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Moving value creation into the hands of… everyone

July 13 2010 | Communications, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

I read this article "Google’s Do-It-Yourself App Creation Software" and immediately could see the connection to the environmental movement, and non-profits in general. The following line from the article intrigued me even more: "the free software... user testing has been done mainly in schools with groups that included sixth graders..." Organizations need to realize that value creation can be amplified if more people are allowed into the creation process. Look at Wikipedia. Look at eBay and Craigslist. Look at Surfrider Foundation. Furthermore, organizations need to build tools so that a sixth grader can use them, not just a PhD. If one person has the value of x towards an organization's mission, do two people equate to 2x? But maybe there is some kind of network effect where every incremental person added to the network adds MORE than an incremental 1x of value to the mission... maybe they add 1.5x... or maybe even 4x. Case in point: Twitter. Right now Surfrider Foundation is the number 1 user in the Reference category. Another way to say this is that we're being seen, and pointed to, as a source for reference information more than any other single entity on Twitter. People are not only listening to us, they are passing on our messages to their personal networks (that is priceless, and will be the subject for a future post). Yea. I'm stoked on that one. Kudos to Vickie McMurchie and Matt McClain for creating great value in a space that didn't exist for us a few years ago. But it's not enough... and why isn't it enough? Because our coasts are still at risk. Let me walk through my larger point. In this case there is a single employee, Vickie, pushing out tweets. As the screen grab above illustrates, her messages are being retweeted (re-shared) by 263 people during this particular period. But what the statistics above don't show is how many times those messages are retweeted again by other users in those 263 different networks. But the point of this post is something more; the Google article is suggesting that we put value creation into the hands of ANYone and EVERYone. They aren't talking about the Google-equivalent of Vickie. They are talking about something totally different. If our current Twitter model translates into graphic #1 to the left, then doing what Google is talking about would be the equivalent of enabling (and promoting) anyone, in this case, to push messages out on Twitter. That model looks closer to graphic #2. As you'll see, #1 offers some nice scaling but #2 is exponentially better as it requires zero-to-no cost (no staff involved in message creation and distribution) and we're influencing more people. I'm using Twitter as an example, but I'm not only pointing to Twitter. I'm pointing to the idea. The power is in the idea and how it can be deployed towards amplifying your mission. The above article mentions Google, arguably a company with MORE cash/resources than most organizations and yet they are opting NOT to use those hefty resources on creating new apps. They see more value in creating the ability for OTHERS to create apps. That's smart. Non-profits (and for-profits) need to start thinking similarly. Is this potentially messy? Sure. Won't you be giving up control? To some extent, yes. Will there be waste? Absolutely. How about failures? Of course. But our mission isn't tied to some random definition of success (such as communication vehicle success rate). We know what success looks like. It's the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches. It's shifting coastal cultures so that people live their lives in a way that has the least possible impact on their surrounding areas. How do we ensure that level of success? By all means necessary. Go ahead, post something related to our mission on your Facebook wall. Go ahead, tweet about a local coastal issue. Consider yourself deputized.
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