To overcome petrification, advised Jordan, a high-tech company, especially, must keep an open ear to its youngest, greenest members. “Often the best ideas come from employees under 30 who have a fundamentally different relationship with the computer than the older folks,” he said. “This means you must create an atmosphere in which new talent can be discovered.” Agreeing with several other panelists, Jordan also observed that, in the end, a company that wants to stay on the cutting edge must give individuals the freedom to fail and get back on their feet.
Sam Pitroda is a smart man. You should listen to him! ::wags finger::
India News Effective designing can solve India’s problems: Pitroda Dec 5, 2006, 7:00 GMT
New Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS) India’s problems of poverty, infrastructure, water, education, health, agriculture and population can be solved through an effective design mechanism for those ‘at the bottom of the pyramid’, Knowledge Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda said Tuesday.
‘India has the ability to solve its age-old problems of poverty, infrastructure, water, education, health, agriculture and population can be solved with the help of proper design mechanism,’ Pitroda said in a seminar – Design with India – organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here.
‘Designing is not just creating good-looking gadgets like mobile handsets and cars, it’s about solving problems by catering to the needs of those who are at the bottom of the pyramid,’ he told the conference in pre-recorded message from Chicago.
Pitroda, who is also one of the board members of Institute of Design in Chicago, said, that India’s success story in telecommunications was possible due to application of knowledge by designing it according to the needs of the people.
‘Over the years our policies have failed to address the needs of the poor only because we lack the knowledge of how to design a solution which will help addressing issues like slum, sanitation, clean water, deforestation,’ he averred.
He said India has always done the mistake of following the West for meeting design solutions and this practice should be stopped, because India should solve its own problems indigenously.
‘It’s time we stop looking at the West and take designing to a different level altogether.’
Dr. Mohammed Yunus collected his Nobel Peace Prize speech the other night in Oslo. Yunus has been my hero since I read his book in college and learned about Grameen, but I didn’t realize how remarkable of a speaker he is.
The text of his speech is available here.
Tidbits that I found particularly interesting:
First of all, Yunus is a natural servant leader. He accepted the Nobel on behalf of Grameen, instead of for himself. "By giving their institution the most prestigious prize in the world, you give them unparalleled honour… This years’ prize gives highest honour and dignity to the hundreds of millions of women all around the world who struggle every day to make a living and bring hope for a better life for their children. This is a historic moment for them."
Grameen has accomplished so much because it has a naturally charismatic, ego-less leader at its helm. Instead of people like Yunus, often times we have egotistical asshats running corporations (oh, and countries that give themselves way too much credit for their organization’s success.
Here are snippets that I loved from Yunus’ speech:
By giving us this prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has given important support to the proposition that peace is inextricably linked to poverty. Poverty is a threat to peace.
Reminiscent of Sachs. Very strong point.
Yunus talked about the UN MDGs and the goal to reduce poverty… that were derailed by the Iraq war and the fight against terrorism…
I believe terrorism cannot be won over by military action. Terrorism must be condemned in the strongest language. We must stand solidly against it, and find all the means to end it. We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time to come. I believe that putting resources into improving the lives of the poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns.
::knock knock:: Anyone in DC home? Or should I say Crawford Texas?
Capitalism centers on the free market. It is claimed that the freer the market, the better is the result of capitalism in solving the questions of what, how, and for whom. It is also claimed that the individual search for personal gains brings collective optimal result.
Most people think I’m some Marxist commie for my beliefs. Thanks for reiterating this.
Human beings are a wonderful creation embodied with limitless human qualities and capabilities. Our theoretical constructs should make room for the blossoming of those qualities, not assume them away.
Sounds very humanistic.
By defining "entrepreneur" in a broader way we can change the character of capitalism radically, and solve many of the unresolved social and economic problems within the scope of the free market. Let us suppose an entrepreneur, instead of having a single source of motivation (such as, maximizing profit), now has two sources of motivation, which are mutually exclusive, but equally compelling 3/4 a) maximization of profit and b) doing good to people and the world.
Excellent!! This is articulated very much like Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, would.
Young people all around the world, particularly in rich countries, will find the concept of social business very appealing since it will give them a challenge to make a difference by using their creative talent. Many young people today feel frustrated because they cannot see any worthy challenge, which excites them, within the present capitalist world. Socialism gave them a dream to fight for. Young people dream about creating a perfect world of their own.
I was thinking about this the other day. I want to agree with Yunus, as I have seen groups of my peers who share the same interest.. but many more most just think I’m communist Anyway, this is a post for another day.
Almost all social and economic problems of the world will be addressed through social businesses. The challenge is to innovate business models and apply them to produce desired social results cost-effectively and efficiently. Healthcare for the poor, financial services for the poor, information technology for the poor, education and training for the poor, marketing for the poor, renewable energy ‚àí these are all exciting areas for social businesses.
Yes!!!!! Innovating business models for social causes. This sounds fun, doesn’t it?
Bilateral and multi-lateral donors could easily create this type of social business. When a donor gives a loan or a grant to build a bridge in the recipient country, it could create a "bridge company" owned by the local poor. A committed management company could be given the responsibility of running the company. Profit of the company will go to the local poor as dividend, and towards building more bridges. Many infrastructure projects, like roads, highways, airports, seaports, utility companies could all be built in this manner.
Hmm.. infrastructure? I remember reading somewhere that poor infrastructure is the first thing that prevents developing countries from getting FDI. It’s interesting to think how the creation of a social business could have a snowball effect, and cause more FDI over time.
We wanted to go to the moon, so we went there. We achieve what we want to achieve. If we are not achieving something, it is because we have not put our minds to it. We create what we want…
A human being is born into this world fully equipped not only to take care of him or herself, but also to contribute to enlarging the well being of the world as a whole. Some get the chance to explore their potential to some degree, but many others never get any opportunity, during their lifetime, to unwrap the wonderful gift they were born with. They die unexplored and the world remains deprived of their creativity, and their contribution.
Grameen has given me an unshakeable faith in the creativity of human beings. This has led me to believe that human beings are not born to suffer the misery of hunger and poverty.
Who is Dr. Yunus’ speech-writer? And is s/he for hire?
To me poor people are like bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a flower-pot, you get a replica of the tallest tree, only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted, only the soil-base that is too inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong in their seeds. Simply, society never gave them the base to grow on. All it needs to get the poor people out of poverty for us to create an enabling environment for them. Once the poor can unleash their energy and creativity, poverty will disappear very quickly.
A vision for a convergent alarm clock Originally uploaded by quami77.
Dearest Consumer Electronics Manufacturers, I know you, collectively, have a hard time playing in the same sandbox, but I beg of you, please, please solve this problem soon. You can’t blame it on the bully anymore, Microsoft is being nice now (but whatever happened to SPOT?)
First of all, make an alarm clock that wakes me up consistently without me having to check if the stupid RED LED is lit every time I go to bed (ok I realize this is probably a user issue.. so let’s move on).
1) I typically wake up later on the weekends. If I am able to understand what the pumping lemma is, you better be able to program an alarm clock that is contextually aware and can wake me up later on the weekends (or even better, on the days that I don’t have class).
2) Maybe its just me or Chicago, but lately, the weather seems to be fluctuating uncontrollably between sub-arctic conditions and ridiculously tropical highs. You know, it’d be nice to know automatically on my alarm clock what the weather’s going to be outside the next day with a small icon indicator. and NO I dont want some barely audible "weatherband" station with some yokel walking outside with a thermometer to tell me the weather. Why can’t it just be the "accu-weather"?
3) I listen to a lot of podcasts. and I read a lot of RSS feeds. Many of them are updated daily, like the NPR ones. It’d be nice to plug my iPod in and have it charge and update these podcasts daily.
4) Show me my day from Google Calendar or my iCal. Again, not hard to do. They both serve XMLs.
I could go on, but I want to keep the bar pretty low for you. Fix these simple problems, and I will buy your alarm clock.
I don’t want a furry teddy bear. I dont want to buy consumer electronic product from a site that has a preteen girl talking on her pre-paid cell phone. I just want a danged alarm clock that updates my podcasts and charges my iPod. Is that too much to ask?!?!?
* Milton Friedman (who just passed away recently) was the first to hold the notion that standard measurements of economics only tell half the story. * Hazel Henderson grew up in patriarchal society (Britain) and realized that her mother was producing the basic fabric of wealth– but was not contributing to any economic indicator. * The primary problem with wealth and traditional economics is that economists confuse MONEY and WEALTH!! * Its interesting that in the information economy, we claim that “ information = money “… and yet a focus on money evokes a fear of scarcity… but a focus on information evokes feelings of abundance and sharing. * The “love” economy accounts for about 60-70% of the real economy whereas * Traditional invisible hand economics suggest that competition * We as Americans are reasonably secure in our material circumstances and have plenty of surplus. This allows us to be more individualistic and personal… But this also means that we are more prone to be depressed. During the world wars, great depression, and trying to land a man on the moon, we had a common shared mission as a nation. Today, we lack this same unifying mission. * We’ve realized in the last 20 years that we need a balanced scorecard approach to quality of life indicators other than economic (financial) alone. * Gregg gave a shout out to Bhutan’s GNH (Gross National Happiness) model, which I blogged about before– I believe this model is fantastic. * It has been shown that women entrepreneurs are greater givers to charity than male entrepreneurs. Also there’s a recent case study that mentioned that companies with more women managers at the top outperformed other companies with mostly male senior management. The emergence of women in the workplace, it is estimated, has created more economic value than the industrialization of China. (Dang!) *** I loved this one: Hazel and Gregg both argued that it is impossible to manage complex problems with a single discipline. They emphasized the importance of system thinking and multi-disciplinary collaboration, just like the Biomimetics speakers did. Aha! The design planner’s raison d’être. It is a good day, folks. * We need to stop supporting the ideological invisible hand theories * World public opinion can absolutely drive corporate profit. It is possible to lose social mandate very easily– This is why CEOs are starting to recognize the importance of CSR. *** Another important note!! Just because there are indicators other than monetary that can measure progress, it doesn’t mean they are all qualitative! (This was news to me, of course). Turns out a group of statisticians came up with a list of 12 quantitative metrics that defined quality of life. * Positive psychology: Psychologists have determined that three characteristics of stress free people are: forgiveness, optimism, and gratitude. This is *not* altruistic polyanna. This is the same reason why people who volunteer their services feel happier in life. * Check this on Wikipedia: Revolutionary Wealth, Wealth of Networks. Shows us how we can increase wealth in the “Love economy”.
*** The field of design is dedicated to human possibility — Gregg Easterbrook
* Amy referenced attention economy (buzzword alert * Microsoft is doing research about user interruption– When is the best time to interrupt someone to alert them about something? (an email, an impending task, etc) * Don Norman: recognized that interruption during a task is worse than an interruption later. * Countertrend-> sophisticated users reverting to simple technologies (PDA->moleskine/notebook) * The discussion continued about issues I was pretty familiar with so I stopped taking notes… Identity 2.0, trust in social networks and on wikipedia, etc. * I thought this was notable: It cost Wikipedia only $750K to run last year. This year, total costs appear to be $1.5M. The total economic benefit to the world of having an open source encyclopedia, while not easily measurable, easily clears this cost. * Jimmy believes that participation in information is a universal human right. I would take this a step further, arguing that access to and participation in information is the MOST basic and important human right. * A fundamental rule of Wikipedia is “no original sources”– this model has worked out pretty good for them thus far. * Apparently there is a Creativity and Cognition conference taking place in D.C in 2007 that should be stunning. I wish I could get to it :Oo
Energy Discussion: Gunther Pauli & Reginald Modlin
* The first person to write about “healthy cities” was Leonardo Da Vinci * Da Vinci talked a lot about “flow”. He saw the importance of flow in cities, the flows of people, and even the flow of joy in the body. Leonardo was also known for the integration of sciences by which he worked. * Gunther was all worked up over the fact that HVAC systems are flawed because they go against the flow of physics. * Both speakers thought that the most important thing we need to do right now is to educate our children- change the curriculum to teach biomimicry, etc.
For some reason, these are all the notes that I had from the energy discussion. I was entertained by Gunther’s antics so I didn’t spend much time taking notes.
This weekend, I skipped the Michigan-Ohio State football game to go to the Global Visionaries Symposium put together by the MCA and Bruce Mau’s Massive Change campaign/exhibit. It was well worth it. I’ll be posting notes from the conference over the next few days.
Squatter cities Stewart Brand — Founder of the Whole Earth Catalog
* Underpopulation will be a larger problem than overpopulation * Every week, there are 1.3 M new people in cities. * Globalization shifts power to cities * When people think things are going the wrong way, they act selfishly. They stick to themselves, only fend for themselves and their families. On the other hand, when people feel we are commonly progressing towards something, they have a tendency to share and give!
* Nations have concrete boundaries, whereas cities are nodes that allow people to pass through freely. As a result, we’re starting to see cities emerging in importance as connectors– they are the place where people come to for culture. * Population experts believe that the world’s population will level off at 9 billion in the 2040s * Why are people leaving the rural areas for the cities? According to Kavita Ramdas, of the Women’s Global fund, city life offers women choice. Whereas in a rural environment, the man forces the woman into a particular role, urban environments offer market labor and choice for the woman other than homemaking. Though anyone is upwardly mobile, women have the most to gain from moving to this environment.
Brand continued to speak about what he called “squatter cities”
* Squatters = dominant builders in today’s cities. Rocinha is a large favela in Rio Di Janeiro. Its informal infrastructure is astounding.
Here’s one that I found particularly interesting- a list of stuff squatters CARE about and DON’T care about: Stuff squatters care about: * Security of Tenure * Location near work (I guess they’re thinking–who wants a 1.5 hr commute anymore when you can hop on the El/T/Bart/MTA?? * Water * Sanitation * Electricity — rural electrification is still way off in *many* developing countries. This becomes painstakingly evident when you stare at the dark side of the world and all the lights are on. * Protection from crime — Now this I thought was interesting. I assumed there was more crime in an urban environment than a rural, but I was incorrect. Cities provide common services like crime protection to urban dwellers regardless of income but in the rural areas, there is no enforcement, so pirates run amok thieving and plundering without consequence.
Stuff squatters don’t worry about: * Housing * Unemployment * Medical Care * Starvation * Phone Service (Its crazy that we take all of this for granted here in the US)
* In squatter cities, there are a wealth of informal enterprises http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Informal_economy.. Some of which are very complex. Some even use high technology (i.e. internet cafes, cell phone booths). I wonder what the government’s stance on these informal economies is.
* 60% of the employment in developing countries is in the informal economy. * Innovation in this space abounds; Squatter cities, more often than not, are inherently green. This is because there is little waste. Products are reused, and then reused again after that. Talk about having a green citizen supply chain. Product design firms have a lot to learn from this environment. * Burning Man, NV: Quintessential example of a squatter city scaling up. * Everyone thought that the advent of the internet (and especially broadband) would allow people to live far away from urban areas and contribute to the economy. (Brand mentioned housing developments in remote areas in Montana that went unsold after long time). On the contrary, we’ve found that people in remote areas, as a product of their connectivity, have more interest in cultural centers, and thus a higher propensity to move there. So the internet is bringing people together (literally) more than bringing them apart. * Utility and service providers have just started to understand how they can monetize services to squatters (in the past, squatters have just stolen electricity from power lines for instance). These providers have recognized that they need to gain the trust of squatters in order to serve them. Since squatters don’t have steady income streams, providers have innovated a token-based model to purchase electricity from them. This prevents theft of common services, and allows for greater market efficiency. How many BoP innovations could be enabled by a token-based revenue approach? My guess is quite a few!
* Running through my head: How does a legitimate government or well-intentioned corporation separate informal enterprises from illicit activities: human trafficking/drugs/prostitution? What’s the best way for government to engage with this black marketplace to try and collect tax revenue, and thus provide better infrastructure to these squatter cities?
There is a Bizweek article about Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com’s "Mechanical Turk" which aspires to be a platform for "human intelligence tasks". There is huge potential here… but… why Amazon? I have trawled around and can’t really seem to place my finger on why here, why now (apparently Mechanical Turk has been up for a year which I didn’t notice). I guess Amazon wants a hand in the competition for the *new* web platforms. Microsoft and Google are battling it out right now without any *real* competitors to speak of.
As I read about mechanical turk and browsed through some of the HITs on the website, I thought about the potential for MFI/micro enterprise in developing nations. SMEs will be able to outsource mini-tasks to people across the world. The only barrier I see that presents itself is contextual-awareness and tacit understanding of the task that needs to be accomplished before any contractual agreement. But then again, if the costs are so low, and the tasks so granular, maybe this won’t be a big issue– People are willing to take a risk to see if they’ll get back something that solves their immediate need.
When I talked about this with a friend, she brought up exploitation as a potential threat. Without dropping Sachs’ philosophy – the more sweatshops, the better – I agree that there is a potential for exploitation but the nature of "knowledge work" is that its far less strenuous than manual labor. Providing an alternative is important– Personal choice in vocation precedes freedom and better working conditions.
* As a sidenote, Amazon is trading at an extremely high P/E: 57.74 at the time of this blog post. Holy moly.