Watch the replay >>
Sometimes I wonder why we have forgotten these principles from the late Paul Polak. When I chatted with him about the $300 House, he wanted me to reconsider and make it a $100 House. His point was simple: affordability drives design.
Now, as part of the research agenda of the Regenerative Marketing Institute, I’m thinking about how these BoP principles and Stuart Hart‘s BoP protocol apply to the developed world — to communities trying to find a way back from the COVID-crash.
Here are Polak’s principles:
1) Go to where the action is. You can’t solve poverty from a World Bank office.
2) Talk to the people and listen to what they have to say.
3) Learn everything about the context of the problem and the people.
4) Think and act big. No reason to be modest. Small solutions applied thousands of thousands of times.
5) Think like a child to find the obvious solution people have missed in the past. (Irony of thinking big and like a child)
6) See and do the obvious. Emersing yourself in the problem helps.
7) If someone has invented it–you don’t have to. Find existing solutions
8} Make sure your approach can be scaled up.
9) Design for the poor. Affordability rules the design process with poor customers.
10) Follow practical 3 year plans. Must transform into effective work plan for 3 years.
11) Continue to learn from your customers. (Interviewed more than 3000 farm families, $12 solar lantern)
12) Don’t be distracted by what other people say (Almost every project I’ve done has had sceptics)
Let’s add another principle for impact innovation:
13) Design for justice. (The design schools don’t)
Where does it end?
The billionaires don’t need employees.
Humans are too much trouble. Far better a company run by robots.
Will the customer be a robot too? And, can we replace the CEO with AI?
If you missed it, you may want to check it >>
What are we going to do now? The #forkintheroad which Buckminster Fuller warned us about is here now >> “Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment… Humanity is in a final exam as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in the Universe.”
What will it take to leap across the chasm and undo the destruction we’ve caused? Why can’t the UN fix it?
We’re hurtling into a state of climate emergency whilst we simultaneously face the convergence of the Wicked7.
What are the Wicked7? The world’s most urgent problems.
We’ve distilled over 200 problems into the Wicked7:
- The Death of Nature
- Hate & Conflict
- Power & Corruption
- Work and Technology
- Health and Livelihood
- Population & Migration
You can’t solve wicked problems. That’s what we’ve been led to believe. And for years, we haven’t. Solve them, that is.
Well, if not now, then when?
Wicked problems must have virtuous solutions. If any lesson has emerged from this COVID-19 pandemic, it is this: we must address the urgent problems of the world now, or perish. Why? Because COVID-19 is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg… the ecosystem of wicked problems will not wait.
After working on this idea for over a year, Philip Kotler and I kicked off the Wicked7 Challenge on April Fool’s Day, 2021.
Our first challenge? The Death of Nature.
Join us >>
P.S. – Bucky Fuller was wrong. Thanks to Sonmoy, one of our W7 advisors, we now see that there’s a triple fork in the road, and utopia is simply no longer an option. What we must fight for is survival.
A special thanks to the Business Ecosystem Alliance and Dr. Annika Streiber for hosting me on the topic of “Ecosystematic” – the forthcoming book co-authored with Philip Kotler:
Join Philip Kotler and myself as we kickoff this project to “save humanity from itself.”
WEBINAR >> April 1, 2021 >> 4 pm EASTERN / 10 PM EU
REPLAY available here >>
I still think of Larry Keeley‘s 10 types of innovation – and think about how the model can be applied to social innovation – to meet the “unmet needs” of society.
The 11th type of innovation is purpose – to what ends are your capabilities and talents being deployed? Are you inclusive or is your company supporting new forms of apartheid? That is what Brand Activism, and by extension – the Wicked7 Project – are about.
So how do we determine society’s Jobs to be Done?
Find out on March 31st (2:00 PM -2:45 PM ET) when I chat with Strategyn’s Tony Ulwick about this and more . Register here for the free webinar.
One of the points of the Wicked7 Project is to demonstrate how we have a shared responsibility — business, government, and social institutions — to work together for the future of the planet.
By definition, solving society’s most urgent problems is a balancing act between the various requirements and needs of the different stakeholders across all sectors. Our policy-making must be driven by this idea of balance if it is to create a sustainable and resilient society.
Read >> The Unmet Needs of Society: Introducing Multi-stakeholder Jobs to be Done by Christian Sarkar, Anthony Ulwick, and Philip Kotler.
In 2015, the late architect and teacher Abhijit De and I wrote an article for Thinkers called The Ecosystem of Poverty: Lessons Learned from the $300 House.
In it we popped in a chart that was constructed after days and months of debate with students, surveys and discussions with villagers in rural India, and the “experts”:
Soon after, we were working on the concept of a “smart village” – with the sobering realization that the problems of the poor are not going to be solved without solving other wicked problems. A few days before his untimely passing, we discussed expanding this chart.
This “ecosystem of wicked problems“ is not going to magically vanish. It needs our attention, now more than ever.
And that’s the point of The Wicked 7 Project.
Join us >>
Professor Philip Kotler – the “father of modern marketing” – and I have co-authored a book: Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action.
Brand activism is driven by a fundamental concern for the biggest and most urgent problems facing society. The main idea here is that when government fails to do its job, business has a civic responsibility to stand up for the public interest. It’s what a good citizen does.
available in the following countries
The book introduces the reader to regressive and progressive Brand Activism, and shows how the best businesses are making the world a better place because their activism is a differentiator – for customers, for employees, and for society at large. We also examine the role of the CEO.
Here’s a look at the table of contents:
The book includes the Sarkar-Kotler Brand Activism Framework, a toolkit for business leaders looking to transform their companies and institutions.
The book also includes interviews with leaders from various fields:
- Scott Galloway
- John Elkington
- Raj Sisodia
- John Ehrenreich
- Christopher Davis
- Stephen M. R. Covey
- Hennie Botes
- Stuart L. Hart
- David “Dread” Hinds
- Clark Fox
Finally, we’ve launched a separate website to help individuals who want to learn more – www.activistbrands.com. We hope you find it useful.
How does innovation happen? Most company’s struggle to understand how innovation works, often confusing creativity with innovation. In today’s tacit, knowledge-based creative economy, innovation and differentiation rarely come from one distinct source. Rather, innovation evolves from:
- new ways of thinking,
- new business models,
- new processes,
- new organizations (or new collaborative inside/outside team structures),
- and new products (offerings including services)
- Research shows that the volume of ideas bouncing about make large cities disproportionately more creative than smaller towns.
- Having multiple hobbies allows your brain to subconsciously compare and contrast problems and solutions, forming new connections at the margins of each.
- Similarly, reading multiple books at the same time vs serially lets your brain juxtapose new ideas and develop new connections.
- Wandering minds are more creative.
- Studying a field “too much” doesn’t limit creativity — it does the opposite. More ideas banging about just produces even more ideas.
- The “accept everything” mantra of brainstorming doesn’t work. Debate is far more effective. Let those ideas fight.
- ADD and bipolar disorder are both associated with greater creativity. When you’re drunk or exhausted your brain is poised for breakthroughs.
- Even with teams, it’s better to mix up experience levels, familiarity with one another and other factors to keep things rough around the edges.
There’s plenty of advice out there for UK-based TESCO’ s new CEO Dave Lewis as pledges to return to the core of Tesco’s business, “in price, availability and service.”
For me, there’s a critical question: what one change will deliver an 80% difference in results?
I think I know. I spent 6 months visiting TESCO at least twice a week when I was in Hertford, and all I can say is “wow.” If you just view TESCO with the eyes of a typical US customer, it’s obvious what that 80% difference is.
There really aren’t as many difficult calls as it seems.
So, what’s the one thing TESCO has to focus on? Restocking shelves to meet demand during and after peak traffic.
Every evening, right after after-work traffic died down, here’s what the TESCO produce section would look like:
And that’s not all, their soft drinks are not replenished either. So if you go buy a Dr. Pepper in the morning, and then come in the next day – guess what? No availability.
This was a problem all over England.
Dave Lewis, just fix it. Whatever it is they do here in the US to keep stocks replenished, copy it.
That’s it. The one thing that will save TESCO.
One of the reasons why Houston will never get a shot at hosting the Olympics (not that we want it, at this point) is because we don’t have a world-class transportation system. So while Houston is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the US, we’re not even close when it comes to public transportation (can you believe we’re behind Dallas?). According to the 2010 U.S. Census, we have a population of over 2.1 million people and a land area of 599.6 square miles (and that’s not counting the suburbs).
Houston is second only to New York when it comes to resident Fortune 500 companies.
So what’s the problem? Why doesn’t Houston have a world class transit system at this point in its history? And what can be done?
The traditional finger-pointing is political. Suburban taxpayers who supported referendums in 2003 and 2012 have demonstrated a desire for development, only to have officials shortchange them. The latest in line is John Culberson, but to be fair, past opposition has come from both sides of the political aisle.
And who is behind these politicians? You don’t have to look very far to see that Houston is an energy town – in fact it’s the “energy capital” of the world. Our energy companies are not interested in a world class transit system; for them, seems like widening the freeways is the only solution. This lack of civic leadership reflects poorly on our city and is going to be a burden going forward. Those Fortune 500 companies that call Houston home will find a better place to live.
To be clear: between the lack of leadership from business and the misleadership of our elected officials, Houston has a third rate transit system, used by less than 3% of the population.
There is no long-term plan in place. That, in itself, speaks to the magnitude of the problem. Furthermore, any plan we do get is probably going to be a constrained plan that does nothing to address the real challenge.
What can be done?
How can we bring our politicians and business leaders together? Or is Houston doomed to remain a third-class city when it comes to mass transit?
The reason I wrote this blog post was to highlight a third way. Let’s look at an example from a country and place where things are a lot harder than Houston. Delhi – the capital of India – is a city with 9.9 million, with horrible infrastructure problems. Over the years, like Houston, no real attempt was made to build an infrastructure equal to the needs of the citizens.
Then, in October 1998, ground was broken on a comprehensive metro system that had been talked about for over three decades. Today, the Delhi Metro is the world’s thirteenth largest metro system
in terms of length. The network consists of six lines with a total length of 189.63 kilometres
(117.83 mi) with 142 stations, of which 35 are underground, five are at-grade,
and the rest are elevated. All stations have escalators, elevators, and tactile
tiles to guide the visually impaired from station entrances to trains. It has a
combination of elevated, at-grade, and underground lines, and uses both broad
gauge and standard gauge rolling stock.
What can Houston learn from Delhi? At least three things:
1) build a METRO system worth having: don’t build a system that just clogs up already busy lanes to shuttle folks from one business hub to another. Focus on the real issue: mass transit, specially the mass part. We should aim for getting around 20-30% of our citizens on the METRO during rush hour, and that will only happen if we focus on real solutions.
2) use the right-of-way on existing freeways: the genius of the Delhi rail line is that it is elevated and runs along the main highways already in place. In Houston, this would mean our HOV lanes would be turned into METRO lines – elevated, above the traffic. Even the stations are elevated; which sounds weird, but actually it works very well. The image below is a METROstop along the line – well above the freeway:
3) mass transit is too important to be left to METRO alone: in Delhi, and you have to appreciate the extent of corruption in public office to understand this, a special purpose organization was formed called the DMRC. This cross-agency team was vested with great autonomy and powers to execute the gigantic project. In Calcutta where they did not have such a cross-agency team, the Kolkata
Metro was badly delayed and 12 times over budget due to “political
meddling, technical problems and bureaucratic delays.” The first
phase of the Delhi Metro project was completed in 2006, on budget and almost three years
ahead of schedule, an achievement described by Business Week as “nothing
short of a miracle”.
So can miracles happen in Houston? They can, if only our politicians and METRO folks would actually share some values – like putting aside their petty interests for the good of the city. I’m not holding my breath. Hey, maybe we can build some more public funded sports arenas; those projects seem to have no problem getting funded!
Here’s an interesting classification or segmentation of change makers (from Deloitte) along with some advice on how to make a difference via collaboration >>
Steady Supplier: Combine your contextual knowledge with the Public Value Innovators to create new value
Multirational Multinational: Engage with Citizen Changemakers to gain local insights and ideas
Investors: Connect Wavemakers to amplify impact
Public Value Innovator: Leverage the reach of the Multinationals to reach more communities
Citizen Changemaker: provide feedback to all in order to get to root issues
This is going to be a central theme in business going forward: what is our purpose?
Here’s William Cohen talking about Peter Drucker‘s perspective:
“…until Drucker came along most everyone believed the basic “fact” that the purpose of a business was to make money. That is, to make a profit. This belief leads to a corollary, another myth, believed by all–that is, that the goal of any business is profit maximization. In other words, whatever your business, your goal should be to make as much profit as possible. If you accept making a profit as a business’s purpose, the second part just follows naturally. This might even seem worthy to many. To quote Michael Douglas’s famous (or infamous) statement in his role as Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movieWall Street: “Greed is good.” Even today many “know” greed, or profit maximization to be the correct prescription for business success, even if it is amoral or shouldn’t be “good” from a moral perspective. Not so fast, Gordon. As Drucker so often said, whatever everyone knows is usually wrong, Hollywood films not excepted. Drucker told us first that profit is not the purpose of business and that the concept of profit maximization is not only meaningless, but dangerous.”
Now Ratan Tata and gang (myself included) have a similar message:
The problem with industrial capitalism today is not the profit motive; the problem is how the profit motive is usually framed. There is a persistent myth in the contemporary business world that the ultimate purpose of a business is to maximize profit for the company’s investors. However, the maximization of profit is not a purpose; instead, it is an outcome. We argue that the best way to maximize profits over the long term is to not make them the primary goal.
So what is to be done?
What is your company doing to create purpose beyond profits? The future of our planet depends on your answer.
The legendary reggae band releases the 2012 version of the Barack Obama Song >>
The 2008 video version is here >>
I know what some of you are thinking – “Well, did America have a soul to begin with?” I happen to think it did. For me the soul of America is “We, the people…”
Furthermore, I’m quite sure that people, as defined by our founders, did not mean corporations. (See what Charles Handy has to say >>)
But to get back to the topic of inclusivity, I’d like to make a shameless plug for our new book, co-authored with University of Michigan’s Professor Michael Gordon, called Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?
BUY now >>
- How can companies take better care of their employees–and thrive?
- Why don’t they see the opportunities in creating social value?
- Do Americans think we have a fair distribution of wealth?
- What are new means of putting our collective talents to work?
- How can communities take the lead in creating opportunity?
- How can public education prepare all students for the future?
- How can better health care be made available without doctors?
- How can communities do something about global warming?
- How can you make a difference?
- Why should you care?
Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again is a book of questions, hints, and suggestions about creating more opportunity for more people–starting with the USA, but looking at and learning from the rest of the world.
The very idea of the “United” States is based on the principles of inclusivity–all men and women are created equal under the law. But we seem to have lost our conviction that inclusivity is possible or even to be desired. The current divisive political climate, along with economic uncertainty, has fostered an atmosphere of fear and narrow-mindedness across the country.
What can we do in the face of this reality? The choice is not easy, but it is clear. Either we will decide to be more inclusive, or we will turn against each other – finding reasons to divide ourselves, not just from each other as citizens, but also from a shared future.
The USA, unless we decide otherwise, will become simply the SA.
This book is dedicated to an inclusive future for all our children, including my daughters M and K, and the idea that the United States is still the last best hope for democracy and inclusivity. We won’t have one without the other.
The book includes the following sections:
- What Is INCLUSIVITY?
- Inclusive World
- Inclusive Entrepreneur
- Inclusive Economy
- Inclusive Cities
- Inclusive Education
- Inclusive Health
- Inclusive Leadership
- Inclusive Future
Let us know what you think!
P.S. – We don’t want this, do we?
Michael Gordon‘s book, Design Your Life, Change the World: Your Path as a Social Entrepreneur [A GUIDE for CHANGEMAKERS] is for changemakers – the people and organizations that want to make a difference in the world.
The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:
1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?
2) What’s the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?
The reason I’m helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world’s biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn’t making things any easier…
Are you a changemaker? Go find out >>
P.S. – you can download the PDF version here >>
Sometimes not knowing what you’re doing can help you do it.
Here I make a fool of myself at the Guardian’s Activate2011 conference in London:
The final Harvard Business Review post in the series, and hopefully the start of some real change at the bottom of the pyramid.
Our goal is to go social for social business. Can social co-creation help the poor?
Thanks also to Scott Berinato at HBR and of course – VG, my partner in crime.
For the past two years I have been conducting some extensive testing with a number of my clients in various fields – software, consulting services, academics, non-profits, entertainment, and self improvement – and here’s what I came up with at the end of the study. I’m interested in one metric – conversion to sales.
Conversion to Sales
Website: 29.5% of sales
Facebook: 4% of sales
Twitter: 1.5% of sales
Print: 2% of sales
Book: 9% of sales
E-book: 7% of sales
Email newsletter and blog combined: 42% of sales
The old rules of online marketing beat social media by a mile, period.
See you later, FB and Twitter…
I was recently going through this report by Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang
when a “Deja-Vu all-over-again” wave came over me: this is exactly
what happened with corporate community managers – back in the heady days
of “community” (see JH3’s Net Gain).
Except that there was a third career path: striking off on your own.
That’s what I did with Double Loop Marketing. And it’s still the best professional decision I ever made.
Seth Godin posts a very insightful blog entry on the HBR site. He’s talking about the challenges of marketing at the bottom of the pyramid:
When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the
device pays for itself (if it didn’t, they wouldn’t buy it.) So a drip
irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three
harvests a year instead of one.
Read all about it >>
The Solar Electric Light Fund‘s Bob Freling has posted an entry in Harvard Business Review about his Solar Integrated Development (SID) Maturity Model and how it fits into our concept of the $300 House.
Here’s Bob waxing eloquent:
Together with potable water, nutritious food, accessible health care,
educational opportunity, and economic empowerment, the $300 House
completes this virtuous ecosystem in which individual households and
their communities can march hand in hand towards a bright and
Read the whole post The $300 House: The Energy Challenge >>
The Gap screws up with their logo redesign. A giant failure of imagination in the boardroom.
But Umair Haque asks the right questions:
- Do designers have a seat in the boardroom — or just in the basement? How often does your CEO ever talk to a designer?
- Are designers empowered to overrule beancounters — or vice versa?
- Is the input of designers considered to be peripheral to “real” business decisions — or does it play a vital role in shaping them? Is design treated as a function or a competence?
- Are designers seen just as mechanics of mere stuff — or as vital contributors to the art of igniting new industries, markets, and catgeories, sparking more enduring demand, building trust, providing empathy, and seeding tomorrow’s big ideas?
- How much weight does senior management give to right-brained ideas, like delight, amazement, intuition, and joy? Just a little, a lot — or, as for most companies, almost none?
We all need to wake up. The Chamber of Commerce approach to design isn’t going to work anymore.
Cracking the challenge of slums is the world’s biggest problem of the next quarter-century, because the ecology of slums and the ecology of cities are linked. We cannot have a healthy global economy without healthy cities, and we cannot have healthy cities without tackling slums.
Join us >>
We’re building a “creationspace” (JSB’s word) for the $300 House-for-the-Poor at 300house.com >>
Please sign up, and tell your friends!
Ever since the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t have a quick-build house made of sustainable materials at a price point that the poor can afford (with micro-credit if needed).
The $300 House-for-the-Poor is an extension of the concept of “reverse innovation” (inspired by my client and friend VG) in which innovations developed in poor countries are then brought back for use in developed countries and other parts of the world. Housing impacts health, energy, education, and security.
What if we could build sustainably designed houses for the world’s poor at an affordable cost? What if these same designs could provide relief to refugees and victims of natural disasters? The we I’m referring to is a collaborative of companies, governments, and NGOs.
This type of a structure will be engineered in the same way the TATA Nano was engineered – without the traditional assumptions.
Once built, the $300 house should be used across the globe – from Haiti, to Africa, India, and yes, even in this country, to help the homeless.
So what are we waiting for? It’s time to get busy designing the $300 House!
The political intentions of our GOP friends would leave the US with a hollowed-out economy.
Here is an example of how Obama’s unpopular bail-out for the auto-industry led to the creation of a new and critical cleantech industry – electric batteries – in this country. What say you, FOX News?
In the past year, the lines have crossed in North Carolina. Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.
Take away government nuclear subsidies, and the case is closed!
Read the report >>