Haydn Shaughnessy, Contributor
11/16/2011 @ 6:43AM
Documenting the emerging economy ... How Optimism Got Baked Into The Recession
IMAGE Image by David Armano via Flickr
Fascinating to see this week’s Techonomy conference lead with the issue of optimism and technology. Of course technology is important but I think optimism has been baked into the recession from the very beginning and the reason is not technology – it’s people.
Curiously, the recession to date is a triumph of new, or revived, social values. Protest is either weak or non-existent. We’re witnessing instead the growth of an intelligent, hard-edged mutualism driven by an astonishing group of young entrepreneurs. They are bringing a social layer back into wealth creation, not necessarily for ideological reasons, though ideals do count, but because that’s where new opportunities lie. Out with the old capitalism, in with the new.
The social layer is giving individuals new ways to counter the impact of today’s strange economics. And an older cadre of people is chipping in, adding strong values to a smaller version of capitalism.
Here are three reasons to be optimistic without ignoring the downside of recession:
#1 Young entrepreneurs know how to build and exploit the social layer:
Older commentators like me focus on the historical moment. Going into and out of recession is a resonant journey. It reminds us of stuff. Every young entrepreneur I speak to sees something quite different. They see gross inefficiency in how we use resources.
Whether it’s John Zimmer at Zimride telling me how wasteful highways are, or Ben Milne talking about waste in financial transactions, or Allan Grant saying advertising is a waste of resource, this generation knows how to reboot the way we get things done. They are doing it through social platforms where the technology is important but well known. The invention lies in helping people to do things differently, in a mutual way, like really getting ride-sharing right.
#2 Young entrepreneurs see waste everywhere and know how to address it
Young entrepreneurs don’t accept that the past twenty years are a triumph of consumer capitalism. They see right to the core of how wasteful capitalism became. But young entrepreneurs are not bemoaning wasteful consumption. They see a way to make past excesses more pragmatic, and to draw real, useful value out of them. Take a look at swap.com. There is a new ideology afoot and that is to return social values to the production and consumption of wealth. Even gurus of the industrial age like Michael Porter agree that this route is inevitable and necessary.
#3 Young entrepreneurs are creating a new mutualism but some of us got their first.
From the very start of the recession people started helping people.
Online, instead of recessionary despair, there is a new and rapidly forming mutualism. People are seeking opportunities to help each other, evidenced by the increasing popularity of community coupon blogs such as Deal Seeking Mom; P2P advisory initiatives around domestic finances; and the growth of sites like Groupon.
Mass idea flow or ‘popular ideation’ became a significant economic resource during the recession. People are willing and happy to take part in crowdsourced ideation for brands such as My Starbucks Idea and Dell’sIdeastorm. However the evidence suggests users are adept at using these techniques for themselves too, to help each other weather recession.
I happen to love what they are doing – both the young entrepreneurs and those who are bringing values back in. I would love also to hear from you if you have other examples. But here’s a question too: Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic?
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The text being discussed is available at