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Hawai’i’s Shared Futures By Vision Foresight Strategy

Web design and business plans

A colleague asked me to drop in on a college course he teaches to help watch and critique student business plans last night.  I have to say that it was nice to see some good work and good thinking in these plans, at times a fair bit more thinking than we unfortunately find in existing businesses.  I was impressed with the detail of some of their operational plans and with the thought they had given to some of the unique operational flows that their businesses would require.  We’re referring some of them to an organization one of our client/partners suggested today in a meeting.  Not that I or anyone here needs anymore things to do, but it might be nice to touch bases with each of the major programs in town that formally help students and residents develop business plans and employ some social media to create a network and collaboration site for start-ups, if it hasn’t already been done.

On another matter, we’ve been talking with a number of people for potential web developers for a project we have going that will be developing a web site to promote and harness more local civic engagement in general, and understanding of our government in particular.  It’s a modest project, but an extremely worthy one based on a very simple but interesting idea.  We’ll be making choices in the next couple of days, so there’s still time for people to suggest some local web developers who would be interested in participating.

Also, based on some direct feedback, we added a couple of designs last night to our VFS Apparel line: some long-sleeve shirts and women’s tanks.  If you have any suggestions or request, just let us know and we’ll be happy to work on putting them together.

Think about tomorrow.

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Filed under: Business, Democracy, Wealth

Virtual Economies

This arstechnica article on the IRS being urged to tax activities in virtual worlds once again reminds us that when it comes to diversifying the economy, there are many ways to do that.  We normally talk about the economy in terms of major sectors like ‘construction’ or singular pillar industries like ‘tourism,’ but the economy is actually a very complex and dynamic thing, and our traditional focus on single shot cures for both short term recovery and long-term growth are likely to fall short of either hope.

There are leading-edge theories about economic growth that posit that our modern, post-industrial economies grow through the development of new technologies and the changes those new capabilities provoke in how we do work and how we produce value.  At the industry and organizational level, we would then be looking at how businesses evolve through applying new technologies and reorganizing themselves around those technologies, not just for greater efficiencies but also to produce new things of value.  Broad change and evolution in economies then is not achieved simply through a government stimulus package or by simply dumping money into public works projects, but more likely through consistent support of new R&D, new businesses, and lots of experimentation.

For Hawai’i, one has to wonder how many different (and new) areas of entrepreneurship and experimentation we should be open to and supportive.  No one really nows what ‘virtual’ economies (which actually are real economies for intangible goods) could become for Hawai’i, but for a place with geographic isolation, multi-cultural populations, and reasonable tech infrastructure, maybe more of us should be looking at developing and growing creative new online economies.

Filed under: Business, Economics, Hawai'i, Technology, Wealth

The DIY Economy

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A CNET article from last year (gasp!) talked about the emergence of the do-it-yourself Web, where new companies online provide fast and easy tools for non-techies to create professional looking and more sophisticated websites. The article also talked about new services to let non-programmers build web ‘mash-ups’, a typically inelegant internet term for an online service that fuses two or more information sources and tools into a single application (or experience).

Thoughts: Although we don’t often think about technology this way, one of the applications of technology is to embed competency or capability into a tool to allow humans to do something they naturally cannot do, such as fly, explode objects, or create precise, visually stunning documents. This has been a characteristic of technology from the earliest times, and today we can see the evolution of this to new heights.

While being able to code is certainly a plus in today’s economy, you certainly don’t need such skills to operate in the global marketplace. We’re seeing the emergence of what some have anticipated for years: the beginnings of an economy where ideas and content really are economic drivers and where more and more of ‘the masses’ can participate, not simply as consumers, but once more a producers of valued content. From WYSIWYG software for building websites, to home video editing software, to the new services to allow non-coders to build mashups on the Web, we have been witnessing the slow application of technology to enable the average person to produce, distribute, and theoretically make money off of their original content, something previously relegated to corporations with large finances, reach, and technical staff.

In the future we will be watching for more instances of this shift, such as in movies and CGI, where developments in the last few years have slowly but surely brought professional-grade computer animation and movie making to the home desktop. It does not take a professional futurist to anticipate that in the not too distant future, any individual with basic computer literacy, an internet connection, good imagination, and good social networks could build their own successful media conglomerate, with highly unique news, entertainment, and whatever new forms of fusion media they can imagine. Add to that the parallel trend in fabrication technology, and that person’s ideas could easily take physical form (more on that in later posts)…

Related:

  • The Long Tail: a book based on an earlier article that argues that the emerging economy will allow the small little niches, not profitable from the mass market retail point of view, to be viable busineses in the 21st Century.
  • The Movies: a computer game that simulates a movie studio. It became almost more popularly because a sub-component of the game allowed players to script, selected costumes, scenes, and props, and paste together simple computer-animated scenes and thus literally produce the movies they wanted their fictitious characters to star in
  • Maya: a popular and award-winning program for 3D modeling
  • Popfly: a new Microsoft application to allow users to use shapes rather than actual code to create mashups

Filed under: Business, Economics, Wealth

Profiting off the wealth gap

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A recent BusinessWeek article examined the financial sub-industries that have grown up around the lower income classes, catering to what is known as sub-prime markets. The article details a few cases of low income individuals getting caught in what many see as a predatory game to hook individuals into credit they can ill afford, all catering to their needs and desires to pay bills and purchases higher end products. A key insight of the article is the lack of financial knowledge and savvy common to many Americans, and how this exacerbates the very real human tendencies to play to emotional responses (e.g., desires, impatience, need for status), all of which lead to poor financial decisions.

Thoughts: One of the concerns raised by the article is the increasing wealth gap found in the US and believed by many to be occurring around the globe. In our economic system, individuals have considerable incentive to find ‘niche’ markets within which to build profitable businesses. Indeed, much of the ‘corporate strategy’ literature points to differentiation and finding niches as the effective ways to orient a business and product development. The sub-prime markets talked about above represent a certain kind of niche that some saw long ago and into which many are now flocking. From a ‘profit-maximization’ viewpoint (something management luminaries such as Peter Drucker thought was ridiculous), this makes perfect and legitimate sense. From a broader point view, something endorsed by advocates of environmentalism, sustainability, and social justice, the knowing pursuit of policies (read: business trends) that contribute to the fraying of the socio-economic fabric are unethical and in many cases immoral.

Here a key may be context and knowledge. It often takes someone to identify the larger and longer-time ramifications of policy, consequences not examined by the policy designer/implementers for a variety of cultural and structural reasons, to make the broader public or policy establishment (or business community) aware of the potential impact before society and its instruments (like government) can properly identify the threat and establish new rules. And of course, this response is always shaped by the cultures woven through a society: thus, do we as modern Americans feel enough offense at the widening wealth gap to advocate for substantive behavioral and structural changes in our socio-economic system?

Related:

  • The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. Jeffrey Sachs. 2006
  • The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. William Easterly. 2007
  • Development as Freedom. Amartya Sen. 2000 (winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998)
    • For a related item by Amartya Sen dealing with culture and identity

Filed under: Economics, Wealth

Hawai’i: the Reboot

2 days. 200 innovators. A new future for Hawai'i.


The Hawai'i Futures Summit 2009 October 16 and 17, 2009


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Vision Foresight Strategy

We work with organizations to anticipate strategic change and to craft the strategies that will shape their desired futures.


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