Posts filed under 'Post-Autistic Economics'

‘Investment’ as a Fee for Experience/Voice not Ownership

Hello All,

It is great to see so many voices involved in this important conversation.

As you may know, Sohodojo is a major advocate/voice for the emerging Small Is Good World. This is the world of Empowered Individuals. The Small Is Good World is all about individuals working together. It is not organization-centric.

We strongly believe that the success of MFM will be found by emphasizing person-to-person relationships rather than relying on or imitating the structure or behavior patterns of organizations and institutions. We also strongly believe that, at least initially, investing rather than lending will be the most effective means of establishing lasting person-to-person relationships through the MFM. Shared risk and reward puts us together in a situation where active, peer-to-peer involvement is encouraged.

Being an arms’ length banker/lender is boring. How many of us grew up saying, “When I grow up, I want to be a banker!” Okay, some did, but not many! :-) And, in some subtle ways, the banker/borrower relationship perpetuates colonial superior/subordinate relations.

Investing is different. If we were to invest in WE Center Bead Production Futures, we have a shared risk through that investment. This creates an incentive to see that the venture we’ve invested in succeeds. We have ’skin in the game’. We are much more likely to take an active role in helping to market and sell the results of that production. If we are merely a lender/banker, all we care about is awaiting repayment.

We look forward to working together to develop the MFM into a powerful marketplace for personal and community development.

–Sohodojo Timlynn and Jim–

Add comment December 7th, 2005

Economic Utility and Depth of Inprosumer Engagement

nmw said:

[snip]… There may be a small problem with this [[’this’ being a reference to the complexity and delayed gratificatiom of inprosumer ’shopping as it can be’]]: Economic “utility” is generally assumed to be non-uniform (in other words, stuff that makes one person happy might not make another person happy — and/or perhaps just not to the same degree)

Hey Norbert,

No problem. Your IQ (Impact Quotient) is subjective, not a uniform scalar/metric.

What we were trying to say is that your NED On-line Profile maintains a persistent ‘log’ (storybook, game-scorecard) as an growing reminder of your activity and accomplishments — your impact — as an engaged ’round-trip’ investor, producer, consumer.

Economic Utility — Is that all there is?

Related to your concern, Norbert, and as expressed by others in prior posts, there is the apprehension that the efficiency of a price- and distribution-optimized market has, by definition, higher economic utility — “I just want to get my stuff and go home.”

Again, no problem. When you are in stuff acquisition mode, you will engage in shopping as it is.

But to a large degree — and it is echoed by the level of activity in this discussion and in Onet itself as in other ‘change the world’ on-line communities — a lot of us are singing Peggy Lee’s song and asking “Is that all there is?”

A Few Words About Depth of Engagement

Please understand that incorporating shopping as it can be (inprosuming) into the NED business model is not a mutually exclusive choice that banishes shopping as it is from the picture. In fact, shopping as it is is both a necessary baseline of sales volume as well as a vital engagement opportunity that feeds new recruits into the ranks of inprosumers (those doing shopping as it can be).

You will see this “A-ha” idea-moment of self-recruitment reflected in a ‘feedback loop’ in our Entrepreneurial Community Ecosystem input/output model. This transformation happens when a ‘Surface Shopper’ takes the next step into active and ongoing participation in the NED community. The inprosumer is a Deep Shopper. By his or her persistent involvement in the community, the Deep Shopper is demonstrating that he or she has found a new level of personally rewarding economic utility that cannot be achieved by continuing to simply do shallow shopping.

Note, too, that this recruitment is not a means of merely cloning producers. The last thing we need is water down the producers’ opportunity by creating a vast army of home-based candlemakers, weavers, beaders, what have you. Rather, we need to entice each Deep Shopper to bring his or her own bottle of secret sauce to the table.

We need to entice Open Source programmers to contribute code to our back-end and eCommerce platform projects. We need to engage sales and marketing people to sell and market. We need multi-linguists to help the community to communicate among its members. We need lawyers and business folk to craft the agreements, licenses, and other instruments needed to create and evolve new forms of dynamic collaborative network enterprises. We also need to engage academic and other researchers to do applied research projects that help us to invent new ways to shop, organize, market, and collaborate. In short, we need a whole range of folks to find their own unique and personal way to participate in NED’s entrepreneurial community ecosystem.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment December 7th, 2005

Inprosumerism — Imagining Shopping as it Can Be

A while back we contributed a post that juxtaposed shopping as it is with shopping as it can be. Some folks liked the idea, others wrestled with what shopping as it can be might be like.

Break these Chains

To get to shopping as it can be we have to expand the context of consumption. Being a consumer is not just about being a bottomless pit that sucks more and more stuff into it. For many of us, being a consumer is about being the final link in a chain, a supply chain, that extracts materials from the earth, transforms these materials into useful products that we then buy and use.

In the Big Is Good World, where insatiable consumption is a requirement for market sustainability, the chain is a straight line from raw material extractor, through producer to consumer.

As the Industrial Age gave way to the Information Age, there was the start of a paradigm shift that is reflected by futurist Alvin Tofler’s coining the term prosumer [more at Wikipedia], a concatenation of the words producer and consumer. Tofler and others were exploring the potential for consumers to take a more active role in the form and substance of these supply chains that satisfy our needs. As recently as the Cluetrain Manifesto we’ve been told that we can expect to be more satisfied consumers to the extent that we are invited into the conversation that shapes what is produced for our consumption.

Still, there is something missing. As Peggy Lee asked, “Is that all there is?” [Lyrics to the most depressing hit song ever and about Nihilism].

Enter the Inprosumer

But a chain can link back onto itself to form a circle, the supply chain becomes a cycle. We take a step beyond prosumer to inprosumerinvestor, producer, consumer.

There will be many ways that we can tap into the dynamics of stories and games to empower new forms of shopping as it can be. But here are a few ideas we’ve had along these lines… ideas that could help to shape the NED community and its associated shopping experience (both on-line and in-store).

For rich folks, exclusivity has often been a sought-after feature of a product. Exclusivity in this context is closely related to limited supply and high price. But what if product exclusivity was instead a matter of foresight, risk-sharing, and creativity!?

Under shopping as it is, you might get the thrill of owning a limited edition sweater by going to an exclusive high fashion store and paying an extraordinary amount of money for something that only a very few people can afford.

On the other hand, you might get an equally exclusive sweater by shopping as it can be at NED. Instead of needing a giant pile of cash, at NED you need foresight and creativity.

First, you’d want to invest in two or three sheep in a shepherd’s herd in southwest New Mexico or maybe West Africa. Planning ahead for your share of the Spring shearing, you’ll want to have invested in some Loom Time Futures for sale by a talented Weaver’s co-op or guild such as Tapetes de Lana.

Even after you have that one-of-a-kind sweater made from the wool of your own sheep, woven by your favorite weaver, you still have a few pounds left over. So you take your excess wool, along with your quarterly share of lumber from your investment in a sustainable forestry venture in Maine, along with any excess Craft Production Time Futures you have accumulated from other activities you are invested in, and you go searching around the story-driven, game-oriented NED marketplace.

You search finds that there are three community development fundraising campaigns going on that you’d like to support. So you negotiate the contribution of your raw materials and production capacity, and come to terms on your expected return on investment if any.

Some time passes and you’d like to add a goat to your herd-share. Rather than pay for it outright, you do some marketing work and land a nice order for the herd’s pooled surplus wool.

Over the five years that you have been a NED Inprosumer, you have racked up quite an Impact Quotient. When you log onto the NED community web site, your User Profile makes your world-changing impact very clear. You’ve had a hand in drilling dozens of wells in villages in Africa. You own a nice chunk of Loom Time Futures in a famous Weavers Co-op in New Mexico. You know the potter who made your dishes, and the chandler who makes your candles. You don’t just know who these talented people are, you know them as fellow entrepreneurial activists as you’ve shared risk and reward with them on dozens of community and personal development projects.

A Game of Inches

Does this mean the end to shopping as it is? Not at all. Shopping as it can be isn’t a replacement to traditional markets. It is a moderator of the excesses of unbridled consumption.

Imagine the total impact on the planet if we were to shift just a few percentage points of consumption from shopping as it is into shopping as it can be. This shift will get more and more of us to broaden our perspective, to see consumption in terms of the people impacted rather than the stuff produced.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment December 6th, 2005

The Small Is Good World Marketplace and The Dream Society

Paul O’Hara said:

Jim and Timlynn said: * “The world desperately needs alternative markets that address the myriad of other behavioural motivators that contribute to health and happiness”

Thanks Jim and Timlynn for bringing the price debate so far forward. Couldn’t agree more.

You are welcome, Paul. And thank you for contributing such a thoughtful and “spot on” reply.

??The heart has its reasons that reason does not know? Pascal

He’s so right. Pop forward a few centuries and you’ll find this same sentiment reflected in Danish futurist Rolf Jensen’s insightful book, The Dream Society, where he describes how we are becoming more Hunter-Gatherers of the Heart than Cultivators of the Mind. Jensen goes on to make a strong case for the emerging importance of story and emotion in marketing and organization ‘visioning’. We explore Jensen’s ideas further in Nanocorps in the Dream Society: How ‘Small is Good’ Business Webs Will Compete in the Story-driven Marketplaces of the 21st Century

“Happiness is when what one thinks, what one says, and what one does are in harmony” Ghandi

Again spot on, Paul. Notice what Gandhi doesn’t say… It isn’t about what you have, your stuff, that is important to a fulfilled, happy life. Madison Avenue would obviously consider Gandhi a dangerous person to be silenced if he was still around shaking things up.

If the three key purchasing drivers are price, quality and service and lowest price is not an option for an ethical retailer or the Small is Good market, then we must add equivalent or greater value back into the offer elsewhere.

Those three dimensions are adequate when you limit yourself to consumer purchase dynamics in the Big Is Good World. But we believe that Pascal, Ghandi, Jensen, and others are suggesting that there is much more to life that stuff consumption. Sure, price is important to a lot of folks. And, yes, they will pay more for appreciable quality. And service is worth paying for. But this still leaves a whole spectrum of Maslow-ian human needs to bring to the shopping experience. Paul, you go on to say…

Please consider Maslows Hierarchy of Needs … the human motivations which in turn drive our needs and eventually influence our behaviours. As we evolve up the hierarchy, I would hope that we will move away from todays ignorant and selfish pre-occupation with lowest price.

We’re on the same wavelength. Once we break the tight-coupling of price and product we can begin to transform the act of shopping into a diverse, interactive, impactful community- and world-changing experience that fulfills many human needs beyond our basic need for more stuff. When we start to realize this transformation, we will be on the road to Nedville which will be found somewhere in the emerging Small Is Good World.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment November 29th, 2005

Can’t Buy Me Love… Happiness, Belonging

nmw said:

Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn said:

price does not have to be the ultimate driver of markets.

I am also trained as an economist (I have several documents with letters on them) and I am also inspired by the work of Schumacher — but the statement above is very difficult to swallow (especially for an economist).

Give me a buck and I’ll tell you some more.

;D nmw

Indeed nmw. It is that very training that ties you to a mindset that is only as real as we accept it to be. Our collective Industrial Era experience is but a blink of the human experience eye. The laws of economics are not so fixed, relatively (or locally relativity-wise) speaking, as those of physics or the other so-called ‘hard’ sciences.

As a human/social science, economics invites experimentation as much as it provides a growing fount of information to guide our thinking. But we cannot let that fount flood our thinking and blind us to alternatives.

We simply would never have breakthrough scientific innovation if one or more inquirers did not ask, “Does it have to be this way?”

The Big Is Good World works best when its consumers are blindly herded by a Siren song telling them that price is king. It simply does not have to be so. And your brother’s sandal story above is a case in point.

Imagine if as many smart, highly motivated economic, behavioral, social, and marketing management scientists suspended disbelief and put as much energy into exploring the multitude of other dimensions of consumer purchase decision dynamics as have been put into honing our skills at single-minded focus on price. We simply have turned a blind eye to the possibilities beyond the obvious.

If money buys stuff, and if happiness is achieved by having enough of all the right stuff — isn’t that the drumbeat of modern marketing? — then why are so many people in affluent societies so unhappy?

The answer is simple. The widely shared misbelief that the acquisition of stuff at the expense of the active and ongoing participation in community is broken. The Big Is Good World’s path to happiness leads to perpetually unsatisfied consumers. This is no accident, it is by design. The Big Is Good World would put itself out of business if stuff-consumption led to satiated customers.

We’re not saying to abandon the Big Is Good World of stuff, only to moderate it with an exciting and engaging alternative. The world desperately needs alternative markets that address the myriad of other behavioral motivators that contribute to health and happiness. And paradoxically, these other market dynamics are not likely to be based on appeals to altruistic benevolence.

When we have a well-tuned economic engine that runs on the twin cylinders of the Big Is Good World and Small Is Good World, charity as we know it will fall into a marginalized role of a tactic of last resort.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment November 22nd, 2005

Breaking the Tyranny of Price - A NED Design Proposition

Small Is Good World marketplaces must break the bonds of tight-coupling between price and product.

We referenced The Nanocorp Primer article, The Yin Yang of eCommerce Engines, in a prior post. One of the tables in this article encapsulates much of the content on this article:

Feature Big is Good Agora Small is Good Agora
Main theme Dynamic pricing Dynamic storytelling
Value proposition Liquidity - convert goods into desirable price Meaning - wrap goods/services with imaginative stories
Customer role Market player Coauthor storyteller and character
Knowledge focus Timing - Market Intelligence Trust - Community Building
Key process Price discovery Story discovery
Examples eBay - Yahoo! classifieds - Priceline MicroAid.net(now) Squirrelfeeders.com and NED (to be)

An agora marketplace is a socioeconomic network that brings buyers and sellers together.

We are on this web site creatively collaborating on strategies to change the world largely due to the deep insight that the Omidyars had that resulted in their creation of eBay, the premiere example of an Internet-enabled agora marketplace.

Many believe that the very nature of an agora marketplace disintermediates the supply chain to drive relentlessly toward an optimum (low) price.

If this is the case, then NED and any other Small Is Good World marketplace is doomed.

Fortunately — and this is the message in the above table and, more fully, the article from which it is extracted — price does not have to be the ultimate driver of markets.

Big Is Good World and Small Is Good World

In order to understand our options, we have to take into account the profound fundamental differences that underlie the two constellations of organizing principles that shape our frames of reference of business and its marketplaces. These two basic strategies for organization are a classic yin-yang opposition: Big Is Good World and Small Is Good World.

A Small Is Good World marketplace intermediates to grow the supply/value chain with world- and life-changing impact points. Yes, transparency is essential to allow consumers to see and appreciate these impact points. But transparency is not enough.

The consumer has to be able to interactively compose this chain of impact points if we are ever going to break the ruthless association of price to product. Products have to become like poker chips; essential to ‘the game’ but not its focus.

The experience of Small Is Good World shopping and the psychological reward of being part of a Small Is Good World socioeconomic network have to be compelling and need-fulfilling. These experience-based attributes of the marketplace have to be so powerful that the sum transacted during a purchase is only loosely coupled with the commodity value of the product purchased.

Many people believe that this design goal for the Small Is Good World marketplace is an unattainable fantasy. Many believe our Smithian market behavior is a hardwired, price-driven imperative that is little different than that of rats’ pursuit of cheese in a maze.

What a sad, uncreative and human nature deadening presumption. There is so much ill-founded common sense about what works in business because we have been locked into a One Right Way of doing things for too long.

A Call to Arms… Legs… Minds

NED, as an example of the emerging Small Is Good World, is a call to arms to “Say it ain’t so!”

NED, which we might liken to the ‘Next eBay’, will be a multi-billion dollar enterprise. But this Next Big Thing, paradoxically, will be found in the Small Is Good World. And its form is much more likely to be an entrepreneurial community ecosystem rather than a corporation. This is why Mark naturally gravitated toward a franchise model for NED. But even the fanchise model is likely to be only a piece of this diverse network ecosystem.

To make the Small Is Good World real we will have to suspend disbelief so we can articulate and pursue business and marketplace design goals that seem hard to imagine in today’s world. NED is an ideal vision around which to collectively imagine this exciting new world and its alternative marketplaces… to imagine, and then to make it real.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment November 21st, 2005


Welome to Sohodojo's Omidyar.net Blog

All posts in this blog originated on the now defunct Omidyar.net community web site . There a many embedded links from these posts to the original ONet site URLs that no longer work as the site has been archived. We are investigating the possibility of linking to the archive URLs. We are sorry for the inconvenience.

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