Do you get your market’s vote?

Business is simple really – not easy – but simple. You create a product or service that offers value to a market, and that market acknowledges its value by purchasing it. If your product (or service) is not purchased, then you have to look at whether or how much the product is valued. In a way, customers are voters. With each purchase, the customer is voting for whether they like your product and/or your brand. You get lots of votes and you stay in business; you poll poorly and you are out of business.

Okay, so this is looking at business far too simplistically. There are many factors that go into a business working or not working. Indeed, you may well have a good product but haven’t figured out a way of marketing it or producing it at a cost that fulfills profit goals and a market’s price point. But that aside, let’s roll with our metaphor of the customer as voter.

This mechanism of voting/purchasing is based on a value exchange between the provider and the market. The business owner’s job is to be in constant relationship with the market to know whether or to what extent that relationship is healthy and there is a value exchange. If the relationship is healthy and the market perceives a fair value exchange, you are doing pretty well. Sales is a very clear feedback loop on how your business is tracking.

What about non-profits?

Small (and big) business owners know this and track sales constantly. It is like a doctor checking the businesses pulse (okay, no more metaphors). But what about the non-profit ‘market’? Read more

Working across timescales: the future may never get here

Last week I read a cool tweet by @SimonLongstaff at the St. James Ethics Centre which read:

“A proposal: that every regulation automatically lapse after a limited, fixed period – only being renewed if deemed essential”

I thought this was a cool idea to change the default from what is most often permanent legislation, to a default to make it limited or temporary and to have it renewed only if it proves itself. I also wondered if this should be the default for organisations or companies. Perhaps new companies or social services should also have a limited shelf-life (or business registration) that would only be renewed if it was deemed essential, effective and impactful. I wonder whether that would change our thinking around the strategies that we adopt, and the overriding purposes of our organisations.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should only think in short timescales. As a futurist, I am a big champion for extending the horizons in which we think, create and work. I mostly think in strategic cycles of 12-15 years within a longer vision of 50-100 years. I celebrate those organisations and communities which have the foresight to extend this further. The Queensland Folk Read more

Your idea is not unique, so get over it!

Recently someone pitched to me an idea for new organisation they want to establish in Australia, which highlighted what I have seen time and again as a perennial problem in the social space. This new initiative strangely shared the same mission, target group, and even name of an existing and well-known charity in the same city. The striking thing however was that the ‘entrepreneur’ claimed he had researched the market and that there were no other existing initiatives of its kind.

You wouldn’t believe how often this happens. Either the entrepreneur had not done their research, or if they did, the research was not of a quality that unearthed some very obvious results. A good place to start is to put your new initiative’s proposed name and key words into a google search. If you get no search hits, please let me know as you will be amongst the first ever. The only other scenario could be that research was conducted and did indeed uncover other initiatives, but the entrepreneur was legitimately convinced that their thing was indeed unique.

In the commercial world we are quite prepared to accept that a coffee shop can exist on every corner. We see them pop up all the time and get excited about the additional options available to us. Small business owners don’t shy away from Read more

art as change | egnahc sa tra

[ art as change | change as art ]

On the weekend I had the privilege hearing Australian artist Lynette Wallworth at TEDxSydney. Lynette uses video installation, photography and film to explore our relationship with ourselves, others and the natural world. Her presentation gave a preview into her new film project Coral Rekindling Venus, which explores underwater worlds to celebrate a rare astronomical event in the transit of Venus. In Lynette’s own words she talks about her work:

Imagine global co-operation for a global problem. Imagine corals as the barometer of climate change. Imagine we are the pivot point. Imagine rekindling Venus.

My intent is to leave the audience with a sense of wonder for the complexity of the coral community and a deep-felt longing to see it survive.

It was such a beautiful example and affirmation of the role of art and film in changemaking. I have been often inspired by those changemakers who utilise art in working with people, communities and in communicating new thinking and ideas. In a world obsessed with entrepreneurship as the most effective and legitimate vehicle for change, we ignore to our detriment the power and ethic of art as a universal and enduring force for change.

Just as art is a vehicle for change, so too is change an art. Having worked extensively with changemakers over the past few years, some of the most exciting projects I have witnessed were highly creative in how they have been born and grown. I think of businesses like The Groundswell Project Read more

What’s your hidden curriculum?

In education there is a term called the hidden curriculum, which refers to unintended outcomes or lessons taught in the classroom. These mostly encompass the soft stuff like values, beliefs, behaviours and norms that are transmitted through the social environment or the behaviour of the educator.

As a teacher a number of years ago, I was very familiar with the intended curriculum – those activities purposefully designed to bring about certain learning. There was an active process of designing lessons to do this. I was also conscious of how I used space and acted to bring about lessons. Despite all of this, I was still struck when students would tell me what they learned from me or a lesson, and I would be surprised to hear stuff that I was not actually conscious of doing or remembered occurring. These were at times positive lessons, and other times negative experiences. It was striking how so many of the most deeply memorable learning experiences where not from the ‘intentional curriculum’, but from the ‘hidden curriculum’ of the teacher.

Now, this all sounds like a fairly harmless thing if one has a bit of awareness and some emotional intelligence to deal with this stuff. The concept of a hidden curriculum can have a darker side though. An example of a more negative expression is when a school promotes inclusiveness while structuring its classrooms by ranking students according to ability or performance. Research has shown that relationships that are structured and modeled within the classroom can transfer to outside of the classroom. These norms have been seen to influence social groupings Read more