Famed author and modern day renaissance man Nassim Taleb talks about Extremistan. While his analysis refers to black swan events, randomness and outliers in the economic world, it seems as though pop culture is on a similar trajectory.
Tattoos used to be an extreme thing in themselves. Now real tattoo people have to differentiate through full body cover and face tattoos. Extreme Sports used to mean things beyond golf, football and athletics like motocross. Now they look more like base jumping, jetpack flying and cave diving. Game Shows used to be about trivia and family fun guessing answers to win cars. Now they involve near death experiences on tropical islands to win millions of dollars and potential reality stardom. Travel Stories used to be interesting enough when someone visited far flung Asia or eastern Europe. Now hardcore globe trotters visit Afghanistan and Honduras to ensure their story gathers more kudos.
I’m sure you can think of another zillion examples of the progression towards our culture of extremistan. It is a clear reminder we are in a world which is so connected and immediate that most things have already been seen and done. What used to be unusual is just the new normal. There’s very little scarcity when it comes to ‘things and activities’. And because one of the only things that is scarce these days is attention, many people are literally risking their lives to get it. This tells us much about the human condition. We crave attention. But attention is really just a proxy for something much more human. We want to be recognised and acknowledged, and maybe deep down we just want to feel loved.
What an opportunity. To pay attention to everyone, and not just those who will go to the extreme to get it. Genuinely caring about people and making them feel your love might be the best low cost strategy we can find these days.
New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!
There are very few people in the world who know how the thing in the picture above actually works. Yet, there are also very few people in the developed world who have not been a major beneficiary, and even a driver of this complex technology. There is not generally a fear of the technology that makes cars do what they do. Instead we embrace the benefits they deliver and use them in every way we can. They changed where we live, how we travel, our leisure patterns, the structure of living spaces and cities, they changed the world more than anything that came before them. They totally transformed our culture.
And it is happening again. A new set of tech tools are providing both fear and opportunity. I wasn’t around when cars became common place, but I imagine there was as much fear of the unknown then, as there is now. There was probably talk of jobs evaporating and the end of economics as we know it. And yet, it was the bellwhether for the greatest period of prosperity in human history. While it’s impossible to know how most anything works these days (division of labour), it’s very easy get behind the power technology provides to win in business. In fact, it’s probably easier to win because fear of the technology is holding so many people back. We don’t need to know how something works, we just need to know that it does. And once we embrace that fact, it will reshape our perspective and quite possibly our fortune.
Many of the economic ideologies we learned in business school are turning upside down. What once worked, now doesn’t. What was expensive, is now cheap. What was impossible, is now humdrum. But unless we stop, consider and look, we just might miss some of these changes in what is true. Capital used to be expensive, and labour used to be cheap. Now it’s moving in the opposite direction. We used to think that the accumulation of capital was the key to success. But we forget it was a substitute to try and uncover intrinsic value. Thankfully we are starting to remember money is a tool, and not an end. Creativity used to be chosen by gatekeepers, now it’s chosen by us through sharing. We got tricked into believing that we should leave creative pursuits to others in the media, in the movies, and to the rock bands with recording contracts. To those who got picked. But now we know that was just because they owned expensive tools and could afford to buy our attention. We’ve now proved there is no monopoly on art, we’re all artists. Technology used to be expensive, and walled behind industrial barriers. We could only experiment with it while ensconced in corporate quarters building things for them as employees. Now we have NASA in our Pocket, maker spaces and collaborative tools to make better tech than those who gave us the tools to do it. The best tech now comes from hacking entrepreneurs because it’s accessible to all now, at disposable price points. The challenge most established businesses face isn’t technology, or ideas but belief systems. They develop a culture that makes them fall in love with what made them successful. It’s why big business is being disrupted after years of relative stability. Sometimes the most important thing ‘Big Co’ can do is forget what they know, and maybe even burn the map that got them to their current destination. New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!
The way in which all financial wealth is built, time immemorial is this:
Find a way to make money when you are not in the room.
This formula has never actually changed. All the traditional investments fit this definition. Property, Rents, Dividends, Interest, Equity and even creating a startup which becomes bigger than us. Essentially, we need to invent more than 24 hours in a day through the labour of others. We need revenue which is controlled rather than earned. We can build it, or buy it, either way can work. Some ways are faster than others. But if you want to generate money, then you need to bethink this maxim. It tells all about the financial future.
New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!
Here’s another 5 things that are worth investing some weekend time postulating life, culture and commerce over.
1. Take the marshmallow test for grown ups. An intriguing look at an old study that was done on kids attitudes in the 1960’s.
2. Hey, just print your next car. More proof 3D printing laughs at the internet as childs play in terms of future global impact. This is the 2nd 3D printed car I’ve seen after the Urbee… Sh*t is gettin’ real.
3. Some timeless advice from 1956. Let Earl Nightingale open your mind to the secrets to happiness and success. The best advice in life does not have an expiration date. This is seminal.
4. Wanna get learned? Get your ears around the Econ talk podcast. My fav’ podcast that I’m not in…. actually I never listen to anything I ever record because that would just be weird and sycophantic.
5. The future of technology – don’t ask me, this pinterest page of a search for ‘technology’ has way more ideas. Read at your leisure…
Have a super weekend people.
There’s a whole lot of tools we have at our disposal which didn’t even exist a few years ago. From a business perspective many of them present a counter intuitive option to the ‘Harvard Industrial Complex’. Yes, those established principals of what we thought we already knew about what worked in the market.
Trust the crowd to co-design our product? Are you crazy?
Get funding from future customers with out giving equity? How we going to do that?
Share revenue with content creating customers? Don’t be silly let’s keep it all for ourselves.
Co-opt with our competitors to grow the entire ecosystem? No way, let’s grow our market share instead.
Launch products with lower margin than those they’ll cannibalise? It’s uneconomic and stupid.
When the world changes, what once seemed ridiculous quickly becomes rational. Startups are now redefining what can work in a world driven by cheap and even disposable technology. It turns out having access to the new tools is not enough, we also need access to a new mindset.
While it is around 6 months old now, and still in beta, there has been a lot of noise about Social Networking Startup Ello. And rightly so. A decade or more deep into this social connection thing people are starting to realise, that corporations like Facebook and Twitter, are well, just corporations. They just have incredibly compelling and usable products, from which they’re motivated to deliver what all public corporations aim to do – increase shareholder wealth. Nothing new there. And while some of the founders may have had, and possibly even still have rather altruistic visions…
A more open and connected world
Change the world 140 characters at a time
… once any company becomes public, its DNA changes somewhat, it mutates and we end up with what we’ve always had. Profit centricity. This isn’t necessarily bad, profits are good, and only companies with great (or addictive) products ever turn one. It’s more about understanding things for what they actually are, or in this case, have become.
Ello, on the other hand believes there is a better way. And I agree. You can read their manifesto here. In short they promise never to sell ‘you’. What they don’t mention is that they’ve already accepted venture capital funding as part of their growth plan. Call me a cynic, but in general people who provide funds usually want some kind of monetary return at a later date.
If any social network wants to arrive and actually be, what Ello is positioning itself as, then it can never be a for profit corporation. It also probably should never be controlled by a limited number of people, or even an organisation. It needs instead to be a gift to humanity, a bit like the World Wide Web. It needs to be open source, and uncontrolled. A bit like a language really. One thing is for sure, it can never be about a financial return on investment.