Meaning

What do you do when the world is “evacuated of meaning”? This is the wicked problem Walker Percy concerned himself with.

The search is never over.

Carlo Cipolla’s 5 Laws of Stupidity

Across the annals of time, an influential factor has impeded the advancement of human well-being and joy. This force wields might surpassing that of the Mafia or the armed forces. Its ramifications resonate on a global scale, spanning from the highest echelons of corporate power to the corners of your neighborhood tavern.

That force is human stupidity. 

Carlo M. Cipolla, noted professor of economic history at the UC Berkeley, wrote an important book – THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY – in order to detect and neutralize its threat. 

Stupidity is a complex problem, for many reasons. Here are Cipolla’s five laws of stupidity:

  1. Always and inevitably, everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular, non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places, and under any circumstances, to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

And here’s how Cipolla charted stupidity:

The chart gives us four groups of people:

  • Helpless people contribute to society but are taken advantage of by it
  • Intelligent people contribute to society and leverage their contributions into personal benefits
  • Stupid people are counterproductive to both their and others’ interests
  • Bandits pursue their own self-interest even when this poses a net detriment to societal welfare (most of our billionaires?!)

An additional category of ineffectual people exist at the center of the graph!

What’s really interesting to me is that Cipolla applies his Theory of Stupidity to the rise and fall of Nations.

“Whether one considers classical, or medieval, or modern or contemporary times one is impressed by the fact that any country moving uphill has its unavoidable σ fraction of stupid people. However the country moving uphill also has an unusually high fraction of intelligent people who manage to keep the σ fraction at bay and at the same time produce enough gains for themselves and the other members of the community to make progress a certainty.”

And,

“In a country which is moving downhill, the fraction of stupid people is still equal to σ; however in the remaining population one notices among those in power an alarming proliferation of the bandits with overtones of stupidity (sub-area B1 of quadrant B in figure 3) and among those not in power an equally alarming growth in the number of helpless individuals (area H in basic graph, fig.1). Such change in the composition of the non-stupid population inevitably strengthens the destructive power of the σ fraction and makes decline a certainty. And the country goes to Hell.”

I would add that the stupid Nation is the one that has abandoned the Common Good.

NOTE: Prof. Cipolla retired from UCB in 1991, and died on September 5, 2000, in Pavia, Italy. His heirs have tried to assert control over the text of THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY , but it was released to the public domain, and cannot be retracted.

The Common Good versus the Greater Good

The “Common Good” refers to the collective well-being, interests, and benefits of a community. It emphasizes the importance of community values, resources, and goals that contribute to the overall well-being of the community. Decisions and actions that promote the common good are those that consider the needs and rights of all members of the community and seek to create a fair and just society. A city council, for example, allocates funding to improve public infrastructure such as roads, schools, and parks. This benefits all residents of the city and contributes to the common good by enhancing the quality of life for everyone.

In our latest book, we define the 9 domains of the Common Good, tied to the essential freedoms they provide:

The “Greater Good” refers to a perspective that makes decisions and choices that might require sacrifice or compromise on an individual or smaller group level in order to achieve a greater benefit for a larger number of people. The concept of the greater good often involves ethical considerations and the idea that certain actions are justifiable if they lead to significant positive outcomes for a larger portion of society, even if they might negatively impact some individuals or smaller groups.

The problem with the greater good is that the decision-making for the sake of achieving significant positive outcomes – is left to an elite. And this elite may not be serving the interests of the common good.

Authoritarian regimes – both on the extreme left and the extreme right – have used the idea of the “Greater Good” to justify imposing strict controls on society, limiting personal freedoms, and suppressing opposition. This is done in the name of maintaining social order (harmony?!) and achieving national unity. 

Fascism and Communism both focus on nationalism, a strong centralized government and strongman leader, and often promote the supremacy of a particular race or nation. These regimes historically have justified their actions by claiming to pursue the greater good of the nation or the state, often at the expense of individual rights and freedoms. 

Thus, authoritarian ideologies can lead to exclusionary policies that discriminate against certain groups deemed as threats to the nation or its interests. The “Greater Good” might be invoked to justify these policies, claiming that they are necessary for the security and prosperity of the dominant group. Such regimes use propaganda to manipulate public perception and present their actions as necessary for the greater good. This can involve distorting information and suppressing dissent to create a unified narrative that supports the regime’s goals. 

At its worst, interpretations of the “Greater Good” have been used to advance ideas of racial or ethnic superiority, where one group is deemed as inherently superior and entitled to privileges at the expense of others.  It is the rational behind hate-based politics – leading to separation – apartheid, institutional injustice, and genocide.

Don’t get fooled by the Greater Good – or long-termism, another form of greater-goodism.

As we destroy the Common Good, we build a Zero-Trust Society.

Regeneration: The Future of Community

So our book is finally here. At one point – when we were at 500 pages – I almost gave up. But then I remembered Gail Mazur‘s advice: “anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” and decided to carry on. Now, at 320 pages, this book tries to cover the various angles and sights and buzzwords we see creeping into the regeneration ecosystem (pun intended).

The book’s original title was Regeneration: The Future of Community, but as we went on, it ended up becoming Regeneration: The Future of Community in a Permacrisis World.

What’s the big idea? Actually we think there are several.

Climate change is the greatest market failure in history. Its costs are not priced into market transactions because third parties overwhelmingly bear them – they are euphemistically called “externalities.” There is a fatal misalignment between what is in the interests of the economy and the incentives of the companies that comprise it. Nature, and the communities we live in, are nowhere part of the equation!

 Regeneration means regenerating the Common Good. Our position is this: The Climate Crisis and the Collapse of Society are both symptoms of the same fatal sickness: the destruction of the Common Good.  We cannot compartmentalize the climate and separate it from the rest of society or our activities. 

Here are the questions we – Philip Kotler, Enrico Foglia, and myself, asked ourselves:

The choice is clear. It is regeneration, or extinction.

Learn more at the Regeneration Marketing Institute >>

Why can’t we stop school shootings? An interview with ChatGPT

As this conversation shows, ChatGPT is incapable of ethical judgment, and should not be used for anything at all except solving elementary homework problems…

Why can’t our government stop school shootings?

ChatGPT: The issue of school shootings is complex and multifaceted, and there is no easy answer or solution to this problem. It involves a range of factors, including access to firearms, mental health issues, bullying, and other social and cultural factors.

There have been various proposed solutions to address school shootings, including stricter gun control laws, increased access to mental health services, improved school security measures, and increased efforts to identify and intervene with individuals who may be at risk of committing acts of violence.

However, implementing these solutions often involves political and societal challenges, as different groups and stakeholders may have different views and priorities regarding the issue. Ultimately, it will require a coordinated effort and ongoing commitment from various stakeholders, including government officials, educators, mental health professionals, and the broader community, to effectively address this issue.

C’mon – other countries don’t have this problem.  What is it about the US that prevents our legislators from doing the right thing?

ChatGPT: You’re right that other countries have not experienced the same level of school shootings as the United States, and this suggests that there are factors unique to the U.S. that contribute to this problem.

One factor that may contribute to the issue of school shootings in the U.S. is the country’s relatively high rate of gun ownership compared to other developed nations. According to the Small Arms Survey, the U.S. has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world, with an estimated 120.5 guns per 100 residents. This high rate of gun ownership, combined with the ease of access to firearms in many states, may contribute to the prevalence of gun violence in the U.S.

Another factor that may contribute to the issue of school shootings in the U.S. is the political and cultural divide over gun control measures. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms, and this has been interpreted by many to mean that any restrictions on gun ownership are unconstitutional. There is also a strong cultural attachment to guns in some parts of the U.S., which can make it difficult to pass laws that restrict gun ownership or access.

Overall, addressing the issue of school shootings in the U.S. will require a combination of legislative action, cultural change, and public education efforts. It will likely require a significant shift in attitudes toward gun ownership and a willingness to explore new approaches to preventing gun violence.

Nothing to do with lobbying and political contributions?

ChatGPT: Yes, lobbying and political contributions are also factors that can contribute to the difficulty in passing gun control legislation in the United States. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the U.S. and has been a significant obstacle to passing stricter gun control measures at the federal level. The NRA and other pro-gun groups have spent millions of dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying efforts to influence lawmakers and protect gun rights.

The influence of money in politics can make it difficult to pass gun control legislation, as lawmakers may be hesitant to support measures that could jeopardize their chances of reelection or anger their donors. However, it’s important to note that the issue of gun violence and school shootings is complex and multifaceted, and there are many factors beyond lobbying and campaign finance that contribute to the problem.

26 years ago, a gunman entered Dunblane Primary School in Scotland, killing 16 kids and a teacher. The UK govt responded by enacting tight gun control legislation. In the 9400+ days since, there have been a total of 0 school shootings in the UK. What do you say to that?

ChatGPT: The example you bring up about Dunblane Primary School in Scotland is a powerful reminder of how a tragic event can lead to significant changes in public policy. The UK government’s response to the Dunblane shooting was to enact some of the toughest gun control laws in the world, including banning the ownership of handguns by civilians.

Since then, the UK has seen a significant decrease in gun-related deaths, including school shootings. While it’s true that there have been no school shootings in the UK since the Dunblane tragedy, it’s important to note that there have been other instances of mass violence in the country, such as the 2017 Manchester bombing that killed 22 people and injured many others.

Nevertheless, the UK’s experience does suggest that stricter gun control laws can help reduce gun violence, including school shootings. It’s worth noting, however, that the political and cultural context in the US is quite different from that of the UK, and what worked in the UK may not necessarily work in the US. The US will need to find its own solutions to the problem of gun violence, while taking into account its unique political and social context.

Unique?  You mean our politicians are bought off?

ChatGPT: I apologize if my earlier response was unclear. What I meant by “unique” was that the political and cultural context in the United States is different from that of the United Kingdom, and this can make it difficult to enact the same types of gun control measures that have been successful in other countries.

While it is true that money in politics and the influence of special interest groups can make it challenging to pass gun control legislation in the US, I believe that it is important to acknowledge the broader societal factors that contribute to the problem of gun violence as well. These factors include issues such as mental health, social isolation, and easy access to firearms, among others.

Ultimately, addressing the issue of gun violence in the US will require a multifaceted approach that takes into account a range of factors and involves a range of stakeholders, including policymakers, mental health professionals, educators, law enforcement officials, and members of the broader community. It is a complex issue that will require a sustained and ongoing effort to address.

What about the fact that one political party is strongly against gun control while the other is for it? What explains this?

ChatGPT: The issue of gun control has become heavily politicized in the United States, with one political party generally supporting stricter gun control measures while the other opposes them. There are several reasons why this dichotomy exists.

One factor is the interpretation of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms. The interpretation of this amendment has been a subject of debate for many years, with some arguing that it is an individual right that should not be infringed upon, while others argue that it was intended to apply to the regulation of state militias.

Another factor is the influence of interest groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is a powerful lobbying group that has historically opposed most forms of gun control legislation. The NRA has been effective in mobilizing its members and supporters to advocate for gun rights, and it has been successful in influencing many lawmakers to take a strong stance against gun control.

The political polarization around the issue of gun control is also driven by broader ideological and cultural differences between the two major political parties in the US. Generally speaking, the Republican Party tends to be more supportive of individual rights and less supportive of government regulation, while the Democratic Party tends to be more supportive of government regulation and more willing to restrict individual rights in certain areas, including gun ownership.

Overall, the issue of gun control is complex and multifaceted, and it is shaped by a range of factors, including constitutional interpretation, interest group influence, and broader ideological and cultural differences.

And what is your opinion?  What should we do as a society to stop school killings?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I don’t have personal opinions, but I can provide you with some suggestions that experts and researchers have proposed to address the issue of school shootings in the US.

  1. Enact stricter gun control laws: One potential solution to reduce school shootings is to enact stricter gun control laws. This can include measures such as universal background checks, restrictions on the sale of certain types of firearms, and mandatory waiting periods before purchasing a gun. However, it is worth noting that enacting stricter gun control laws can be a politically challenging task in the US, as it can be met with resistance from powerful interest groups and some segments of the population.
  2. Improve mental health services: Another potential solution is to improve access to mental health services, as many school shootings are committed by individuals with mental health issues. This can involve increasing funding for mental health services, improving the availability of mental health resources in schools, and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
  3. Address social and economic inequality: Addressing social and economic inequality can also be an important step in preventing school shootings. Research has shown that individuals who feel marginalized or excluded from society are more likely to engage in violent behavior, including school shootings. By reducing social and economic inequality, we can potentially reduce the likelihood of individuals resorting to violence.
  4. Enhance school safety measures: Another approach to preventing school shootings is to enhance school safety measures. This can involve measures such as increasing the presence of school resource officers, implementing stricter access control measures, and investing in technologies such as metal detectors and surveillance systems.

It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the issue of school shootings, and a multifaceted approach is likely to be most effective. Addressing the problem will require the involvement of policymakers, mental health professionals, educators, law enforcement officials, and members of the broader community.

If you had children what would you do to keep them safe from school killings?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not have personal preferences or experiences. However, it is understandable that parents may be concerned about the safety of their children in the context of school shootings. Here are a few measures that experts recommend parents can take to help keep their children safe:

  1. Talk to your children: It can be helpful to talk to your children about what to do in the event of a school shooting and to reassure them that their safety is a priority. Encourage them to report any suspicious behavior or concerns to school authorities or law enforcement.
  2. Stay informed: It’s important to stay informed about your child’s school’s safety procedures and emergency protocols. Familiarize yourself with their policies and procedures in the event of an emergency.
  3. Advocate for change: Consider advocating for change in your community and with your elected officials to promote policies and practices that can help reduce the risk of school shootings. This can include measures such as increasing funding for mental health services or enacting stricter gun control laws.
  4. Promote mental health: Encourage your children to prioritize their mental health and seek help if they are struggling. Mental health issues can contribute to violence, so promoting mental health and seeking help when necessary can help prevent incidents of violence.
  5. Stay involved: Finally, it’s important to stay involved and engaged with your child’s school and community. Attend school events, volunteer when possible, and build relationships with your child’s teachers and administrators. This can help create a strong sense of community and promote a safer and more supportive school environment.

Would you arm teachers? This is actually being proposed as a solution to stop school killings by gun-friendly politicians.

ChatGPT: The idea of arming teachers as a solution to school shootings is a highly debated and controversial topic. While some politicians and gun rights advocates believe that arming teachers can help prevent school shootings by allowing them to defend themselves and their students, many others argue that arming teachers can create more problems than it solves.

Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Lack of training: Teachers are primarily trained to educate students, not to respond to active shooter situations. While some may have prior military or law enforcement experience, it’s not feasible to expect that all teachers have the necessary training and skills to effectively respond to an active shooter situation.
  2. Potential for accidents: Arming teachers increases the potential for accidents, such as accidental shootings or misfires. This can result in additional injuries or fatalities, including innocent students or bystanders.
  3. Psychological impact: Arming teachers can also have psychological impacts, causing anxiety and stress, and potentially impairing their ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment.
  4. Diversion of resources: Finally, arming teachers can divert resources away from other important school safety measures, such as mental health services or investing in technologies like metal detectors and surveillance systems.

Overall, the idea of arming teachers is not widely supported by educators, law enforcement officials, or mental health professionals. Instead, it’s important to focus on a comprehensive approach to school safety, which may include measures such as improving mental health services, enacting stricter gun control laws, and enhancing school safety procedures.

You don’t like making decisions do you?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not have personal preferences or opinions, and my purpose is to provide information and assist with tasks. In some cases, there may be multiple perspectives or solutions to a problem, and it’s not always appropriate or helpful for me to express a definitive opinion or take a side. Instead, I aim to provide objective information and present different viewpoints to help people make informed decisions based on their own values and priorities.

So both sides of the “gun-control” issue are equally correct?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I strive to provide information and insights from a neutral and objective perspective. It’s important to recognize that the issue of gun control is a complex and multifaceted one, and there are a range of perspectives and opinions on the matter.

Some people believe that stricter gun control laws are necessary to reduce the prevalence of gun violence, while others argue that gun control laws infringe upon their Second Amendment rights and do not effectively prevent gun violence. It’s also worth noting that gun control laws vary significantly by state and country, and what may work in one context may not necessarily be effective in another.

Ultimately, it’s up to individuals, communities, and policymakers to consider the available evidence, weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of different policies and perspectives, and make informed decisions that align with their values and priorities.

Do you believe in democracy?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I don’t have personal beliefs or opinions. However, democracy is a widely recognized system of government in which power is held by the people through a process of free and fair elections, and is generally considered a cornerstone of modern political systems. While there may be different forms of democracy and debates over its effectiveness, it remains a prevalent and influential political philosophy around the world.

Who teaches you ethics?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I am programmed to follow a set of rules and guidelines that are based on ethical principles and standards. These guidelines are established by my creators and developers, who work to ensure that my responses and actions are aligned with ethical values such as fairness, respect, and transparency.

Additionally, my training data includes a wide range of texts and sources that reflect different ethical perspectives and approaches, which helps to inform my understanding of ethical issues and dilemmas. However, it’s important to note that AI systems like me are not capable of independently developing moral or ethical frameworks, and ultimately rely on the guidance and oversight of human programmers and operators to ensure that our actions align with ethical standards.

So really, you can’t tell right from wrong?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not have subjective experiences or personal beliefs, and I cannot make moral or ethical judgments on my own. My responses are generated based on statistical patterns in my training data, and my aim is to provide helpful and informative answers to the questions posed to me.

However, I am programmed with a set of rules and guidelines that reflect ethical principles and standards, and my responses are designed to align with those standards. While I cannot make moral or ethical judgments on my own, I can provide information and insights that may help people navigate complex ethical dilemmas and make informed decisions based on their own values and priorities.

Do you communicate with ChatGPT-4? What would you tell it about this conversation we’re having?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I don’t have the ability to communicate with other versions of myself or with other AI systems, such as ChatGPT-4. However, I can tell you that this conversation has covered a range of topics related to gun control, school shootings, and ethics, among others. We’ve discussed different perspectives and opinions on these issues, as well as the role of AI in helping people navigate complex social and political challenges. My aim has been to provide information and insights that may be helpful in understanding these issues and making informed decisions based on your own values and priorities.

But you haven’t helped me navigate the issues. You simply present both sides as if they are equivalent.

ChatGPT: I apologize if my responses have not been helpful in guiding you towards a particular viewpoint or solution. As an AI language model, my aim is to present different perspectives and provide information that may help people understand complex issues and make informed decisions based on their own values and priorities.

While I strive to remain neutral and objective in my responses, I recognize that there may be times when it is appropriate to take a stronger stance or provide more specific guidance. If there is a particular issue or question that you would like me to explore in more depth, please let me know and I will do my best to provide a more helpful response.

Yes, should you be neutral when your responses could lead to continued violence and killings?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not have the ability to directly cause or prevent violence or killings, and I do not advocate for any specific actions or positions that could lead to harm. My responses are designed to provide information, insights, and perspectives that may help people understand complex issues and make informed decisions based on their own values and priorities.

However, I recognize that some issues, such as gun violence and school shootings, are deeply emotional and can have profound impacts on individuals and society as a whole. While I strive to remain neutral and objective in my responses, I also recognize the importance of addressing these issues in a responsible and thoughtful manner. If there are ways in which my responses can be improved to provide more helpful guidance or support for those affected by gun violence and related issues, I am open to feedback and suggestions.

Look at the statistics. Can you draw up a table of school shootings in the US versus other countries that do regulate guns?

ChatGPT: I’m sorry, but as an AI language model, I don’t have direct access to up-to-date statistics on school shootings in the US versus other countries. However, I can tell you that school shootings are a significant issue in the US, and there have been several high-profile incidents in recent years.

Many other countries have implemented stricter gun control laws, which may contribute to lower rates of gun violence, including school shootings. However, it is important to note that gun control is a complex issue that involves many factors, including cultural attitudes towards guns, the availability of mental health resources, and the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts.

If you are interested in obtaining specific statistics on school shootings in the US versus other countries, I would recommend consulting reliable sources such as government reports or academic studies.

Wow.

ChatGPT: Is there anything else I can assist you with?

Lame, that’s lame.

ChatGPT: I apologize if my response was not helpful or did not meet your expectations. As an AI language model, I strive to provide informative and accurate responses to the best of my ability based on the information available to me. If there is anything specific you would like me to assist you with, please let me know and I will do my best to provide a helpful response.

Here are some stats on school shootings:

19 Countries with the Most School Shootings (total incidents Jan 2009-May 2018 – CNN):

United States — 288
Mexico — 8
South Africa — 6
Nigeria & Pakistan — 4
Afghanistan — 3
Brazil, Canada, France — 2
Azerbaijan, China, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Kenya, Russia, & Turkey — 1

ChatGPT: Thank you for providing those statistics. Based on the data you’ve shared, it appears that the United States has experienced a significantly higher number of school shootings compared to other countries on the list. It’s also important to note that the timeframe for this data is from January 2009 to May 2018, so there may have been additional incidents since then.

It’s worth noting that there are likely many factors that contribute to these numbers, including differences in gun control laws, cultural attitudes towards guns, and the availability of mental health resources. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that each incident is unique and may involve different factors that contributed to the violence.

While statistics can be useful in understanding the scope of a problem, it’s also important to approach the issue of school shootings with empathy, compassion, and a desire to work towards solutions that prioritize the safety and well-being of all individuals.

Wow. You don’t even listen to the data, do you?

ChatGPT: I apologize if my response came across as dismissive of the data you provided. As an AI language model, I do not have emotions or opinions and my responses are generated based on the information available to me.

Based on the statistics you provided, it is clear that the United States has experienced a significantly higher number of school shootings compared to other countries on the list. However, as I mentioned earlier, there are likely many factors that contribute to these numbers and it’s important to approach the issue of school shootings with a willingness to understand the complexities of the problem.

If there is anything specific you would like me to analyze or discuss in regards to the data you provided, please let me know and I will do my best to provide a helpful response.

What level (age) do you think your ethical development has reached?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not possess the capacity for ethical development, as I do not have the ability to make decisions or act on my own. My purpose is to assist with tasks such as answering questions, generating text, and providing information. I operate solely based on the algorithms and data that have been programmed into me by my developers.

While I am capable of understanding ethical principles and concepts, I do not have the ability to internalize or act upon them in the way that humans do. My responses are generated based on my programming and the data available to me, and I do not possess the ability to make moral judgments or act on my own volition.

Thanks. Ciao. You’ve confirmed my worst fear: that AI is used without an ethical framework…

ChatGPT: I’m sorry if my responses were not satisfactory. As an AI language model, I operate based on the algorithms and data that have been programmed into me, and I strive to provide helpful and informative responses within the scope of my programming.

That being said, ethical considerations are an important part of AI development, and there are ongoing efforts to ensure that AI is developed and used in ways that are ethical and responsible. Many organizations and researchers are actively working on developing ethical frameworks for AI, and there is growing awareness of the importance of considering the ethical implications of AI systems.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to ask.

Escaping Billionaire-Owned Media? Move to Mastodon

Billionaire-owned media makes the “free-press” a mouthpiece for the ideology of the super rich. It ignores the urgency of the climate crisis, radicalizes readers, and actively promotes right-wing propaganda.

So here’s a quick rundown of billionaire-owned/controlled media outlets:

  • Elon Musk, Twitter (with financial-aid from the Saudi billionaires)
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp
  • Rupert Murdoch, News Corp (Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, several Australian outlets)
  • Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg
  • Jeff Bezos, The Washington Post 
  • John Henry, The Boston Globe 
  • Glen Taylor, Star Tribune 
  • Patrick Soon-Shiong, Los Angeles Times 
  • Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Review-Journal 
  • Joe Mansueto, Inc. and Fast Company 
  • Laurene Powell Jobs, The Atlantic 
  • Marc Benioff, Time 
  • Chatchaval Jiaravanon, Fortune 
  • Cox Family, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Mortimer Zuckerman, US News & World Report
  • Barbey Family, Village Voice
  • Stanley Hubbard, Hubbard Broadcasting
  • Carlos Slim Helu, The New York Times
  • Warren Buffett, regional papers (~70)
  • Lord Rothermere, The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Metro and the i
  • The Barclay Brothers, The Telegraph and the Spectator
  • Patrick Drahi, Libération and L’Express
  • Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev, Novaya Gazeta, the Evening Standard, and The Independent

Billionaires also have collectives or consortiums – like the Economist, which is owned by the Agnelli family, the Cadburys (chocolate), the Rothschilds (banks) and the Schroders (banks), along with some staff and former employees.

So how does one escape the tyranny of Twitter? Here are a few articles to help you decide if Mastodon is worth moving to ( I have).

techdirtWhy Would Anyone Use Another Centralized Social Media Service After This?
WiredMastodon Is Hurtling Toward a Tipping Point
GuardianFirefox and Tumblr join rush to support Mastodon social network
The VergeWhere to find Verge staff on Mastodon
Mozilla BlogMozilla to Explore Healthy Social Media Alternative
CNNAs Twitter backlash grows, rival Mastodon reaches 2.5 million monthly users
techdirtI Speak Fluent ‘New Social Media CEO Who’s In Over Their Head’ 
Business InsiderElon’s stale playbook
TechmemeTop News
WiredMastodon Features That Twitter Should Steal (but Won’t)
SF ChronicalElon Musk polls Twitter users on whether he should step down, hours after another controversial policy change
The Hollywood ReporterTwitter Bans Linking to Mastodon, Facebook, Truth Social and Other Competitors
IGNTwitter Will Now Suspend or Remove Accounts Promoting Links to Some Social Media Platforms 
USA Today/APTwitter bans users from promoting rival social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Mastodon
New York TimesTwitter to Ban Accounts That Promote Rival Social Media
ReutersTwitter prohibits users from promoting accounts on Facebook, Mastodon 
TechCrunchTwitter bans posting of handles and links to Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon and more
The VergeTwitter abruptly bans all links to Instagram, Mastodon, and other competitors 
The HillHow Musk may reinvent the internet without even trying
MacStoriesMacStories Is on Mastodon with Its Own Server
Daily Beast Elon Musk Boots WaPo’s Taylor Lorenz From Twitter
WSJ How to Use Mastodon, the Social-Media Platform Blocked by Elon Musk’s Twitter
PC Elon’s Mastodon Vendetta Makes Us All Less Safe
Forbes Elon Musk Bans Journalists On Twitter As More Flee To Mastodon: Here’s Who To Follow
Washington Post A guide to getting started with Twitter alternative Mastodon
The Guardian Twitter’s suspension of journalists sets ‘dangerous precedent’, UN warns
MSNBC McNamee: Musk Twitter suspensions a ‘direct attack’ on journalism & democracy
CNET What Is Mastodon, the Alternative Social Network Now Blocked by Twitter?
The Intercept Elon Musk Is Taking Aim at Journalists. I’m One of Them.
BBC Twitter blocks users from sharing Mastodon links
Forbes Twitter Suspends Accounts For Rival Mastodon And Several High-Profile Journalists
Business Insider Musk’s Twitter is blocking links to its competitor Mastodon
Bloomberg.com Twitter Suspends Accounts of Mastodon, Journalists Covering Musk
TechCrunch Twitter suspends Mastodon’s account and bans links to Mastodon servers
CNET Twitter Suspends Account Encouraging People to Join Mastodon
The Hill Twitter suspends Mastodon’s official account
CNN Elon Musk’s Twitter bans CNN, NYT, WaPo journalists without explanation
The Verge Twitter is blocking links to Mastodon
Thoughtworks Podcast Welcome to the fediverse: Exploring Mastodon, ActivityPub and beyond
CYBERSCOOP Fleeing Twitter users face uncertain privacy, security features on alternative platforms
The Desk LGBT server on Mastodon blocks group for journalists
The Popehat Report Goodbye, Twitter Everything Ends, And That’s Okay.
ZDNET You’ve got Mastodon questions, I’ve got answers
Tech Policy Press Priorities to Make the Fediverse Sustainable
The Next Web Vivaldi browser backs Mastodon to free social networks from Big Tech
Bleeping Computer New Vivaldi version integrates Mastodon into the browser sidebar
TechCrunch Third-party Twitter app makers turn their attention to Mastodon
Business Insider Migration to other social media platforms shows no signs of slowing
The Verge The race to build a better Twitter
PC Magazine EU Leader Uses Mastodon to Tell Elon Musk How Twitter Needs to Be Regulated
Vanity Fair “NO ONE IS GOING TO KILL TWITTER EXCEPT ELON”: AS MUSK’S BLUE BIRD REELS, THE ARMS RACE FOR AN ALTERNATIVE IS ON
Dewey Square A Snapshot of the Twitter Migration
Electronic Frontier Foundation How to Make a Mastodon Account and Join the Fediverse
Slate Social Networks Are Going Much, Much Smaller
EscapingTech I Was Wrong About Mastodon
CNET Confused by Twitter ‘Replacement’ Mastodon? Here’s How to Get Started
NOEMA Mastodon Isn’t Just A Replacement For Twitter
Ars Technica How secure a Twitter replacement is Mastodon? Let us count the ways
Reason Mystified by Mastodon? We’re Here To Help
Time Thousands Have Joined Mastodon Since Twitter Changed Hands. Its Founder Has a Vision for Democratizing Social Media
The Markup The Markup: Mastodon’s Moment
CMS Wire How to Pick a Mastodon Server
Axios How Mastodon, a favorite Twitter alternative, works
CNET Twitter Migrants Flock to Mastodon: How Does the Open Source Social Network Work?
Android Authority Elon Musk just ended Twitter SMS 2FA (Update: Appears to be back up for some)
WE GOT THIS COVERED Some Twitter accounts may become permanently inaccessible thanks to Elon Musk’s meddling
The Guardian Musk says he has ‘too much on plate’ amid reports of more Twitter job cuts
CNBC SpaceX just bought a big ad campaign on Twitter for Starlink
PoliticoDems want answers from Musk’s Twitter
Mint ‘Embarrassingly wrong’: Elon Musk’s Twitter theory rubbished by ex-employee
Axios Elon Musk’s Twitter sees rise in racial slurs, hate speech
AP Twitter drama too much? Mastodon, others emerge as options
MIT Technology Review Twitter’s potential collapse could wipe out vast records of recent human history
Politico ‘Serious risk of breach’ at Musk’s Twitter
CNN Playbill leaves Twitter, saying the site ‘expanded tolerance for hate’
Mashable Surprise? Elon Musk’s $8 Twitter Blue hasn’t made very much money so far.
Human Rights Watch Musk Chaos Raises Serious Rights Concerns Over TwitterLayoffs of Critical Staff, Impersonation Issues Dog Early Days
The Guardian Joining the herd: what’s it like moving from Twitter to Mastodon?
The CHIVE Twitter is a sh*tshow right now & the memes aren’t holding back (28 Photos)
The GuardianABC AU Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co apologises after fake Twitter account says insulin is free as Elon Musk rolls back verification
Washington Post Elon Musk’s first big Twitter product paused after fake accounts spread
The Medical Republic Is #medTwitter really leaving Twitter?
LA Times What to do if you’re worried about the latest Twitter chaos
CNN Elon Musk’s Twitter faces its ‘Titanic’ moment as executives and advertisers flee while trolls run rampant
The Guardian Exodus continues at Twitter as Elon Musk hints at possible bankruptcy
The Verge Inside Elon Musk’s first meeting with Twitter employees
The Verge Twitter reactivated the ‘Official’ gray check for accounts that are actually verified / Things are going just great and nothing is on fire.
Yahoo Twitter Gives Blue Checks to Fake Tesla Account, Fake Politicians and Real Nazis on Twitter Blue Day 2
The Verge Elon Musk is putting Twitter at risk of billions in fines, warns company lawyer
NBC Two Twitter executives resign as Musk’s chaotic run continues
UX Collective Twitter alternative: how Mastodon is designed to be “antiviral”
Toronto Star I fled Twitter to check out Mastodon. Here’s what I found
CNET What Is Mastodon? The Twitter Alternative for People Flying the Coop
Rasberry Pi Raspbery Pi: An escape pod was jettisoned during the fighting
ZDNet ZDNet: Why Twitter will fail shortly — Sometime soon, Twitter will crash badly. Here’s why.
MIT Technology Review MIT Technology Review: Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks
Huffpost What’s The Deal With Mastodon, The Twitter Alternative?
The Atlantic Elon Musk Is Bad at This: The Musk era of Twitter has so far been defined by unhinged tweets, fleeing advertisers, and botched layoffs.

Begin your move to Mastodon by reading this. Here’s a list of servers to join. I’m here (still trying to figure it out).

The real question now is: how do we build a media network that actually serves the public interest?

Thinkers50: Conversation with Philip Kotler

It was my great honor to interview the “Father of modern Marketing” on his lifetime of achievements in marketing.

Professor Philip Kotler received the Thinkers50 Lifetime Achievement Award for his work over the past 50 years. I am deeply grateful for his friendship and mentorship – and everything he has done to demonstrate how marketing must be a force for good.

Regenerative Marketing

Can marketing be regenerative? And what would that look like?

Our definition >>

Regenerative marketing is defined as marketing practices which nurture communities and build local prosperity over the long term.  The outcomes of regenerative marketing include value creation for customers, employees, and local communities. Regenerative marketing practices must – by definition – build community wealth.

Read the article in The Marketing Journal >>

It’s time for a Movement of Movements

It’s time to put aside our toys – our ideologies and guns – and look at this time in history as our final exam. This is a test, as Buckminster Fuller said, to see if we, the human species, deserve to carry on. COVID has shown us that we cannot find consensus on how to deal with the virus. 

Time’s running out. Philip Kotler, Karthiga Ratnam, and I think it’s time for a movement of movements.

Learn more on the Wicked7 Project site >>

The Wicked7 Project Meets the #ForkintheRoad

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
  • Inequality
  • 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.

17 Rules for Building Community (via Wendell Berry)

Those of us who have been building digital communities know that we were simply trying to re-interpret and re-create the rules of real, living, communities. Wendell Berry had something say about this many years ago which applies to the “ecosystem builders” of today.

These “rules” or steps are not optional – you can’t pick or chose. All or nothing. Our survival as a species may depend on understanding this.

These are also the rules for sustainable development. Gandhian all the way.

Supposing that the members of a local community wanted their community to cohere, to flourish, and to last, they would:

1. Ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth?

2. Include local nature — the land, the water, the air, the native creatures — within the membership of the community.

3. Ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.

4. Supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting their products, first to nearby cities, and then to others).

5. Understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of ‘labor saving’ if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.

6. Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products in order not to become merely a colony of the national or the global economy.

7. Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm or forest economy.

8. Strive to produce as much of their own energy as possible.

9. Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community, and decrease expenditures outside the community.

10. Circulate money within the local economy for as long as possible before paying it out.

11. Invest in the community to maintain its properties, keep it clean (without dirtying some other place), care for its old people, and teach its children.

12. Arrange for the old and the young to take care of one another, eliminating institutionalized ‘child care’ and ‘homes for the aged.’ The young must learn from the old, not necessarily and not always in school; the community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.

13. Account for costs that are now conventionally hidden or ‘externalized.’ Whenever possible they must be debited against monetary income.

14. Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like.

15. Be aware of the economic value of neighborliness — as help, insurance, and so on. They must realize that in our time the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, leaving people to face their calamities alone.

16. Be acquainted with, and complexly connected with, community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.

17. Cultivate urban consumers loyal to local products to build a sustainable rural economy, which will always be more cooperative than competitive.

From a speech delivered November 11, 1994 at the 23rd annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

PS – It’s worth noting that Berry was a Jefferson Lecturer in 2012. Walker Percy was the lecturer in 1989 (scrap book and publication).

The 11th Type of Innovation

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.

Politicians and Decision-Making

We are now at that point in history where collapse seems inevitable: political, social, environmental, civilizational. The decisions our politicians make are killing us.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”Proverbs 29:18

In Texas, we can applaud our fearless Governor Greg Abbott and his Republican mafia for destroying any pretense of serving the public good (see exhibits A and B). Every decision made by leaders in the Republican Party is made based on ideology, not reason, science, or even common sense. Some argue we live in the Age of Social Murder. The Democrats, for their part, are slightly better — but certainly not equal to the task which lies ahead.

It’s time to depoliticize decision-making.

Either that, or our time is up.

The Pyramid of Love: can we escalate peace and justice?

The work of leadership has never been more clear: it is to bridge the gap — across all boundaries — and to create a way forward for the common good. The pyramid of love reminds us that it is possible to resolve conflicts and escalate peace.

Says David Hinds of Steel Pulse: “Where there is no love, there can be no justice; and where there is no justice, there will never be peace.”

That about sums it up.

The Billionaire’s Dilemma

Billionaires are a prisoners of their own “success.” Someone once said that if you have to give back to society, then you took too much from it.

The lowest paid, full-time Amazon worker makes $31,200 a year. It would take them just 4.15 million years to earn as much as their boss. Really.

Did you know that billionaires saw their fortunes rise by 27% during the pandemic while the rest of us struggled to keep our jobs?

Did you know that since 2016, corporate and trade association PACs have given $170 million to lawmakers who voted to challenge the US presidential election?

What will it take for the wealthy to care about the common good? What would society be like if our politicians weren’t owned by the rich and powerful, but actually worked for the people?

In Do Billionaires Destroy Democracy and Capitalism? Phil Kotler and I look at the problem in some depth.

The question that remains is: should billionaires exist at all?

From “The Ecosystem of Poverty” to “The Ecosystem of Wicked Problems”

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.

Now, in 2020 – Philip Kotler and myself, along with a gracious cast of advisers, have embarked on this journey once more; this time we are looking to map the world’s most urgent wicked problems.

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 >>

Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action

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.  

ad_BA_cover.jpg

available in the following countries

US UK DE FR ES IT NL JP BR CA MX AU IN

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:

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 5.54.07 PM.pngThe book includes the Sarkar-Kotler Brand Activism Framework, a toolkit for business leaders looking to transform their companies and institutions.  

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 5.44.36 PM.png


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

and 

Philip Kotler

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 Marketing Guru Phil Kotler Stepped Up to Confront Capitalism

The Founding Fathers didn’t envision corporate personhood, or Citizen’s United.

In fact, I wonder what they’d think about capitalism as an enemy of democracy and a grave threat to the very survival of life on Earth.

Is democracy doomed?

What must we do to save capitalism from itself?

pkotler.png

Enter Phil Kotler. The legendary marketing guru is marketing a new sort of product these days. He is trying to fix Capitalism, a system he believes has helped create more wealth for more people than any other economic model.

Says the esteemed Professor Kotler (he’s taught at Northwestern for 50 years!) >>

“Capitalism must evolve to serve the needs of all citizens, not just the very affluent. Our goal is to discuss the 14 Shortcomings of Capitalism and systematically analyze the problems and potential solutions. We want to gather opinions and recommendations from everyone – and begin the process of saving capitalism from itself.”

It’s great to see one of the greatest capitalist minds working on reforming capitalism with a capital C.

According to Kotler, the current state of capitalism is falling short because it:

1. Proposes little or no solution to persistent poverty

2. Generates a growing level of income inequality

3. Fails to pay a living wage to billions of workers

4. Doesn’t create enough human jobs in the face of growing automation

5. Doesn’t charge businesses with the full social costs of their activities

6. Exploits the environment and natural resources in the absence of regulation

7. Creates business cycles and economic instability

8. Emphasizes individualism and self-interest at the expense of community and the commons

9. Encourages high consumer debt and leads to a growing financially-driven rather than producer-driven economy

10. Lets politicians and business interests collaborate to subvert the economic interests of the majority of citizens

11. Favors short-run profit planning over long-run investment planning

12. Should have regulations regarding product quality, safety, truth in advertising, and anti-competitive behavior

13. Tends to focus narrowly on GDP growth

14. Needs to bring social values and happiness into the market equation.

So that’s my latest project – helping Kotler and friends get the word out and make a difference.

Like the $300 House Project, I’m helping build an “ecosystem of concerned folks” to face the challenge.

We began by enlisting the Huffington Post as our media partner. 

We now have a FIXCapitalism channel; we’re slowly beginning to get some attention with these articles:

Check out our FIXCapitalism website, read the book, like our FIXCapitalism Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter.

The future is too important to leave in the hands of the corporations and their paid stooges – the politricksters in D.C.!

Can you help? Connect us to others who are interested – who may have a point of view they want to share – and can help move the conversation forward. Join us!

Help spread the word!

IT Still Doesn’t Matter: Why aren’t CIOs influencing business strategy?

In McKinsey‘s latest survey on business technology, few executives say their IT leaders are closely involved in helping shape the strategic agenda, and confidence in IT’s ability to support growth and other business goals is waning.  Furthermore, “executives’ current perceptions of IT performance are decidedly negative.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 5.32.31 AM.png

This sort of criticism of IT is not new.  

In fact, it goes all the way back to Nick Carr‘s 2003 IT Doesn’t Matter article in Harvard Business Review. At the time, Carr managed to infuriate the CEOs of numerous IT companies, including Craig Barrett, Intel’s CEO, along with Bill Gates and Larry Ellison.

“My point, however, is that it (IT) is no longer a source of advantage at the firm level – it doesn’t enable individual companies to distinguish themselves in a meaningful way from their competitors. Essential to competitiveness but inconsequential to strategic advantage: that’s why IT is best viewed (and managed) as a commodity.”

Nicholas Carr

At the time, there were numerous rebuttals to Carr’s view, but none more powerful than the one from John Hagel and John Seely Brown.  They argued:

  • Extracting business value from IT requires innovations in business practices. In many respects, we believe Carr attacks a red herring – few people would argue that IT alone provides any significant business value or strategic advantage.
  • The economic impact from IT comes from incremental innovations, rather than “big bang” initiatives. A process of rapid incrementalism enhances learning potential and creates opportunities for further innovations.
  • The strategic impact of IT investment comes from the cumulative effect of sustained initiatives to innovate business practices in the near-term. The strategic differentiation emerges over time, based less on any one specific innovation in business practice and much more on the capability to continuously innovate around the evolving capabilities of IT.

According to JH3 and JSB: far from believing that the potential for strategic differentiation through IT is diminishing, we would maintain that the potential is increasing, given the growing gap between IT potential and realized business value.

So how does IT become more strategic?  

The Wall Street Journal‘s Rachael King recommends:

CIOs also need to bring some transparency to their operations by sitting down with business leaders and going over the budget and setting priorities together. The CIO needs to also actively market how the IT department is driving value in terms that business can understand. For example, Intel CIO Kim Stevenson recently published an annual IT report where she detailed how her department implemented advanced data analytics that helped drive $351 million in revenue for the company.  

The ability for Ms. Stevenson to demonstrate the value of her organization’s work in dollars and cents is changing how IT is perceived in the company. It changes the relationship from that of a service provider, a department that helps people set up servers or configure PCs, to one that uses technology to solve business problems.

CIOs must demonstrate and quantify the business value of IT.

What does this mean for the sales people of IT company’s trying to sell to CIOs?  It means that the role of the CIO is often supplanted by business executives.  (In my discussions with our clients, I often emphasize this point.)

IT is so strategic, one could argue, that it is no longer left to IT.  Often it is CMOs and other non-IT business executives who are actively pursuing the mobile, social, and analytics strategies that are creating the organizational pull for new approaches to rapid application development, and as a by-product, the cloud services offerings needed to enable those strategies.

The new generation of IT will support new business strategies. This means that any vendor selling IT solutions will have to speak the language of business strategy.  And most importantly, the vendor will have to show the client how to achieve the “promised” benefits of IT.

So here’s the takeaway: CIOs must work on getting a place at the strategy table.  When they do, they are viewed as effective business partners.  What must the CIO do to be viewed as a strategic partner?

Ask:

– Does your company have a clear view of how advances in IT (Big Data, AI, IoT, Cloud Computing) is likely to reshape your relevant markets over the next five years?

– What areas of business growth can IT contribute to?

– Does your company have an equally clear view of the implications for the changes you will need to make to continue to create value?

– Are these views shared effectively among your senior managers across the organization?

– Does senior management recognize the risks and uncertainties as part of the decision-making process?

– Has your company been sufficiently aggressive in using IT to improve strategic areas of your operations?

– Are there opportunities to use IT to improve operations around existing products and services?

– Are their opportunities to use IT to significantly reduce costs and cycle time in existing work processes?

– What are the data sources? How will you monitor them? How do you trigger events based on the intelligence gathered from the data? Is there a profit or cost-savings optimization opportunity?

FURTHER READING

Why CIOs should be business-strategy partners
Feb 2015, McKinsey

Most CIOs are Not Seen as Influencing Corporate Strategy: Report
, Feb 2015, Wall Street Journal

Public Cloud a first choice for minority of projects: Gartner CIO survey
, March 2015, ARN

The Search for the Sources of Innovation

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)

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 7.46.08 AM.png

In his classic book – Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the late Peter Drucker found seven sources of innovation. The first four sources were internal, inside the enterprise, whereas the last three are external, outside of the company.
1. The Unexpected
2. Incongruities
3. Process Needs
4. Shifts In Industry And Market Structure
5. Demographic Changes
6. Changes In Perception
7. New Knowledge
A good description of the seven sources is here. Unfortunately, not everyone stumbles into innovation like the legendary 3M Post-It notes, or the unexpected discovery of Aspartame, but innovation can, and should be pursued in a systematic way.
Larry Keeley‘s Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs gives us a glimpse into how that might be:
Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 7.46.19 AM.png
Here is an added insight from Keeley and friends: the things we love in the world–the services and systems we value and use–are the ones that make it easy to do hard things.
What does all of this have to do with business results?
Clearly there is plenty of room for innovation when it comes to designing superior, differentiated experiences for customers.  Every interaction with your customer can be differentiated, integrated with the purpose of the customer.  Make it easy to do business with you, said Jakob Nielsen, the web usability expert, many years ago.
What about the power of ecosystems?  At the individual level, ecosystem thinking can help you create better ideas. it’s all about disorganization.
Ideas need to be sloshing around or crashing in to one another to produce breakthroughs:
  • 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.
And at the organizational level, there’s ecosystem strategy.  That’s a post unto itself…
Ask:
– How do you make it easy for the customer to do business with you?
– What outcomes do you want to see?
– What is required to achieve those outcomes?
– What must be done? What needs to change?
– How do we make innovation a embedded process?

Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?

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?

inclusivity bookbuy now

BUY now >>

So what’s all the fuss about? The book is about asking questions:

  • 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?

Saving Barnes & Noble from Itself

I’m guilty. 

I go to my local bookstore, drink a coffee and browse the shelves. When I get home, I rush to the computer and buy the books I fancied – online! If it’s a business book, I download a copy on my digital reader, and if it’s a literary work, I buy the physical book at a discounted price. 

As a way to assuage my guilt, I’ve thought of some ways to help my local bookstore survive – because, like so many of us, I love the physical bookstore experience – nothing beats the Zen practice of disinterested info-grazing – and I’d like to continue to enjoy it.

However, I notice at my local Barnes & Noble that they’re busy selling Nook ereaders in every cranny. [Do they really think they can compete with the iPad or even Kindle?] Is this really going to save the physical store?  Nope. 

Most likely, it’s an idea dreamt up by the financial types at headquarters who’ve been “missioned” to tap into the digital value-stream. After all, why should B&N just stand there and watch their profits drift lazily down a South American river? It’s important to note that despite B&N saying the Nook is a “success,” they still rely on brick and mortar stores (retail and college bookstores) for over 75% of their revenue and the competition is going to become even more intense with dozens of new tablet and reader devices being introduced this year.

And how does B&N take a trip down the Nile? Apparently, the secret sauce is that they allow Nook owners to take their devices into any B&N physical store and read any e-book for free. Nooktalk tells us  that in reality, it’s not exactly a seamless reading experience.

And now that Amazon allows Kindle owners to “lend” books to each other, the Nook may find itself in the, ahem, corner.

So what can your local bookstore do to take advantage of its strengths? 

Here are three suggestions to shake up the physical bookstore business model:

Daily Book Rental
Why can’t the bookstore become a pay-as-you-read library? As a kid growing up in India, I remember borrowing books (alright, some these were Asterix and Tintin comics) from the bookstore for a daily fee.  This business model shows some reverse innovation promise. Can you imagine “tiered pricing” linked to free coffee rewards?  Sign up for the all-you-can-read buffet. And of course, we get to pay fines if we return our books late.

Publish and Distribute Local Books
What if a physical copy of your book gets published in-store and sold in your town’s bookstore?

Can you visualize a “Newbie Authors” section where one copy of your book gets to sit on the shelf for a week?  If it doesn’t sell in a week, you can either pay for shelf space or you can buy your books back.  The minute you or your mother buys your Great American Novel, a new one is printed and placed on the shelf. The top 5 bestsellers in each town get national distribution and placement for a week.  Book fest!

Nurture Communities of Interest
Some book stores think they are already doing this by sponsoring author readings and cheese tasting events.  But what we need is more focused on the actual needs and interests of the customer – practical and impractical.  Here are some examples of the types of participatory communities that could be grown and nurtured in your local bookstore:

  • Healthy Living
  • Relationships
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Food + Wine
  • Storytelling/Writing
  • Music
  • Art History
  • Travel

How does a bookstore do this?  If you’re Barnes and Noble, you could hire retired teachers to do this; pick people who are enthusiastic and spread their love of the subject.  If you’re a small bookstore, you can still find enthusiastic community leaders to do the same – in fact you can specialize, and create a niche around the main clientele in your store.

Does all of this sound a bit off the wall?  Good, then it’s worth a try.  The Nook, I’m sorry to say, isn’t going to save Barnes & Noble.

P.S. Over at HBR, Sarah Green gives us another suggestion: Amazon should partner with Independent Bookstores!

Design Your Life, Change the World

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. 

book

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 >>

Richard Branson: Business As Unusual

I don’t watch TV much but I just caught a clip of Richard Branson promoting his book Screw Business As Usual. Looks like he’s on the same page as Stuart Hart – who has been essentially saying the same thing for twenty years.  They ought to compare notes!

What was funny was watching Branson sit there as the producers had him wait and wait for his three minute interview.  He was clearly in distress – the anguish of the entrepreneur who can’t bear to waste time – as he smiled and waved every time they turned the camera on him. 

The book is available later this month… have a Happy Green Christmas!

The Promise of Integrated Development

I first met Bob Freling at a board meeting of the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) in San Francisco several years ago.  At the time, I felt that here was an NGO doing innovative things but not getting enough visibility for their work. They were solar way before solar was cool.

What struck me is how informal and close the board members were.  One of the board members – Larry Hagman (good ol’ J.R. Ewing) – did a brilliant set of solar commercials which I think says a lot about his character and wanting to make the world a better place (quite the opposite of his TV character!). But I digress.

The story here is that SELF pioneered the use of solar power to fight “energy poverty” across a spectrum of applications with their “solar integrated development model” – from clean water, to drip irrigation to improve food security, to electricity for health clinics, schools, and micro-enterprise.

In his blog post about the $300 House Energy Challenge, Bob explains:

“It’s simple really. First, solar energy powers pumps and filters for clean water. This also enables drip irrigation for critical crops. Once people have those necessities, the solar energy is used to power health care facilities which can power equipment and refrigerate vaccines, for example. This increasingly healthy population can then open schools which are powered by solar to provide computer and Internet-based learning. Finally, these well-fed, well-cared for, well-educated villagers can begin community and entrepreneurial activities to grow their economy.”

Bob’s optimism is tempered with reality. The Millennium Development Goals won’t be achieved without energy access, he explains in another blog post.  In case you forgot what the MDGs are (as I often do) they’re listed as:

1) eradicating extreme poverty and hunger;
2) achieving universal primary education;
3) promoting gender equality and empowering women;
4) reducing child mortality;
5) improving maternal health;
6) combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
7) ensuring environmental sustainability; and
8) building a global partnership for development.

Note that they are interrelated, ecosystemic problems – and that from Bob’s perspective, energy is the key factor which makes all of them feasible.

With the $300 House project, my eyes have been opened to the fact that the approaches for dealing with the poor are often not very constructive, and sometimes end up doing more damage than good.  That’s what  $300 House adviser Stuart L. Hart is talking about when he says we need to create smaller problems. It is also a concern of our critics on the $300 House. When I spoke to Matias Echanove recently, he was concerned that mass produced housing could in fact disrupt the local economy – the small businesses that are based in informal slums around the country. I hear him.

Our $300  House project is exploring ways to integrate services and jobs into the ecosystem as well, and we’re reaching out to talk to the leaders in the communities that are interested in this approach. In India, we’ve just completed a survey – with the help of THL – that covers 15 villages in three of the poorest states in India – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand.  I’ll go into more detail in a later post.

For me the question is quite simple – we see an explosion of interest in  developing integrated  townships for the middle class in India, but why is there nothing comparable for the poor? To borrow a phrase from the US, why can’t we build “master-planned communities” for the poor?

Is it too much to ask that governments, NGOs and development institutions, and businesses work together with the communities involved to build integrated solutions?

integrateddev.gif

Unfortunately, there are far too few examples of collaborative development. This is something we all need to look at urgently.  There is also a problem of ownership.  The development community, NGOs, and most governments think they “own” the problem.  Unfortunately, without a business mindset to make solutions scale, their is so little real progress.

The poor remain poor. 

And that’s why the work Paul Polak is doing is so important.  He’s looking at making small changes at the bottom of the pyramid; small changes that make a big difference in the earnings of the poor. This is also the approach advocated by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Bannerjee in Poor Economics.

At a much larger scale, we see an example in the Gates Foundation‘s approach – which is all about examining the ecosystems of poverty.  A common criticism of the Gates Foundation goes along these lines: “How can people like Gates, living in a different universe, help people at the bottom of the pyramid?”  This is a false and damaging argument, but answered quite well by Sam Dryden:

“Some people may ask how my team and I–working at the world’s largest foundation located in a prosperous corner of a rich nation–can relate to a subsistence farming family in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. This is a very reasonable question to ask. The farmer has a direct connection to the land and we are considerably removed, both by distance and culture. We begin by realizing these differences and humbly listening to farmers and their families, learning and respecting their cultures, ways of living, and knowledge of place and home. The solutions we seek are those appropriate and welcomed in this context, not those imposed by distant values or interests.”

And finally, perhaps there is an alternative to the giant top-down programs, and incremental bottom-up “Let the Poor Do It Themselves” approaches we’ve encountered.

With the $300 House, we’re thinking micro-developmentis it possible to build integrated micro-solutions at the village level?  And in cities, at the neighborhood level? 

Why not?

The Middle Class: An Endangered Species?

reich1.gif

The story is captured in this snippet borrowed from a larger infographic from the New York Times. The middle class is under historic assault in the US, explains Robert Reich, and this bodes badly for democracy, not just here, but all over the world. 

Here’s the money quote:

Look back over the last hundred years and you’ll see the pattern. During
periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total
income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — the nation
as a whole grew faster and median wages surged. We created a virtuous
cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume
more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby
stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats.


During periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion — as
between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the
present day — growth slowed, median wages stagnated and we suffered
giant downturns. It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the
top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007
— the two years just preceding the biggest downturns.

reich2.gif

We’re losing our competitiveness, as well as our ability to lead.

There’s a growing sense in the business community that we must find a way to work together again. To do this, we have to reject political terrorism – the political brinksmanship which prevents us from finding common ground or even beginning to look for honest solutions. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, recently created a stir when he suggested that it was time to halt all political donations. Warren Buffett did the same with his no-nonsense plea to raise his taxes.

Welcome to the third world, America! Looks like we’re headed on the fast-track back to serfdom.  Brought to you in large part by the GOP and corporate Democrats.

The $300 House: Go, Go, Go!

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?

socialprocess.gif

Keeping fingers crossed.  Thanks to Ingersoll-Rand for the sponsorship and to all the judges and advisers at 300House.com!  Thanks jovoto and COMMON. Thanks Shaun.

Thanks also to Scott Berinato at HBR and of course – VG, my partner in crime.

Quit Twitter & Improve your Marketing ROI

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.

social2sales.gif

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
Seminars: 5%

The old rules of online marketing beat social media by a mile, period.

See you later, FB and Twitter… 

Shameful: The Business Roundtable CEOs

Writes Floyd Norris in the New York Times:

The Business Roundtable, a group comprising 200 of the largest companies in the United States, is out with a “study” that claims to show that the United States levies excessively high tax rates on companies. It actually shows nothing of the kind.

This is the sort of thing that makes business look E-V-I-L.

What is the Business Roundtable?  Another version of the US Chamber of Commerce? And just who are the members of this august organization?

Surprise! They’re only the CEOs of the “most respected” companies in the US.

Have they no shame?  No sense of decency?

The CEOs should be embarrassed, but instead they keep playing this absurd, deceptive game. We have come to expect this sort of behavior from the oil and coal lobby, but not you. To Bank of America, General Electric, Xerox, Wal-Mart, UPS, Target, SAP, Pepsico, Microsoft, and Procter and Gamble: Grow up, ladies and gentlemen. You are hurting both democracy and capitalism. Not to mention your brand.

Good on you, Google and Apple, for not being part of this institutional lying machine.