Good ideas travel easily and far along trade routes. Ideas like irrigation, Apples, grapes and wine spread along the Silk Road. The paper and writing spread new ideas leading to increased literacy, the scrapping of old philosophy and the creation of new social orders. The printing press then led the way for today’s mighty publishing Industry. But don’t forget a simple fact, travel is the substrate of the next economic paradigm.
Ideas: A Chain with many Weak Links
Seth Godin wrote a wonderful article about the publishing industry called The Domino Effect. He observes that:
1. The middlemen (bookstores) have too much power to limit shelf space.
2.Authors are separated from their readers and don’t have the data to contact them directly.
3. Pricing is based static, slow, and largely irrelevant of content or any form of supply and demand which is of little benefit to the reader or the author.
4. Ideas from books travel much farther and faster than the book itself which does not translate into book sales.
Mr. Godin’s point is that given how important books are, the Chain has many weak links between the author and the audience. Publishing is due for an extraordinary disruption and Seth is going to change it with The Domino Project. But how many other industries suffer from the same weak-chain syndrome?
Travel: A Plane with many Weak Links
Well, if Books and Travel spreads ideas along the Silk Road, then they must have a lot of other things in common. If we apply Seth’s observations to the commercial airlines:
1. We see that Airports and airlines have tremendous power to limit gates, times, and availability of routes.
2. Airlines have no idea why they are carrying all those people around.
3. Pricing is static, segmented, slow, and has very little to do with the actual supply and demand for travel.
4. Travelers are transporting ideas which move faster and more broadly than the aircraft itself and which does not translate into more airline tickets sold.
Where ideas spread; value is created
What is so powerful about ideas? Most innovation gurus discount raw “ideas” as the useless drivel of idle minds. “Show me the money, not the ideas”, they bark. If ideas are not innovation, then what are they? If Ideas are not valuable, then what are they?
The Travel Economy
Travel technologies and applications are being sold for incredible sums of money. Every airline merger is big news and every geolocation application is huge business. Travel data is a lightening rod for everything from pricing to privacy. Social Media applications are getting that migration routes are an excellent marker for “value flow” and therefore, cash flow. Airline Travel is still the most favored mode political disruption because the links in the economic chain are so weak. Travel is serious business.
Every industry with weak links between production and end use are candidates for disruption in the great integration. Any idea that can strengthen the link in the chain between origin and the destination of an idea is a product of the great integration. The Social Value creation process and astonishing opportunity will happen at the weak links between origin and destination of any product or service.
(Editors note: The above post is #2 in a series , , , ,  introducing The Value Game to a new class of business methods. The first real world application is Social Flights; a collaborative production / consumption game being deployed to the market. If this works, the new business method class will be generalized throughout the economy to catalyze the convertibility of social currency. Please join us at The Future of Money and Technology Summit in San Francisco on february 28th 2011 where we will unveil the work to the technology community)