Read this CNNMoney article about Publix Super Market offering free antibiotics to any pharmacy customer with a prescription. Amazing that we can give people antibiotics for free who have the financial means to pay for them, but charge people prices way beyond their means in developing countries.
The August long weekend in Canada is traditionally the last long weekend of summer to be spent camping. Even though the weather tends to be fairly nice during the September long, for Canadians the mood has changed and we feel winter’s fury approaching. That is why I’ve been camping this weekend and things have been pretty quiet.
Coming home this evening and going through my emails and feed reader brought to an extremely interesting, though possibly impractical on a large scale, example of sustainable urban design.
Two grad students at MIT, James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk, both M. Arch candidates have come up with an interesting way of converting mechanical energy to electrical energy. Called the “Crowd Farm“, the pair have developed a system of subflooring consisting of blocks that depress slightly under the pressure of human footsteps and by slipping against one another, generate power through the principle of the dynamo, a device that converts the energy of motion into that of an electric current. This could, they believe, effectively utilize human movement in creating renewable energy.
Thaddeus Jusczyk and James Graham
Although similar flooring systems have been developed already, the students believe that the “Crowd Farm” can potentially “redefine urban space by adding a sense of fluidity and encouraging people to activate spaces with their movement”.
Over the last couple of months I’ve written a number of postings alluding to the BOP (base of the pyramid) market of 4 billion citizens living in poverty, and how private sector business can not only profit from this huge market but help alleviate their poverty by assisting in economic development and providing a connection to the rest of the global economy. I came across a blog posting at NextBillion.net by Rob Katz entitled, “BusinessWeek On BOP-A False Dichotomy?”. Apparently he wasn’t impressed with the magazine’s simplistic portrayal, in the latest issue, of the BOP market using a definition similar to mine above. Nor was he impressed with the “false dichotomy” created by discussing the BOP market as a consumer market and then introducing the opinion of Arneel Karnani, associate professor of strategy at the Ross School Of Business, who believes it should be viewed as a market of producers. Katz has recommended in his posting that Business Week take a more “nuanced view of base of the pyramid strategy or practice” in the future. I suppose using the comment they used to illustrate disagreement wasn’t the best. Technically it does create a false dichotomy, but why not put a positive spin on the article rather than arguing logic and semantics?
In the BusinessWeek article, “On Campus, A Different Pyramid Scheme“, the magazine discusses the huge increase in both college classes offered relating to the BOP concept and student interest in the topic. Whether or not the BOP concept is valid (I think it is), in the next 10-15 years we are going to see an increasing number of sharp business students and MBAs coming out of their post-secondary years full of purpose and yearning to find meaning by focusing their lives on helping those at the base of the pyramid.
You must admit, all those flocking towards this idea are looking for more than money. The majority of this market earns less than $2 per day; obviously not a lot of money to spend. The aim of this generation of students is to help, to serve, and to assist others have better lives. It brings me back to the last aptitude in Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind”: meaning. Meaning will play a tremendous role in the lives of young people today. Not only because we search for products and experiences with some meaning central to our these days, but also because we all strive to find meaning and purpose in life and one of the best ways to find just that is to help others, to go beyond ourselves.
Forget about the logical failures in the article, and focus on the fact that there are more and more university and college students every year looking to spend their careers involved in one way or another with the BOP market. The best place to start for these students and for Business Week, Rob Katz, and even Stuart Hart and C. K. Prahalad is to see this “market” as a population of human beings with real feelings that suffer the same highs and lows as the lucky ones in the developed world and we must aim to serve them in some way. If that is through for-profit business, great. I believe that is ultimately going to be the only way to connect this population to the rest of the global economy thus allowing them to develop the infrastructure, health care system, educational system, etc. that they will need to be self-sustaining in meeting their basic needs.
Business Week did a great thing by alerting us to these business programs and their rising popularity. It’s just time that the 4 billion person, BOP market be viewed not as producers or consumer, but as human beings, real people. Objectifying people by applying some business-related label to them is not the way to either help them or “penetrate the BOP market” they supposedly comprise.
I’ve been working on a blog posting relating to one of my recent reads, “Teacher As Servant: A Parable“, penned by Robert Greenleaf, the same Robert Greenleaf of the Greenleaf Center For Servant-Leadership. I’ve written it and rewritten it a few times now trying to get it just right. I can’t, so I’m going to just freely type as the thoughts come right now following the principle of KISS: keep it simple stupid.
Why have I tried to write this posting numerous times you might ask? Well, as a Christian the concept of servant leadership is important to me. Christians looks to Jesus Christ as the ultimate example of leadership in action but as most of us know, he is a very different type of leader from the typical CEO or prime minister/president we see in this day and time. He was before anything else a servant. Now I won’t go on all day from a Christian point of view; I just wanted to show where my interest stems from.
To try and derive all of the meaning found in the book and summarize it in a short blog posting is impossible, for me anyways, so I’m just going to write and trust that my true feelings and intended message will make its way onto the computer screen.
“Teacher As Servant” though a fictional work is based on true events. Our protaganist, Martin Hedeggar, tells of his experiences at Jefferson House (also known as Hammarskjold House), his home during his post-secondary years and its effects on him in his business career in the years following. Jefferson House is the embodiment of a set of ideas, namely servant leadership, that should be taught on every university and college campus. In my opinion, anyone entering the business field should have required courses in servant leadership. In fact there are some programs in servant leadership at select universities. At Viterbo University in Wisconsin, you can now earn your Master of Arts in Servant Leadership. As far as I know this is the only master’s program available at the moment.
Anyways, beware of the tangent. Jefferson House was, to put it simply, a group of people living together on a university campus, headed by a housemaster named Mr. Billings, that aimed to learn how to be of service to society. Or how to succeed at a leadership role while maintaining servant qualities, mainly those regarding empowerment and empathy. Now my aim is not to write a book review here although I do recommend reading this one. The insights and meaning packed into this piece of fiction will most likely require you to read the book a couple of times or at the very least take notes. I just want to talk about an idea put forth in the book that is new to me but very relevant to my own life at the moment.
In discussing growth, one of the books characters introduces the concept of “entheos”. Entheos, which come from the same background as the word enthusiasm, is defined as “the power actuating one who is inspired” or the “essence that makes a constructive life possible”. The character tries to build a concept of growth around this word by giving some indicators that entheos is either growing or not. He begins with some indicators that are not reliable as evidence of the growth of entheos. It is important to keep in mind that entheos “does not come in response to external incentives” and we can not “will it”. The only thing that we can will is the search for it. So what are the six unreliable indicators?
- status or marital success-our reaching for success often destroys what is truly important
- social success-we often move toward those who we are comfortable around and don’t challenge us
- doing all that is expected of one self-only you know what should be expected of you
- family success-“family may be taking more out of the wider community than contributing”
- relative peace and quiet-you’ve closed yourself off to the possibilities
- busyness-apparently “beneath the surface of much action there is the drive to avoid the implications of growth”.
These are the unreliable indicators. Notice that these would be the indicators we as human beings, in the developed world at least, would tend to look at as evidence of growth, happiness and success. Now what about the valid indicators?
- a concurrent satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the status quo-you are not so unhappy with your current situation that it has a negative bearing on your life, but there is ample incentive to continue to grow
- a concurrent feeling of broadening responsibility and centering down-simply put, expanding your horizons while at the same time having a growing awareness of “that one thing” you will do with your life
- a growing sense of purpose in whatever one does-“What am I trying to do?” becomes the persistent question as you move from activity to activity, and from day to day. Personally, I try to think of Victor Frankl’s finding purpose for his life while incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp as I move from day to day. This seems to make those activities I just can’t seem to find a purpose in seem like a piece of cake.
- changing patterns and depths of one’s interests-newer, deeper interests begin to replace those of old
- moving toward a minimum of difference between the outside and inside images of the self-we all wear masks to some extent, but gradually we become more transparent and authentic no matter where we happen to be
- conscious of the good use of time and unhappy with the waste of time-distractions are everywhere in our society. I often wonder about the economic effects of social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. Think of all of the good you could be doing in the world when you sit down in the evening and watch your 3+ hours of CSI, Without A Trace, and American/Canadian Idol.
- a growing sense of achieving one’s basic personal goals through one’s work-that popular saying, “the grass is green on the other side” is apparently not true. Remember Victor Frankl and your should be able to find purpose and achievement in whatever you do, even as an industrial butcher
- a growing sense of unity in all aspects of life-job, family, church, recreation, etc., tend to meld together. Activities that impinge on what you deem important tend to be discarded. Recently, before I read the book, I had a conversation with a person who would be a worthy role model for most young people these days. I iterated that I really felt I needed to work toward finding this unity in my life and the person told me it couldn’t be done. I disagreed with him, but it was nice to see a like-minded point of view put into writing.
- a developing view of people-all people are to be trusted, valued, and most importantly, loved.
- an intuitive feeling of oneness, of wholeness, of rightness-this doesn’t mean you get comfortable and become complacent, it just means you feel your are moving in the right direction.
As a Christian I can find alot of the fundamental tenets of my faith in this list of growth indicators. Interestingly, this list does not come from a Christian and the person who gave this book to me to read is not a Christian, yet they actually depict these qualities better than most Christians I know, including myself. Servant leadership is not something that is Christian, it is completely and totally human. Once you find these indicators start to ring true in your life, you are on the right path no matter what your belief system.
I wrote this posting because this book really touched me in a deeply personal way. It contained so many ideas relevant to me personally and those ideas would be of great benefit to any human being on the face of this planet. If the whole population of planet Earth each lived to serve others this world would be a much better place. I encourage any readers to read up on the concept of servant leadership and apply it wherever you are in life. Family, business, and church are all places where it can be effective.
Since this is a business blog, I would encourage anyone with a leadership position in business today or in the future learn everything they can about servant leadership and apply it. I feel it will be something that will catch on in the management field in the next little while. Not as a bubble, fad, or trend, but a style of management that will be necessary to succeed in the Conceptual Age.
So far, on my little journey into the blogosphere here, I’ve enjoyed highlighting businesses, business models, people, etc. that have an innovative bent. I’ve also discussed in the past my hopes of completing my business program with a narrative, interactive, multimedia-based (I’m going to have to work on narrowing those descriptives down to something more malleable) business plan.
The New York Times reported today that Sean Combs, aka Diddy, P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, is looking to recruit a new personal assistant. He is rumored to be a rather demanding boss judging by the NY Times article. If you like the idea of being yelled at and holding his umbrella, it may be your type of job. The interesting slant to this that makes it worthy of the Conceptual Age is the fact that Diddy is not accepting resumes. Not paper ones anyways.
Diddy has uploaded a video on YouTube alerting cyberspace he is looking for a new assistant. He is not accepting resumes, but rather maximum 3 minute video clips describing what makes you the right person for the job, to be uploaded onto YouTube. Viewers will pick the finalists, and Combs will pick the winner.
It would be of interest to those considering applying for the job that Diddy’s last personal assistant, Fonzworth Bentley, used his position to land a recording deal, endorsements, and launch his own line of umbrellas!
I’m starting to see more and more evidence that my idea of a multimedia narrative business plan will be something that we may see more of in the future and likely we will see more employers asking for videoclips to be attached to resumes to give them a more personal quality.
Check out Combs’ video below:
So I’ve been suffering from a little “infomania” lately. You know, compulsively checking your inbox and your RSS reader, trying to process all of the information you go through daily combing the web for interesting tidbits to blog about. Even worse, compulsively starting projects until you reach a point that you have so many things to tend to, your head begins to spin and you don’t actually get anything done. This is my current predicament. The thing is though, I shouldn’t be in this predicament at all. I haven’t come up with all 100 goals I’d like to achieve yet, but I have plenty to keep me busy until I do. So I’ve decided to buckle down this morning and come up with a list of things I’d like to accomplish by the end of 2007. These are the objectives I will focus on until then and nothing else, unless I happen to complete all the objective before my December 31 deadline. This is what will occupy my time for the rest of 2007:
- complete research and first draft of business plan (currently I have several ideas that I’m testing the viability of; one idea so far has been taken off of the viable list for the time being)
- blog a minimum of 4 postings/week (I really am finding using this blog to explore the business environment is a very useful learning tool, not to mention an effective personal branding and networking application)
- run 3-4 times/week (I enjoy running first off; secondly, it’s a great way to reduce stress and just feel healthier)
- keep my daily “life lessons” journal (inspired by Mr. Billings advice in Teacher As Servant, I’ve began to keep a journal with the aim of deriving one lesson out of each day I live. I hope to pass these journals on to my children once they reach adulthood)
- finish up my stats course (currently I’m just finishing up the one course as I have some other financial committments that are forcing me to take a break for a bit. Perfect timing though, as my current employer is going through a major restructuring process and whether or not my job position will survive is unclear; hence I need to time to work on my business plan)
- organize stock-picking competition on Moving Into The Conceptual Age (I think this will be neat, so stay tuned for further updates on this one)
- look for some freelance writing gigs to make a little extra money (I enjoy writing alot
This is basically it for the rest of the year. There are some other projects I’ve mentioned on this blog in the last month or so that will be on hold. For instance, I began to work on developing a wiki for discussion and collaboration regarding finding viable ways to develop economies in developing countries. This is something that interests me deeply and will eventually integrate itself into any business plans I have.
Okay, so I’ve set a basic framework for the rest of 2007, but what steps should I take to be absolutely sure they are accomplished. Here’s a few:
- develop a project timeline for business plan development
- check email and rss reader twice daily
- schedule times to write blog postings and exercise
- journal at the same time everyday
- every evening write 3-5 items to accomplish the next day, that once completed are rewritten on the back of the index card (an anti-to do list; taken from the blog of Marc Andreesen)
So there we have it, an extremely simple plan for the rest of 2007 “set in stone”, so to speak. It’s written down now and I can refer back to it whenever I need.
In these days of congested marketplaces and commoditized products, success in the business world requires a person to be a “designer”, or at least be able to think like one. At DesignBoom, low-cost industrial design courses are offered. They are unaccredited and I’m unsure of the actual content, but I thought it looked interesting enough to highlight given my heavy interest in “design thinking”.