Think Bigger. Aim Higher. Go Further.

Month: May 2009

The Culture of Buying

My wife and I visited Istanbul a few years ago and met a very nice person who offered to take our photo in front of an ancient building.  Afterward, he gave us a history lesson about the area we were visiting.  He then invited us to his shop to look at some carpets.

Before we knew it, he was entertaining us with stories about the history of carpet making as a young boy pulled down stacks of carpets and displayed them one by one as we sat in comfortable chairs.  The shopkeeper identified attributes, color combination and traditional design patterns with an enchanting story for each one.

After a while, the shopkeeper from next door walks in with a tray of hot tea as we continued learning about the carpets.  A bit later, we all went across the street for a traditional Turkish snack and more tea. Then back to the shop for more carpet viewing.

Hey buddy, not so fast.

My wife and I decided to make a purchase but instead of taking our money, he took us back across the street to smoke the Hookah, sip real Turkish coffee and listen to live traditional musicians.

The whole process took many hours but it was like traveling in time.  Istanbul has been the crossroads of commerce between two continents for thousands of years.  We ended up paying too much money for the carpets – but to this day they are among our fondest memories and most prized possessions.  They represent an indescribable experience in an exotic and comfortable setting.  Now they look beautiful in our home.

Human Nature

It is human nature to trade.  People want to do it.  People want to meet other people.  People want to learn.  They want to share. People want to buy things and people want to sell things.  They want to congregate.  They want to travel.  People want new experiences.  They want to laugh, smile, sip tea, and listen to music. They want fond memories and beautiful carpets.

So why is monetizing social media so complicated?  What is the big secret?

The transaction of conversation, relationship, and knowledge:

With social media, people are invited by friends, family, or associates to walk through an electronic door and into their inventory of relationships.  Few people realize that this is a profound act of friendship, kindness, and trust.  Think about it, people trust you with their relationships. How do we manage that?

However, neither party is fully aware of the conditions upon which the relationships present their self.  The cultural infrastructure of introducing people, assisting in the exchange of conversation, and transaction of knowledge in social media is not established.  The idea that a transaction can and should take place is not fully recognized.  The introduction of the people to each other does not have a process, taxonomy, a location factor, or a time function.

Then again, social media has not been around for thousands of years

No buyer, no seller:

•    If social media develops a culture of sales – it will fail.

•    If social media develops a culture of buying – it will thrive for thousands of years.

The Next Global Currency

Charging interest on money was at one time illegal.  The concept of “interest” was legitimized by the argument that lenders needed to be compensated for the risk that they assumed.  As such, currency is married to risk and not necessarily actual productivity.

Whoops.

Risk can never be negative because it is a measure of volatility where zero is the lowest possible value.  There is such thing as good volatility (winning the lottery) or bad volatility (my 401K) or zero volatility, but volatility can never be negative; hence the term “Breaking the Buck” which is considered a failure of the monetary system.  Interest rates respond causing inflation or deflation relative to other currencies, causing more volatility, thereby inducing more risk, etc.

Who wants to be a numéraire?

The dollar is a “numéraire” – the standard by which value is compared.  Recently there has been a strong call for a global currency to change the numéraire to something else.  Ideally, the numéraire should be able to manage negative interest rates to keep volatility pegged to real productivity and not speculative emotions.  This would keep the system from crashing in a whirlpool of volatility that incessantly feeds on itself.

So what are the practical implications?

With a positive interest rate, I am penalized for borrowing currency since I need to pay the risk premium to a lender while I produce something with the currency.  On the other hand, I am rewarded for lending currency because someone pays me the risk premium to borrow it.

With a negative interest rate, I am rewarded for borrowing currency (because the lender is deeply penalized for not lending it) so that I can produce something with the currency.  Then I am penalized for not lending (or spending) the currency that I made from the thing that I produced.

Enter Social Media:

The whole idea of risk as the justification for interest does not make much sense any more.  In fact, during periods of deep inflation or deflation, currency becomes divorced from actual productivity and people hold some other store of value instead.

People are flooding to social media because information, knowledge, and innovation are behaving like currency.  Social currencies are perfectly suited to accommodate negative interest rates.  For example: if information were a currency, I would be rewarded for giving it away and penalized for hording it.  If knowledge were a currency, I would be rewarded for sharing it with others and penalized for withholding it when it is needed.  If innovation were a currency, I would be rewarded for crowd sourcing and penalized for patenting.  Does this sound familiar?

The Next Economic Paradigm

Conversation and relationship are two of many denominations of the new global currency called the ‘rallod’ which is allowed to float against the dollar. Continual development of social media tools, systems, economics and aggregation will facilitate the exchange of social currencies by increasingly enabling the ability to store, form, access, and exchange them.  Social networks and communities of practice will allocate social currencies as factors of production: social capital, creative capital, and intellectual capital – for the production and dissemination of innovation.

The Next Numéraire; human productivity

Let countries compete in the economy where net human productivity is the standard by which all value is compared.  With the constraint on land, labor, and capital, this is the game we all need to play now.

The Winners of War Write the History

Every once in a while the debate on written history emerges through school textbook selection, a controversial act of legislation, or by a historic figure defending their legacy long into what should otherwise be a comfortable retirement.  Even in the age of Social Media, the tenet holds fast; the winners of the war write the history.

Enter Social Media.

Computer enabled society has a way of flipping ideas over on their head.  For example; if the winners of the war tell the history, then the inverse must be true. Those writing history are the ones that win wars.  As traditional news media gasps under the weight of a millions of bloggers, so goes one of the most prominent fortunes of war – the ability to define a culture.  The history still gets written.

“Extra Virtual” Education

Education, like traditional media before it, is encountering their nemesis in the Internet.  The content that kids get on the internet is superior in richness, diversity, and relevance than textbooks.  No longer can school administrators select the material that students must learn. If they don’t agree with the way history is written, they can easily find an alternate history.  They can live in “extra virtual” space – that is, outside the virtual world and inside a chosen reality.  People discover their own culture.  The history still gets written.

Historical Perspectives

Ultimately our new historians need to enter the workforce to decide what to innovate, what to produce, and what to be passionate about.   Where will they find perspective?

The study of history is essential to the three ultimate purposes of education in a free society: to prepare individuals for (1) active citizenship, to safeguard liberty and justice; (2) a career of work, to sustain life; and (3) the private pursuit of happiness, or personal fulfillment.

Expanding Conclusions

Many conclusions are based on a set of assumptions.  The more elaborate the assumptions the more risk there is at arriving at the wrong conclusion.  However, when two opinions are built on the same assumptions and yet their conclusions differ, that difference is a very valuable set of data because it now defines a range of possible outcomes.  As such, the inverse must also be true; there are many possible ways to achieve a solution within the range of desireable outcomes.  This is the domain of the innovation economy.

The True Value of Education

The next economic paradigm will be characterized by many history tellers multiplied by the number of ways to attain the goals of education in a free society; including, but not limited to active citizenship, safeguarding liberty and justice, sustaining life in a joyful career, and the pursuit of happiness and personal fulfillment.

There is only one way to travel a single known path.  However, from the ability to compare alternate histories, the purpose of education is greatly expanded and the value of education is multiplied many times over.  The teacher will become the ultimate entrepreneur.

Ignorance does not win wars, let that history be written.

The Currency of Transformation

The words “conversation” and “convertibility” are really quite similar.

Information, knowledge and innovation are distinct phases of human intellect which are profoundly related.  The vehicle for transformation across these phases is the “conversation”.  As the medium of exchange, the conversation acts as a currency.   The speed at which these exchanges take place defines the value of a market – a good party is where everyone is engaged.  A good time is of the essence.

Changes in the value of the market defines the potential for value creation through conversation – a great party pulls more people into engagement and becomes a social movement; i.e., a marketing success.

Currency (money) and Current (time) and Current (force) are similar too!

Conversations exist as a state of shared information tied to a common and progressing theme.  The internet enables the propagation of conversations from two persons to millions of people.  The propagation of conversations is dependent on interest rates of the audience.  The rate of propagation accelerates with the transformation of information into knowledge by others in it’s path.  People are driven to entrepreneurial action when the alignment of information matches the environment that they observe.

Conversation is Currency

Currencies come in many different forms and the best ones are convertible – or can be transformed – into other currencies.  Our objective is to convert social currency, creative currency, and intellectual currency into a universal currency such as, but not necessarily, money.

Anything of value such as an option to exercise an action at a later date, or an equity position in the actions of others, or a mentorship opportunity with a great teacher are all convertible currencies.  Of course, this is nothing new; we pay money to buy a book, take a class, invest in start-ups, and teach our children.

An End to a Means:

What is new is that social media allows us to convert the other currencies before, after, and in between the conversion to money.  The option to convert to money is simply an option like any other option, not necessarily a means to an end.

Obviously we could pay money to buy a book, use that book to teach our children and hope our children can start up a new company, etc.  However, suppose we could pay money to buy a book, improve the book by adding information shared by others, teach hundreds of other people how to apply the ideas to their start-up, take an “knowledge equity” position in those hundreds of start ups, have access to the data that they produce, and write a book that improves the likelihood of successful start-ups.

The Interesting Thing About Interest Rates

The next economic paradigm will introduce thousands of convertible currencies in the form of infinite conversations.  Those currencies will be converted in infinite combinations for infinite applications each adding value to the conversation.  Relational data aggregation will match most worthy currencies and social vetting will manage the production process. The corporate silo will no longer form; therefore the exploitation of the creativity class will end.  Interest is not measured in terms of risk, but rather in terms of productivity where deficit spending is impossible. This is the currency of transformation.

Follow The Leader

Two Types of Leaders

There are two types of Leaders in the World.  The first type elevates themselves by standing on the shoulders of others.  The second type elevates themselves by elevating the people around them.

The first type of leader gets ahead much faster but often produces unsustainable conditions.  The second type takes much longer to get ahead, but creates a solid foundation for much greater growth and benefit to the community.

Follow the speculator

This is often the difference between the entrepreneur and the speculator.  The entrepreneur will scour the earth looking for resources to elevate from a low level of productivity to a higher level of productivity.  The speculator simply looks for volatility and instability so that they can place bets for or against the success of the entrepreneurs.

Social media aggregation services and search engines are very good at analyzing followers and using the quantity of followers as a proxy for leadership.  They are not, however, very good at identifying leaders any more than they can identify empathy, kindness, and courage.

Leaders follow leaders….

The next paradigm of economic development will be an innovation economy characterized by social aggregation and search devices that identify both types of leaders in a community. Once visible, an entrepreneurial community, by definition, will reject the first type of leader and elevate the second type to a level of higher productivity.

…not followers

The Ingenesist Project specifies the structure of an innovation economy where human knowledge is tangible outside the construct of the Wall Street.  All of the functions of a corporation can soon be duplicated in social networks enabled by social media.  We are very close to this day.  One of the critical evolutionary steps will be to identify and segregate the leaders from the speculators. This simply cannot be accomplished if preoccupied with watching followers.

The Second Impression of Social Media

As we move away from the ROI valuation model for social media and adopt a more dynamic ‘options’ analysis, a different picture emerges.  People are trading options; that is, the right without the obligation to exercise an action.  The next economic paradigm will emerge as a function of people exercising their options.

What are you doing here?

On the surface, there appears to be a lot of ‘feel-gooding’ on linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter, etc.  It is easy to brush them off as trivial, non-productive, and delusional.  I often fall victim spending too much time on these devices and have asked myself, simply: “why?”

Computer Enabled Society

At second glance, however, I have personally developed a few extremely profound, important and valuable relationships through “computer enabled society”.  People who I have never met in person have stepped way out on a limb to help me along.  As a result, I have given these people the option to access my network and they have done the same for me.  Our common purpose makes each relevant and valuable to the other and each are willing to support, mentor, and elevate the other.  We exercise options together.

Impressive Results

The distinction is that what once was a “first impression” – firmness of handshake, fashion, and physical appearance – has become the “second Impression”.

What was once the “second impression” – intellect, wisdom, talent and generosity – has become the “first impression”.

People exercise their options accordingly; first impressions leads us to action.

Evolution or Revolution?

Social media does not care if you are rich, poor, young or old, beautiful or homely.  It does not care about the color of your skin, fat or thin, physical ability or disability.  It does not care what kind of car you drive, clothes you wear, or the size of your home. Or does it?

For every revolution, there is a corresponding evolution.

What is the ROI for Social Media?

The quick answer is that ROI is indeterminable – get over it.

ROI is a static measurement where financial decision makers look into the Crystal Ball to project a future economic outcome which is then be protracted back into the present to arrive at a value of an investment opportunity.  In case you have not noticed, this valuation method is largely bankrupt.

Like lipstick on a pig

Yet ROI Persists. B-schools teach SWOT; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats as a means of dressing up our projections with yet more projections.  All the ROI in the world may predict the economic future but as soon as people react to the market condition through improved information in Social Media, all those models fail.  This is called reflexivity and it is becoming a dominant influence in all financial projections in the age of Social Media.

Fortunately, the true visionaries of the next economic paradigm are increasing in numbers and rapidly moving away from the ROI model into something far more valuable simply by asking the serious questions……

Hey, what exactly is the currency we’re using?

David Bullock and Jay Deragon from the Social Media Connection Network are producing a series of videos investigating the currency of social media where they astutely ask the tough questions, “What are people trading?” and “what is a Tweet worth?” While these may seem like simple questions, they have many an ROI expert stumped.

Nobody really cares if I had bacon for breakfast; so the ROI on that tweet is exactly zero.  However, if you get 15 tweets in an hour on the same subject – there must be something important related to bacon today.  The more people sending bacon tweets, the greater is the value of my “option” to react to what looks like a bacon pandemic.  Still, I hold the option, without the obligation, to expend my limited resources in response.

Options have value

The value of social media is counted in options – not ROI.  Social media is dynamic, not static. Therefore “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT)” are also highly dynamic moving targets that are highly contagious in social media and cannot be foretold in the next 5 days let alone 5 years. The cardinal rule of business is to collect assets and reduce liabilities. An option is an asset and an obligation is a liability.

ROI fails.

ROI is a future projection brought to the present.  Options are collected in the present and projected to the future – there is a fundamental difference between the two that must not be overlooked.  People are doing something, they have a plan, they are cooking up a new trick and the ROI is indeterminable…

Options have value and obviously people are willing to pay for them with their time at a keyboard, therefore, they are willing to pay for them through any medium of exchange.  This is what people are doing on social media – collecting options. The Next Economic Paradigm will provide a means to cash in those options. Hold on to your chips, the social media game is far from over.

You Are The Algorithm

You are the algorithm.

Google is an information company. Their corporate charter is to organize the World’s information.  Their limitation is that Google cannot organize knowledge because knowledge exists only within the consciousness of a person.   Instead, busy little Google spiders scour the Internet looking for high rates of change of information and they use that as a proxy for “knowledge”.

An economy is crawled

Google Spiders favor blogs because of the high frequency of updates, postings, tags, comments and keywords in comparison to static websites.  The logic goes as follows; if there is a lot of activity, something must be happening.  As a result, an entire industry has grown around the blogging and Search Engine Optimization business; listings are counted, raw data are analyzed, comments provide feedback loops.  Most notably, money is exchanged.

B-school tells us that that ROI can only be calculated from long term future projections, not short-term-recent-past spider activity.  If this “economy” cannot be projected through ROI, then how exactly is it projected?

Dynamic, like life itself

People are figuring out that the rate of change of information is the best indicator of value as well as the best way to create value. The last mile of social media is the next frontier of value creation as people will emulate ‘Google Spiders’ and scour their community for changing information, new ideas, improved information, and feedback loops to organize, categorize, and distribute.  This action will ultimately play out in new corporations built upon perfect dynamic information markets rather than third party selective information markets.  Exit Boston Globe, enter Twitter.

Organize this:

The key to unraveling the Innovation economy will be in refining, restructuring and organizing the profound relatedness between information, knowledge, and innovation.

Information is facts and data – this is the medium of exchange or “the currency”.  The rate at which the facts and the data change is a proxy for new knowledge being created somewhere and somehow. After all, if there is activity, something must be happening.   All of the things that people do with the results creates even more new knowledge – this is innovation.  Innovation creates new information. New currency is created because new information is created.  Knowledge expands.

There is something in it; otherwise people would not do it

We are seeing the tip of the iceberg; social media is the new engine of the innovation economy.  Where information becomes more perfect, markets become more efficient.  Where markets are more efficient, knowledge becomes more tangible.  Where knowledge is more tangible, innovation is more predictable.  Where innovation is more predictable, the innovation risk disappears.  The lower the risk, the cheaper and more abundant the venture capital.

People increasingly use social media to improve information, everywhere, any way that they can dream of.  They increasingly act locally and share globally to create opportunities for themselves and their communities.  People and their behavior is the algorithm of the innovation economy; monetize that. Google did.

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