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The legendary reggae band releases the 2012 version of the Barack Obama Song >>

The 2008 video version is here >>

Michael Gordon's book, Design Your Life, Change the World: Your Path as a Social Entrepreneur [A GUIDE for CHANGEMAKERS] is for changemakers - the people and organizations that want to make a difference in the world. 

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The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:

1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?

2) What's the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?

The reason I'm helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world's biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn't making things any easier...

Are you a changemaker?  Go find out >> 

P.S. - you can download the PDF version here >>

I don’t watch TV much but I just caught a clip of Richard Branson promoting his book Screw Business As Usual. Looks like he’s on the same page as Stuart Hart - who has been essentially saying the same thing for twenty years.  They ought to compare notes!

What was funny was watching Branson sit there as the producers had him wait and wait for his three minute interview.  He was clearly in distress - the anguish of the entrepreneur who can’t bear to waste time - as he smiled and waved every time they turned the camera on him. 

The book is available later this month… have a Happy Green Christmas!

Sometimes not knowing what you’re doing can help you do it.

Here I make a fool of myself at the Guardian’s Activate2011 conference in London:

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Thanks, Adrian!  Read the article here >>

And if you haven't already, submit your ideas to the $300 House Open Design Challenge!

Seth Godin posts a very insightful blog entry on the HBR site. He's talking about the challenges of marketing at the bottom of the pyramid:

When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the device pays for itself (if it didn't, they wouldn't buy it.) So a drip irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three harvests a year instead of one.

Read all about it >>

The Solar Electric Light Fund's Bob Freling has posted an entry in Harvard Business Review about his Solar Integrated Development (SID) Maturity Model and how it fits into our concept of the $300 House.

Here's Bob waxing eloquent:

Together with potable water, nutritious food, accessible health care, educational opportunity, and economic empowerment, the $300 House completes this virtuous ecosystem in which individual households and their communities can march hand in hand towards a bright and sustainable future.

Read the whole post The $300 House: The Energy Challenge >>

The $300 House Challenge is showing us that individuals and companies are willing to make a difference.

Check out WorldHaus from Bill Gross and his team at IdeaLab. Read his Harvard Business Review post on the "design challenge" here >>

The Gap screws up with their logo redesign. A giant failure of imagination in the boardroom.

But Umair Haque asks the right questions:

  • Do designers have a seat in the boardroom -- or just in the basement? How often does your CEO ever talk to a designer?
  • Are designers empowered to overrule beancounters -- or vice versa?
  • Is the input of designers considered to be peripheral to "real" business decisions -- or does it play a vital role in shaping them? Is design treated as a function or a competence?
  • Are designers seen just as mechanics of mere stuff -- or as vital contributors to the art of igniting new industries, markets, and catgeories, sparking more enduring demand, building trust, providing empathy, and seeding tomorrow's big ideas?
  • How much weight does senior management give to right-brained ideas, like delight, amazement, intuition, and joy? Just a little, a lot -- or, as for most companies, almost none?

Seriously.

We all need to wake up. The Chamber of Commerce approach to design isn't going to work anymore.


David Smith's HBR post on the financial challenge of the $300 House raises some very important issues:

Cracking the challenge of slums is the world's biggest problem of the next quarter-century, because the ecology of slums and the ecology of cities are linked. We cannot have a healthy global economy without healthy cities, and we cannot have healthy cities without tackling slums.

Join us >>

We're building a "creationspace" (JSB's word) for the $300 House-for-the-Poor at 300house.com >>

Please sign up, and tell your friends!

Here it is. The new song from Steel Pulse - for the people of Haiti.

At: www.holdon4haiti.org >>

Watch Paul Farmer explain:

Disclosure: SELF is my client, and I helped facilitate the project.

Ever since the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t have a quick-build house made of sustainable materials at a price point that the poor can afford (with micro-credit if needed).

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The $300 House-for-the-Poor is an extension of the concept of “reverse innovation(inspired by my client and friend VG) in which innovations developed in poor countries are then brought back for use in developed countries and other parts of the world. Housing impacts health, energy, education, and security.

What if we could build sustainably designed houses for the world’s poor at an affordable cost? What if these same designs could provide relief to refugees and victims of natural disasters? The we I’m referring to is a collaborative of companies, governments, and NGOs.

This type of a structure will be engineered in the same way the TATA Nano was engineered - without the traditional assumptions.

Once built, the $300 house should be used across the globe - from Haiti, to Africa, India, and yes, even in this country, to help the homeless.

So what are we waiting for?  It’s time to get busy designing the $300 House!

The political intentions of our GOP friends would leave the US with a hollowed-out economy.

Here is an example of how Obama’s unpopular bail-out for the auto-industry led to the creation of a new and critical cleantech industry - electric batteries - in this country. What say you, FOX News?

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In the past year, the lines have crossed in North Carolina. Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.

Take away government nuclear subsidies, and the case is closed!

Read the report >>


Watch:


Good for you Alex Bogusky! Can this ex-ad-man save the planet?

More on Hunter Lovins and Catherine Greener >>

Go J.R.! Note he mentions my client - the Solar Electric Light Fund. Stay tuned for more news about them...

I like the SolarWorld ads Hagman does quite a bit. Here he's talking to Sue Ellen (who seems to be blaming him for BP's mess in the Gulf):

Shine, baby, shine! Well said, Larry Hagman!

The thing about Hagman is he put his money where his mouth is - years ago - by converting his estate to solar, before solar was cool.

Letters from Van Gogh

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What would you do if you received something like this in the mail from a starving artist?

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Don't toss 'em!

Click and play... stay positive.

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A nice story from the World Bank blog about a grass-roots organization's efforts to stop petty corruption in India and around the world:

...the idea was first conceived by an Indian physics professor at the University of Maryland, who, in his travels around India, realized how widespread bribery was and wanted to do something about it. He came up with the idea of printing zero-denomination notes and handing them out to officials whenever he was asked for kickbacks as a way to show his resistance. Anand took this idea further: to print them en masse, widely publicize them, and give them out to the Indian people. He thought these notes would be a way to get people to show their disapproval of public service delivery dependent on bribes. The notes did just that. The first batch of 25,000 notes were met with such demand that 5th Pillar has ended up distributing one million zero-rupee notes to date since it began this initiative. Along the way, the organization has collected many stories from people using them to successfully resist engaging in bribery.

I like it. Now let's send some "zero dollars" to the Famous Five justices Supreme Court, the Blue-Dog Democrats, and the entire Republican party.

According to MIT and the Internet, this is who I am (click to enlarge):

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Find out who you are here >>

Listen to this:

Junk food elicits addictive behavior in rats similar to the behaviors of rats addicted to heroin, a new study finds. Pleasure centers in the brains of rats addicted to high-fat, high-calorie diets became less responsive as the binging wore on, making the rats consume more and more food. The results, presented October 20 at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting, may help explain the changes in the brain that lead people to overeat.

So is this another example of addiction as a business strategy - similar to what the tobacco companies were doing earlier?

Maybe that's why the IT geeks have such a hard time implementing Lean IT >>

Phil Townsend wonders why GE hasn't opened up it's Reverse Innovation model in his post: Opening up Reverse Innovation >>

Townsend makes a good point:

So why can't a company like GE follow down this path with "open reverse innovation" - inviting small companies in India and China to submit their products, services and ideas to be evaluated by GE for global distribution.  Of course, the open model would require an environment of trust - but what better way to create goodwill in new markets than to be seen as a development partner in the China, India, and resource-starved Africa?  A.G. Lafley sits on GE's board; surely he could help them get started.
Townsend also proposes the formation of innovation collaboratives funded by companies like GE to create a pipeline of new products for GE. 

Not a bad idea, if you consider that a recent McKinsey survey found that 20% of companies have opened up their innovation processes to employees and customers and they report a 20% rise in the number of innovations, on average.

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Mezeo's Steve Lesem explains how Cloud Storage is a disruptive innovation:

The common assumption is that the traditional IT vendors will be disrupted by cloud computing offerings from Amazon and Google.  The truth is, Amazon and Google may eventually impact this market, but they will not be the first to disrupt traditional IT service providers.Already we see hosting providers like Rackspace and SoftLayer provide their own suite of differentiated cloud offerings.
My thinking is that the entire cloud story is a paradigm shift for IT. See this article I just co-authored: Considerations for Migrating to the Cloud: How Cloud Computing is Changing the Enterprise »

See also
: Lesem's Cloud Storage and The Innovator's Dilemma »

Stay tuned for more on the cloud.

Edo Segal has an interesting guest blog at TechCrunch describing the “Future of Media.”

He points to Apple’s App Store as an example of what the rest need to learn:

The only way to block the incredible ease of pirating any content a media company can generate is to couple said experiences with extensions that live in the cloud and enhance that experience for consumers. Not just for some fancy DRM but for real value creation. They must begin to create a product that is not simply a static digital file that can be easily copied and distributed, but rather view media as a dynamic “application” with extensions via the web. This howl is the future evolution of the media industry. It has arrived from a company that is delivering the goods. Apple has made it painless for consumers to spend money and get the media they want where they want it, proving that consumers are happy to pay for media if delivered in ways that make it easy and blissful to consume.

He also states, rather matter of factly, that “he premise of extending the media experience to the cloud is a core necessity for the survival and growth of the media industry.”  I agree.  The media industry needs to “sell access and experiences, not media files.”

So how does an artist or a media company build these experiences?

I’ve been doing some thinking along these lines for a band I’ve followed for many years - Steel Pulse. What’s interesting is that while the band has a huge, global, cross-generational following built over the past 35 years - the media companies that were responsible for promoting them have done absolutely nothing to tap into this enthusiasm.  Not one thing.

The same goes for most of my business thought-leader clients as well.  The publishing houses do nothing to create a conversation with the passionate fans. 

Engagement is the key.  How does a musician or an author engage with their audience, their fan-base?  It starts with the quality of the conversation. And let me tell you, it’s far easier for an individual thought-leader or musician to do this than companies, largely because companies are too formal, too corporate, and don’t usually communicate with a human voice.

What’s needed is a way to go direct. 

Let the celebrity or thought-leader engage with their fans directly to build an attention platform, unique to the celebrity. The company that empowers this attention platform, and builds new services for the fans, will build the next media empire with the “lock-in” that comes with authentic engagement. 

Of course, none of this works without authenticity.  The celebrity must remain true to themselves. In Steel Pulse’s case, this means they need to stick to their core brand dimensions.  So each successive album, each song, each product, each statement, builds on the Steel Pulse Experience.wordle_spbrand.gif

They could even track the core messages of a successful album - in this case “True Democracy” - and extend their meaning in new songs and releases:

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So now let’s talk engagement, and I’ll break it into two simple phases - push and pull (borrowed from JSB and JH3).

Phase One: PUSH

So what does the celebrity do today?  In Britney Spears’ case, she’s tweeting her launch of a new song.  To me that’s not much of anything. Yes, she’s reaching out through social media -Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace - but these are all still one way marketing pitches - push media.

The artist pushes their songs, their products, their newsletter, their tweets, etc. etc. No discussion, no give and take.  Products are created and sold. One market, one size fits all. Core fans are treated the same as newbies. Nothing special except the show and the products - media files: audio or video. See what I’m getting at?

All of this is still just pushing product.

Phase Two: PULL

What happens if the fans come to you - with their suggestions, requests, and insights? What happens when they want to participate? Is it possible to co-create products and services based on insights from yoru fans?  Of course it is.

Start the conversation. Go 80/20: focus on the 20% of fans that will get you 80% of your profits. Start talking (and listening) to your biggest supporters.

Engage: physically meet the 20%. Create special events for them. In soccer for example, fans pay $30-50 dollars just to watch Cristiano Ronaldo practice. What’s wrong with doing a 30 minute sound check for your fans?  Invite them to the sound check - and have exclusive “sound check products” available only for these fans - available at the event, and online as well.  You could even have a question and answer session that they get to download later that evening.

Then of course you sell the live version of the show - for a “limited time only.” Vary the show slightly with the song set, so every night is a different.

Let your fans download the raw tracks and make their own mixes. Have a contest for the best mixes. Sell the mixes to other fans.  Use them in your album.

And when you create a new album, it’s version-time.  Reggae music has a long history of selling versions. What’s sad is they’ve stopped this traditional practice when really they need to be exploiting it. (See Hal Varian on versioning.)  So every song should have the following versions: album version, extended version, dub version, accapella version, acoustic version, dance version, Nyabinghi version, etc. etc.  

Talk to the fans about the songs through webcasts, band-calls.  Let then know where and what’s next.  Let them vote on what you should do next.

For legacy songs, make sure you sell versions-in-time. The 1983 version of Chant a Psalm a Day is quite different from the 2000 version, which again is totally different from the 2009 version. Real fans want them all.

All of this is do-able today. It’s not about technology, it’s about attitude, and the ability to communicate, to lead.  For a cause-driven band like Steel Pulse, this is their opportunity to shine.

And let your fans share in creating and spreading your experience.

Now let’s take a quick look at the business world. 

VG, as he’s called affectionately, is an author and well known strategist. His latest article in the Harvard Business Review, co-authored with Jeffery Immelt and Chris Trimble, has been a huge success - introducing the world to a concept called reverse innovation.

What we’re doing now is building his engagement strategy - through his innovation newsletter.  The idea is to start a conversation about innovation with the people most interested in this topic.

A small step to start, but I know from experience that a “simple” newsletter can drive over 50% of monthly sales online.

The great news is anyone can build an attention platform like this. And if you have something important to say, your platform will bring you the attention you deserve. 

It may even elect you President!

As I was finishing up on this, I just saw a tweet from John Hagel on author platforms (read here). Again, if Apple can help an author or musician build that platform, then Apple will “lock-in” that artist for life.  Same goes for Amazon.com. The distribution model for media is changed forever, period.

VG has touched a chord with this article in Harvard Business Review

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How GE is Disrupting Itself describes the concept of reverse innovation - how products developed in and for low-cost countries (like India and China) by multinationals (like GE) lead to growth - not only in the low-cost market, but at home as well.

VG says the article has touched an "emotional" chord with readers who are saying that this approach is just what "western" multinationals should be doing - designing products for the local market at a price-point which is within reach.

Check out the advertisement for one such product:


To me, this is just the first step to being truly global (as they say at Thunderbird). With business commitments at a local level, social commitments will surely follow. 

Now let's see some "ecomagination" in action and build portable solar/wind electrical generators for off-grid villages at an affordable price-point. Right, Bob?

Mapping the Seven Deadly Sins

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The geographers at Kansas State have put their considerable talent to good use. This is pretty stunning:

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Where's the map for hypocrisy?

More fun here >>

Michael Moore is serious, and most of all, he's right.

It's time for Capitalism 2.0. Let's get some True Democracy going.

I have to say the story of Jung's Red Book is fascinating.

But what really stunned me was what the book actually looks like:

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A work of art, surely, but we are about to learn a lot more about dreams. And reality.

Do you have a book of dreams?

Vijay Govindarajan's Innovation Quarterly is now open to subscribers.

It's free, and it's going to be good.

Sign up if you're interested in how innovation works.

Disclosure: VG truly is one of the sharpest minds in the business world, and I'm privileged to work on his newsletter!

The magic of Steel Pulse is their ability to transform a song into a mystical experience.

What should be a simple rendition of "Chant a Psalm" turns into a moving version of their timeless classic:

And here's another version of David Hinds singing the same song in a more traditional style.

Here's my intuitive intelligence interview with Francis Cholle at Emory Marketing Institute >>

Cholle's main point is that businesses have lost track of how to manage holistically. They are too focused on counting beans to create sustainable business value.

He's not saying analytics are useless. He's just saying that Mark Hurd at HP isn't going to come up with the products HP needs for the future by using analytical processes (that's not in the published interview - but we did discuss it!).

Read the interview here>>

My family has been a customer of Silk Soy for well over seven years. As of today, we quit. Why? Two reasons:

1) the soy beans aren't organic anymore
2) they're from China

Anyone who trusts food from China is being foolish. Remember this? Not to mention the carbon costs of transporting food all that way...

Read all about how Dean Foods destroyed its brand and beat up on American organic farmers at the same time. I thought about writing them or calling them, but it's less work to just switch. They're obviously not going to listen to their customers anyway.

Just another example of the short-term, unsustainable mindset of the multinational company.

What's the business value of democracy?

Finally, the real value of Twitter revealed>>

“We’ve been struck by the amount of video and eyewitness testimony,” said Jon Williams, the BBC world news editor. “The days when regimes can control the flow of information are over.”

Congratulations, Microsoft.

Bing is better than Google. There, I said it.

Type in "Godot" and see what I mean.

Wolfram Alpha, on the other hand, is a disaster. The less said, the better.

I can't give up on Google, so for now, my new search engine is GooBing!

The acquisition of Wind River by Intel should not come as a surprise for anyone who has been paying attention to the rapid evolution of the online experience. We know for example that the future of electronics is collaboration, sharing, and access - anytime, anywhere, on any device..

Companies that build a vision around the future and then work to make that future a reality using their business ecosystems will win the next round of competition after we emerge from the recession. Intel's shaping strategy, as my friend John Hagel would call it, is nothing short of brilliant.

Let's see why.

In the automobile "infotainment" world, Intel has been quietly working with Wind River and BMW (and others) to build a shared platform for devices based on open source standards. The ecosystem partners comprise the Genivi Alliance and are in competition with another, smaller ecosystem of partners driven by Microsoft. The difference is that Microsoft's infotainment stack is not open. Ford's Sync and Fiat's Blue & Me products are based on this competing platform. (How long before they switch?)

The ultimate irony - both platforms are built on Intel. And in this case, Intel knows something that Microsoft doesn't - that open systems are the future.

The Wind River platform is not limited to automobiles. They're doing the same across a variety of marketspaces, like the Open Handset Alliance Android - another open source platform.

The Wind River acquisition also helps include "Intel Inside" on all the devices which cloud computing will bring. Intel is making sure that the Telcos, IT hosting providers, hardware and software vendors - everyone gets to use Intel as the foundation of their future business.

Shaping Strategy 101: Intel gets it.

"When the US Department of Defense is the target of no fewer than 128 information infrastructure attacks per minute from China, and we discover that while DoD is almost universally using off-the-shelf Microsoft Windows systems while China is engaged in working toward 100% military deployment of security hardened FreeBSD, it becomes clear that there’s definitely something wrong with US information security policy."

Whoa!

Here's my "Customer-Driven Innovation interview" with Gaurav Bhalla for the Emory Marketing Institute.

According to Bhalla, the key building blocks of value co-creation are:

Listening: learning about consumers' experiences; their angst, frustrations, desires, and aspirations

Sustaining value co-creation conversations:
meaningful conversations that yield the raw material for co-creation

Experimenting and rapid prototyping: to manage risk, improvise, and enable speedy value co-creation

Execution: only when co-created value is delivered can the next round of value co-creation be initiated

Read all about it >>

The Work of Byron Katie can be used as a tool to challenge business assumptions.

Here, on Byron Katie's blog we find the following business inquiry: "Having More Customers Means Having More Profits" in which a biz-dev manager starts questioning his team's belief that "more customers equals more profit."

The process is described as business inquiry.

Here are the manager's conclusions:

"Having fewer customers means having more profit."

"One, we could focus on the customers that have the strongest cash positions, the ones who are most likely to weather the recession.

"Two, we could stop wasting time on difficult customers, the ones that keep changing their orders. They're very high maintenance, but we keep them because we think we need them to meet our numbers.

"And three, we could stop serving customers that don't pay in a timely manner, the ones with poor payment history."

More at Byron Katie's blog >>

UPDATED: HealthMap from Google.org and the CDC >>

I have to say I'm not impressed by the swine-flu coverage in the traditional media.

What's interesting is that one company - Veratect - has done a better job of identifying, elevating, and monitoring this crisis.

Their swine-flu Twitter feed is here. Judge for yourself. >>

Other good sources include the CDC and Google News, and the Flu Wiki...

Photos here >>

Background: the politics of health >>

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