Filed under: Carbon, Environment, Greenpeace, Innovation | Tags: Environment, Greenpeace, Innovation
The rate of innovaton is increasing – that’s what Matt Ridley told TEDGlobal last week. New ideas “have sex”, and create new innovations. Examples: location-based services are the love-child of social media and smartphones; cloud-services are the result of a romp between faster access speeds and cheaper storage space. Ideas are like rabbits – rampant little love beasts having indiscriminate sex, and before you know it we’re overrun with them.
So, just as sexual reproduction speeds up the rate of evolution, this “mashing” of ideas speeds up innovation. What’s more, just as faster evolution helps species adapt to changing environments, Ridley thinks that faster innovation will help us solve the world’s problems.
Instinctively, I love it. So much more positive than the dreary language of sustainability: reductions, caps, and the most uninspiring word of all – neutral. We need progress, not sustainability. Human nature is compelled by more, not less.
Still, there was a time when I was beguiled by innovation in banking – yes, really… the sheer complexity and inventiveness of it. Well, we all now know what a house of cards that was. Now, there are those who argue that blind innovation – too much indiscriminate sex, to torture the metaphor – can do more harm than good.
Greenpeace recently raised the alarm about the growing number of energy-hungry data centres, full of whiring disks and fans. WorldChanging.org responded that the benefits in terms of efficient working and reduced travel are much greater. Either way, it shows that innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
So what to do? Ridley misses a big difference between evolution and innovation. Evolution is driven by chance mutations in the genome; it’s random. Innovation doesn’t have to be random – it can be guided by our ambitions and values, both at an individual and corporate level. All that’s required is a bit of self-knowledge – maybe the toughest bit of all…
Image of idea fornication from Cote’s photostream.
Buzzword soup: open innovation, crowdcasting, co-creation, collective intelligence, croudsourcing, mass collaboration. Oh, and crowdfunding…
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned crowdfunding in a post on this blog – and had a handful of people asking for more information. There’s understandably a lot of interest in this area – but is it really a solution to every funding dilemma?
It’s maybe too early to say if these sites are working – but crowdfunding seems to be doing ok for the music industry. Sites like Slice The Pie, Sell A Band and Artist Share are turning fans into investors, asking them to fund artists recording new material.
It’s working for film too: A Swarm Of Angels connects investors to film projects. Journalists can get funding to work on a story from Spot Us. And of course there’s the world’s first crowdfunded football club, Ebbsfleet United.
Still, when it comes to raising money for not-for-profit ventures, it’s easy to imagine there’ll be more and more social enterprises fishing in the same pool of well-meaning funders. How to make sure the funds keep flowing?
It’s similar to the question that people asked James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds: how do you make sure that “wisdom” doesn’t turn into “groupthink”? His answer was very specific. He recommends:
- Keep your ties loose – don’t try and lock people in too much.
- Keep yourself exposed to as many diverse sources of information as possible.
- Make groups that range across hierarchies.
Maybe there’s an analogous “wisdom of crowdfunding” – the art of making sure that the pool of funders is always diverse and fluid. It feels like crowdfunding has yet to really fly – maybe someone needs to crack this formula first.
Image from Jane Mingay.
Filed under: Climate Change, Economics, Ethical Consumerism, Happiness, Innovation, Mother, Public Opinion, Uncategorized | Tags: Advertising, Climate Change, Environment, Happiness, health, Innovation, Mother, New Economics Foundation, Public Opinion
Yesterday Nic Marks from the New Economics Foundation came in to Mother and talked to the strategists. Nic works on well-being and how to measure it, and he started by telling us that he thought people like us – advertising types – fuel the false belief that stuff can make us happy. In fact, Nic wasn’t initially at all keen to come and talk to us – a reminder that to many people, we’re the problem.
I was digging around on their website and found this, in a report called A Bit Rich, which calculates the “Social Return On Investment” of different jobs:
The impact of the [advertising] industry has always been a point of controversy. It encourages high consumer spending and indebtedness. It can create insatiable aspirations, fuelling feelings of dissatisfaction, inadequacy and stress. In our economic model we estimate the share of social and environmental damage caused by overconsumption that is attributable to advertising. For a salary of between £50,000 and £12 million, top advertising executives destroy £11 of value for every pound in value they generate.
Reminds me of the famous Bill Hicks line, “by the way, if anyone here tonight is in advertising or marketing… kill yourselves. Just a little thought”. In fact, I just watched it again. It’s really old now, but great to see again:
Yeah, well. It’s not like we sell arms to children or anything. Of course there’s nothing intrinsically evil about marketing, but the collective indifference of our industry is impressive. Still, I’m convinced this is changing for the better. A few people yesterday pointed out NEF’s slogan, “Economics As If People and the Planet Mattered” – something to think about for us.
So there was a bit of a cultural tension going on. Despite this (or maybe because of it), it was a great talk. Plenty of good nerdy discussion on indices, measurement, systems theory, psychology – finishing with the beautifully practical Five Ways To Wellbeing: Connect, Be Active (physically), Take Notice (smelling coffee, etc), Keep Learning, and Give (compassion, Dalai Lama style). If this all sounds a bit “self-help”, there’s some solid evidence behind this stuff. And some good heart too. It would be nice to figure out some ways we can do some projects with these guys.
And if you’re interested, here’s the full presentation:
Filed under: Advertising, Climate Change, Environment, Google, Innovation, Mother | Tags: Advertising, Climate Change, energy saving trust, environmental, Google, Innovation, Mother, virgin
The first post on this blog talked about “Public Innovation Challenges” – such as the Virgin Earth Challenge, with its $25 million prize for anyone who can figure out a way to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
More recently, Google’s Project 10100 offered $10 million for “ideas to change the world”. They were overwhelmed with over 150,000 ideas in 25 different languages. Google says it took over 3,000 employees to read them – and they’ve left the decision to a public vote which closes this Friday.
Our clients at the Energy Saving Trust are joining the party, helping to launch the Low Carbon Communities Challenge, a £10 million fund to help communities such as transition towns to reduce their carbon output. This may not be a vast amount of money, but it’s a progressive approach: encouraging and enabling local communities to take action has to be a smart way forward.
In the meantime, Mother’s ad for the Energy Saving Trust went live last week with a different kind of challenge: stop wasting energy. Saving the planet may be important to many, but right now saving money is important to everyone. Even so, doing an ad about energy saving promised to be deadly dull, so we’ve tried to add a bit of charm to it, in the form of Dave. Recognize the voice?