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Industrialists vs. the rest of us

Industrialists are not capitalists.

Capitalists take risks. They see an opportunity, an unmet need, and then they bring resources to bear to solve the problem and make a profit.

Industrialists seek stability instead.

Industrialists work to take working systems and polish them, insulate them from risk, maximize productivity and extract the maximum amount of profit. Much of society's wealth is due to the relentless march of productivity created by single-minded industrialists, particularly those that turned nascent industries (as Henry Ford did with cars) into efficient engines of profit.

Industrialists don't mind government regulations if they write them, don't particularly like competition or creativity or change. They are maximizers of the existing status quo.

Of course, they can't abide humanity when it comes to work, because humanity is inconsistent and interested in things other than the last zero. The best employee is a robot that can be plugged into a wall.

The stock market rewards the single-minded industrialist with short-term applause and then the relentless desire for ever more of the same growth and productivity that got them applause yesterday.

Today's industrialists define our economy, but they offer very little promise for tomorrow. They've long bought ads to polish their image, but mostly work to alter the culture in ways that will ensure they'll get just a little bit more yield out of each of us. 64 ounce Coke, anyone?

As long as industrialists are measuring productivity, engaging in scientific management and focused on ROI and predictability, there will always be a gap between the dreams of those they interact with and the demands of their shareholders.

There are lots of ways to justify the work of industrialists, to point to the efficiencies and productivity they create. That doesn't mean that we must aspire to nothing more.

Would you consider pre-ordering?

At the end of the year, I'm bringing out three new books at the same time. 

Copies of the books recently arrived at my office. Paging through them, I'm thrilled at how they came out, and together, they might represent my best ever effort at communicating the revolution we're living through. I hope you'll take the time to give them a read.

Three books at once might be crazy, but with your help, it might turn out to be a great idea. This is about making books for my readers, as opposed to finding readers for my books–and it all depends on whether you choose to read the books and to spread the word.

The first, the core book of the three, is The Icarus Deception. (BN) (5 pack) (outside US) It's about the death of the industrial economy, the need for art and the chance of a lifetime. You can read a free sample here.

(PS 1,000 copies of Icarus are hand-signed, and if you find one with a colored autograph, let me know, as I have a gift for you.)

The second is called V is for Vulnerable, (BN) It was created with Hugh Macleod, and it takes the last chapter of Icarus and turns it into a 26-spread illustrated book. I've been so delighted with the reaction this book has caused among the people who have actually touched it–changing the format turns out to be an effective way to get the message out. And it's fun.

The third is a big book, a high-value (plenty of pages per dollar!) collection of the best of the last six years of this blog. We named it Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck. (BN) For those of you that didn't get a chance to get the limited edition behemoth, here's a smaller, abridged black and white edition that sits right next to Small is the New Big. I'm incredibly proud (and a bit amazed) to experience a volume that took this long to write.

[PS we just added a three-book bundle, all in one click]

Of course, you can wait until January and wait until your friends have copies and wait until it's already being discussed, but I'm hoping you'll do me a favor and show your favorite bookseller your support and order a copy now before the holiday craziness distracts us all.

Thanks, as always, not just for reading, but for doing something important with the ideas. I appreciate your support more than I can say.

Soft and hard

The hard stuff is measurable, quantifiable and easy to put into a spreadsheet. This concrete stuff gives you an easy way to demand a bonus or track progress.

The soft stuff is merely essential, the real reason you do what you do.

Ironically, then, hard is easy and soft is difficult.

The question, I guess, is whether or not you and your team spend most of your time on the hard stuff, merely because it's easier to measure, to argue about and to hide behind?

The cycle of customers who care

Organizations that grow start by selling their services and products to people who care.

These organizations are staffed by people who care making something that demands "caring-about" for people who have chosen to care.

It can be colored shoelaces or vinyl records or handmade medicine balls. These aren't for everyone, and they require effort to find, to buy and to maintain, but for those that care about the cutting edge or innovation or style, they're perfect.

Then, over time, many of these organizations start to make products and services that are carefree. The people who produce them care so much about what they're making that they get good at it, the design becomes simpler, the pricing becomes better, and more people use it. The result is efficiency and distribution.

Until soon, the product or service is used by people who don't care so much about the original intent, they just want something easy and functional and available and cheap.

This is the classic diffusion of innovations process. (Learn more about this key concept here, here and here). Those in the mass market choose to be the mass market because they're too busy or distracted or bored to be the innovators and the geeks. They don't care enough to be on the edge.

Some examples: ebooks were first sold to just a few people. They were tricky to download, they weren't cheap and they required more effort. Over time, the price of the reader comes down, more books are available and it becomes more attractive to the mass market.

Or the car transforms from something for millionaires and hobbyists into the Honda Civic. You don't buy a Civic because you want to do your own tune ups. You just want it to work, and to be inexpensive.

Or the charity that starts out on the bleeding edge of technology, raising speculative money from a few philanthropists, but then moves into the mainstream and becomes an easy cause to explain and support.

Or the musician and his band and his label who goes from hand-crafting music to mass-producing live spectacles.

Apple, of course, is the classic example. The Mac was, for the longest time, only bought by people who cared a lot about which computer they bought. And the iPhone transformed the market because it became a phone for people who wanted to care about their phone.

The recent launch of the iPhone5 disappointed the geeks, but that was on purpose. Apple introduced a phone for their target market, which is people who don't care as much about the phone as the geeks do. They introduced a phone that worked, not one that was fascinating because it was loaded with untested new features.

But here's where it gets interesting…

The first step is people who care making a product for people who care.

The second step is people who care making a product for people who don't care.

And the third step, so difficult to avoid, is that the growing organization starts hiring people, not necessarily people who care, to grow their ever-industrializing company. And since they are servicing customers who don't care, those employees who don't care can get away with it (for a while).

Think General Motors, 1986. No one pushed back on the horrid design and build quality of the Cadillac. No, the people who cared all bought a Mercedes instead, and those that didn't care, didn't care. Until it was too late.

You're not going to have hordes of disappointed mass market customers cursing you out about quality or design. They don't care enough to do that.

It's totally okay for an organization to have the mission of making a carefree, ubiquitous product or service for people too busy or focused elsewhere. Totally fine to make something that's popular largely because it's popular. The danger creeps in when your team listens to their (mass) market and stops caring as well. When that happens, a new company comes along to care again.

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