The Economist and the Human Potential

If TED is about “Ideas Worth Spreading,” then the Economist’s Ideas Economy conference series is – as the title would suggest – about ideas worth monetizing. It’s the Economist, stupid! The venerable publication, a notorious late adopter, has realized that despite solid market standing it must reinvent itself to survive, both through a suite of new digital products and by branching out into the conference business. The focus on Innovation (as in “a commercialized original idea,” as the excellent moderator Vijay Vaitheeswaran defined it in his opening remarks) is a natural fit: The Economist has always stood for liberal economic policies and liberal social values – which is typically the kind of fabric that innovation thrives in.

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By Tim Leberecht – //designmind.frogdesign.com

If TED is about “Ideas Worth Spreading,” then the Economist’s Ideas Economy conference series is – as the title would suggest – about ideas worth monetizing. It’s the Economist, stupid! The venerable publication, a notorious late adopter, has realized that despite solid market standing it must reinvent itself to survive, both through a suite of new digital products and by branching out into the conference business. The focus on Innovation (as in “a commercialized original idea,” as the excellent moderator Vijay Vaitheeswaran defined it in his opening remarks) is a natural fit: The Economist has always stood for liberal economic policies and liberal social values – which is typically the kind of fabric that innovation thrives in.

The most recent event of the series (full disclosure: frog design was a sponsor) took place last week in New York: With the theme “Human Potential,” 250 business leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, and academics discussed for two days how to foster and tap into the creativity and intellect of their employees, stakeholders, peers, and students. The cynic could object and ask “Do we indeed have potential?,” inferring that the term “potential” implies progress and betterment – but are we, humans, even good? And if so, can we get better?

According to Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, the answer is a clear yes. He presented a “history of violence,” arguing that violence is on the decline, which, as he readily admitted, appears to be somewhat counter-intuitive, knowing that there has not been a single day without war in the history of mankind. Attribute this to a recording bias: The magnifying effect of mass media makes violence more visible than ever before. Yet, Pinker cited empirical studies showing that the amount of actions which cause physical harm has steadily decreased over the past centuries. Despite the many atrocities it saw, the 20th century was not the most violent century in terms of absolute numbers (compared to the total world population), and acts of terrorism, Pinker pointed out, can only be described as (statistically) “insignificant.” Clearly, Pinker commented, the US overreacted in response to the 9/11 attacks. Before you cheer about the rise of human enlightenment and moral reasoning, however, consider that the way violence is committed may have become more subliminal, and that, more pressingly, weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a few rogue individuals (or states) can arguably do more harm nowadays – that is, cause ‘ultimate violence’ – than ever before. Additionally, it remains difficult to project future trends based on historical data so that an overly optimistic, non-violent concept of human potential might be flawed because of a bias of retrospective. In fact, the Rational Optimist‘s great blind spot is that it cannot look into the “heart of darkness,” that it has no means to explain or forecast truly irrational behavior.

On top of that, it is, of course, particularly hard to assess the human potential when you are human. Is human potential limited to humans? Can humans really fully unleash their own potential or will it take artificial intelligence to do so? Were the attendees in New York able to realize human potential or rather its impediment? The conference, for the most part, stayed away from such provocations. Notwithstanding the occasional excursion into macro-economic or philosophical debate, most of the program was devoted to more pragmatic topics such as employee motivation, knowledge management, institutional and non-institutional learning, and creative thinking. Leer más “The Economist and the Human Potential”

Consumer Confidence Improves, But Jobs Numbers Hard to Predict

byJohn Zappe

It’s numbers week in the U.S. again. The time of the month when the official government employment data makes its appearance, influencing stock markets worldwide, and corporate hiring decisions nationally.

Predictions of what Friday’s labor report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will show are already beginning to appear. A Dow Jones Newswire survey of economists says that on average they expect the U.S. to have lost 110,000 jobs during August. That’s mostly due to the continuing layoff of temporary Census workers.

Because of the massive Census hiring, analysts have been paying closer attention to developments in private sector hiring. In July, the BLS said 71,000 non-government jobs were created, though the Census layoffs resulted in a total loss of 141,000 jobs. (Both those numbers are likely to be adjusted in the Friday release.)

Tomorrow (today), we get a preview of what may be in store when ADP releases its National Employment Report. The payroll processor uses its data to estimate the monthly change in private sector employment. While the numbers are usually lower than the government’s, they tend to accurately predict whether jobs were added or lost.


It’s numbers week in the U.S. again. The time of the month when the official government employment data makes its appearance, influencing stock markets worldwide, and corporate hiring decisions nationally.

Predictions of what Friday’s labor report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will show are already beginning to appear. A Dow Jones Newswire survey of economists says that on average they expect the U.S. to have lost 110,000 jobs during August. That’s mostly due to the continuing layoff of temporary Census workers.

Because of the massive Census hiring, analysts have been paying closer attention to developments in private sector hiring. In July, the BLS said 71,000 non-government jobs were created, though the Census layoffs resulted in a total loss of 141,000 jobs. (Both those numbers are likely to be adjusted in the Friday release.)

Tomorrow (today), we get a preview of what may be in store when ADP releases its National Employment Report. The payroll processor uses its data to estimate the monthly change in private sector employment. While the numbers are usually lower than the government’s, they tend to accurately predict whether jobs were added or lost. Leer más “Consumer Confidence Improves, But Jobs Numbers Hard to Predict”

Introducing the buyer-centric revolution

Beyond the organisation’s go-to-market goals and imperatives, marketing also makes a bigger, broader economic contribution. Every economy involves production and consumption; supply and demand. How well the economy works, however, doesn’t just depend on production prowess but on how well production and consumption/supply and demand are aligned. If you’re brilliant at supply, but you supply something for which there is no demand, then your production activities haven’t created wealth. They have created waste instead.

Ditto: if you have produced stuff people want but they can’t navigate their way to it, your efforts are as good as wasted. So the magic ingredients in any economic system are not production and consumption in isolation, but the alignment and navigation that bring them into line, in sync. Marketing’s broader economic contribution, then, is to ensure that production is a wealth creating rather than a waste creating activity. Pretty important in other words.

Now: a question. Who says it is the God-given right or duty of organisations to direct, manage and organise these economically critical tasks of alignment and navigation? The principle of alignment and navigation holds true whether it is carried out by producers (the source of supply), a third party such as a government, or the source of demand (‘the consumer’).


The Marketing Metrics Continuum provides a fra...
Image via Wikipedia

Reinventing marketing

Sometimes something is so obvious you don’t need to give it a second thought. It’s obvious for example that the sun orbits the earth and it’s obvious that the marketing is something that’s done by marketers who are employed by organisations to achieve the goals the organisation sets them.

Obvious perhaps, but sometimes the obvious hides a deeper not-so-obvious truth. To glimpse this deeper truth we first need to see how our initial assumption colours everything – everything – marketers do. If ‘marketing’ is done by marketers working for organisations then:

— the purpose of marketing: to help the organisation achieve its go-to-market goals.

— the processes marketers use – processes that help the organisation pursue its purpose, of course.

— the metrics marketers use to measure how well they are doing.

For any practitioner, this is a vast, rich and complex agenda. But as I’ve noted before, it’s also stunningly limited. So let’s step outside of it for just a moment. Leer más “Introducing the buyer-centric revolution”

From Open Business Models To An Economy Of The Commons

What does it take for open business models to become an economy of the Commons? What are the pros and cons of a system based on peer production? How do open business models compare with the traditional economic system based on intellectual property and copyright?

open_business_models_economy_commons_michelbauwens_size485.jpg
Photo credit: GPRC, remixed by Robin Good

I have recently shot a small number of very interesting videos with Michel Bauwens, the peer-to-peer movement evangelist and founder / publisher of the P2PFoundation and in one of these I asked Michel to share his vision of such economic system.

How does he picture a system based on cooperation and collaborative approaches where individuals create and distribute value to their peers?

As he suggests, the key strategy which allows open business models to gradually migrate to a successful economy of the Commons (which are immaterial goods that are everyone’s property like knowledge, code and design) is the emergence of companies that make use of the Commons and then sell the extra value they add to Commons in the marketplace.

Such business approach does not work by leveraging the same approaches of our present system such as classical job employment, wages and copyright. Instead, the new economy of the Commons grounds itself on three new components:

1. Distributed communities of passionate individuals working together spontaneously on
2. collaborative platform and Internet technologies and by
3. the foundations, for-benefit institutions that make their know-how available for free.


What does it take for open business models to become an economy of the Commons? What are the pros and cons of a system based on peer production? How do open business models compare with the traditional economic system based on intellectual property and copyright?

I have recently shot a small number of very interesting videos with  Michel Bauwens, the peer-to-peer movement evangelist and founder / publisher of the P2PFoundation and in one of these I asked Michel to share his vision of such economic system.

How does he picture a system based on cooperation and collaborative approaches where individuals create and distribute value to their peers?

As he suggests, the key strategy which allows open business models to gradually migrate to a successful economy of the Commons (which are immaterial goods that are everyone’s property like knowledge, code and design) is the emergence of companies that make use of the Commons and then sell the extra value they add to Commons in the marketplace.

Such business approach does not work by leveraging the same approaches of our present system such as classical job employment, wages and copyright. Instead, the new economy of the Commons grounds itself on three new components:

  1. Distributed communities of passionate individuals working together spontaneously on
  2. collaborative platform and Internet technologies and by
  3. the foundations, for-benefit institutions that make their know-how available for free.
Open Business Models: The Importance of Peer Production – Michel Bauwens Leer más “From Open Business Models To An Economy Of The Commons”

Five things you need to know about how people make decisions

To engage today’s consumers, we must embrace unfamiliar ways of understanding and communicating with them. Jon Wright, regional director of analytics and insight at MEC Asia-Pacific, tells us five things about reaching consumers.

Jon Wright, MEC

The digital era has brought about two major changes. First, consumer behaviour is more irrational than we used to think. Second, changes in the immediacy of media, use of the internet and the availability of data mean we can get closer to consumer decisions than ever before…


To engage today’s consumers, we must embrace unfamiliar ways of understanding and communicating with them. Jon Wright, regional director of analytics and insight at MEC Asia-Pacific, tells us five things about reaching consumers.

Jon Wright, MEC

The digital era has brought about two major changes. First, consumer behaviour is more irrational than we used to think. Second, changes in the immediacy of media, use of the internet and the availability of data mean we can get closer to consumer decisions than ever before… Leer más “Five things you need to know about how people make decisions”

Five things you need to know about how people make decisions

To engage today’s consumers, we must embrace unfamiliar ways of understanding and communicating with them.
Jon Wright, regional director of analytics and insight at MEC Asia-Pacific, tells us five things about reaching consumers.

The digital era has brought about two major changes. First, consumer behaviour is more irrational than we used to think. Second, changes in the immediacy of media, use of the internet and the availability of data mean we can get closer to consumer decisions than ever before.


To engage today’s consumers, we must embrace unfamiliar ways of understanding and communicating with them.
Jon Wright, regional director of analytics and insight at MEC Asia-Pacific, tells us five things about reaching consumers.

Five things you need to know about how people make decisions

Jon Wright, MEC

The digital era has brought about two major changes. First, consumer behaviour is more irrational than we used to think. Second, changes in the immediacy of media, use of the internet and the availability of data mean we can get closer to consumer decisions than ever before. Leer más “Five things you need to know about how people make decisions”

The Perilous Problem of the Persistently Jobless

Posted by Stephen Gandel

For a time now my editor Rick Stengel has been asking the question: Why won’t unemployment stay at around 10%. That is to say, even after the economy pulls out of the recession how do we know that unemployment won’t remain where it is today. Perhaps 10% is the new 5%, when it comes to unemployment. We have afterall outsourced many of our manufacturing jobs and some of our service jobs to China, India and elsewhere. So if we make a lot less than we used to and do a lot less than we used to, whose to say that unemployment won’t remain stubbornly high, no matter which way the economy is headed.

My response a year ago or so ago when Stengel started to ask the question was because it can’t. I majored in Economics and know from my classes that the long-run frictionless rate of unemployment in the economy is about 5%. Once the economy got a kick-start, that’s where the jobs numbers would be headed again rather quickly.


Posted by Stephen Gandel

For a time now my editor Rick Stengel has been asking the question: Why won’t unemployment stay at around 10%. That is to say, even after the economy pulls out of the recession how do we know that unemployment won’t remain where it is today. Perhaps 10% is the new 5%, when it comes to unemployment. We have afterall outsourced many of our manufacturing jobs and some of our service jobs to China, India and elsewhere. So if we make a lot less than we used to and do a lot less than we used to, whose to say that unemployment won’t remain stubbornly high, no matter which way the economy is headed.

My response a year ago or so ago when Stengel started to ask the question was because it can’t. I majored in Economics and know from my classes that the long-run frictionless rate of unemployment in the economy is about 5%. Once the economy got a kick-start, that’s where the jobs numbers would be headed again rather quickly. Leer más “The Perilous Problem of the Persistently Jobless”