details, or the available technology may have changed, or market conditions may have changed.  

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Complexity often kills

Tainter looked at several societies that gradually arrived at a level of remarkable sophistication that suddenly collapsed: the Romans, the Lowlands Maya, the inhabitants of Chico Canyon... [He concluded that] they hadn't collapsed despite their cultural sophistication but because of it.
That is from a nice post Mari sent me by Clay Shirky about the collapse of complex business models.  Clay continues:
Early on, the marginal value of this complexity is positive - each additional bit of complexity more than pays for itself in improved output - but over time the law of diminishing returns reduces the marginal value, until it disappears completely.  At this point, and additional complexity is pure cost.

It is frequently hard to simplify complex systems, because "the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change."  Often, "[c]ollapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification."

Clay's essay reminds me of what happened to the Soviet Union.  Gorbachev was unable to merely simplify central planning, and it finally collapsed.  All is not lost, however.  Bill Easterly argues here that complex systems can work well if they have "rules and incentives for the participants that make them self-correcting."