Home » Archive » Fiction society: moving beyond crowds

, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

Before moving on to a review of John Ruskin’s book, On Art and Life, there’s one more bit to synthesize from the first two (here and here). Trouble is, I’m not sure how to say this best. I even dreamt about this last night. But it’s still a bit muddled.

If these authors are right, we need to diligently set up the information that drives decisions. Concept packages are critical and usually ignored.

Poul’s comment about the sinister consequences of capitalism made me realize that markets drive off insufficient information too. The information used to inform capitalistic decisions is both too narrow and too broad. It is too narrow in its focus on efficiency, cost effectiveness, and rate of return. It is too broad in its focus on “society” rather than individuals.

In economics we like to talk about incentives. We get big kicks from toying around with ideas that incite changes in behaviour. But we usually focus on the crowd level instead of the individual.

In the past, generating data on individuals was costly and time consuming. That’s no longer the case but the economics hasn’t caught up. Our models and understanding of markets still drives off of a limited understanding of individual players.

As a consequence of missing the individual, we ignore their passions … the things that mean more than money. We ignore community, sustainability, and justice when these often mean more than anything else. As a result, it’s no wonder that governments and big companies struggle to handle to complexity of issues driven by individual motivations. We’re thinking about crowds, and they’re thinking about themselves.

With such a mismatch between theory and action, you get flawed decisions. We calibrate the means to influence people (incentive packages) on the backs of weak concept packages. The result is rich fodder for the kinds of skepticism voiced by Poul.

The incentive packages are weak and, since the information never changes, we continue to repeat our mistakes. We begin to process our thinking in deeply ingrained ways. We create new policies that look very similar to their predecessors.

If the ruts of human thought are to blame for the constant repetition of bad ideas then what are we doing about it? How do decisions in this context relate to Blue Ocean Strategies? How do we move beyond satisfying consumers and into passion?

It’s not an easy riddle. But somehow we need to find a new path. To invoke brilliance, defy gravity, and change the world we need to explicitly embrace individual drivers and set aside our old understanding of society.

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