Moon Shots

A global community of management renegades

A Hole In The Ocean: Living Bridges on FB and other modest proposals

(This was way too long for me to post on the LIving Bridges Facebook page, so I figured I'd try provide a link to it instead.) In any event, I like Living Bridges and it nests quite comfortably within our Trade & Transportation Research Institute project. 

I started this post because Living Bridges does seem to be have a workable action plan, one that is very much in the same spirit as our Managed Value Trade project designed to precipitate the kind of trade markets that will trigger development, jobs, and sustainable growth.  In fact, my partner Mark Stahl, and I started T&T Research Institute in order to alter the dynamic of trade between asymmetrical trade partners. If you've read any of my earlier blog posts, you might note that this all tracks back to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and an outlandish proposal I made then to try and alter the inevitable road to nowhere we could expect to emerge from the futile post-earthquake assistance. Of course, it's 2012 now, and Haiti is not much better off than it was. Tens of thousand of earthquake victims are still housed in tents, and here we are on the eve of yet another hurricane that may wreak havoc on the island and its hapless people. What was getting me riled up then, is the same thing that is making me crazy now-- grand schemes hatched by well meaning people who have solutions for other people's problems. We need simple, locally actionable programs that can put the local people in charge of solving their own problems and satisfying their own needs. We can be more helpful by letting them design and initiate the solutions to their their own problems. We just have to admit to ourselves that they probably know their problems better than we do, and that they can be just as innovative, if we just stop to  listen to what they believe is in their best interest. 

No one needs to "organize" a world federation, though it's ok with me if they try. Our deal is to "act like a local service bureau" that happens to have local impact because it is informed by local needs, expressed locally.

Harvard's John Hagel has been calling it "pull"

I'm  willing to go along with 'pull', though I prefer to think of it as the essential characteristic of all living organisms: their invariable reliance on both internal (endogenous) processes and external environments (exogenous)  processes for their survival and growth. But 'pull' works for me, too. 

If I am harvesting guava on some island somewhere, and I have way more guavas than I need, I need to go next door to the "Super Guava Market" and find a buyer for my extra guavas. That 'pull' will cause me to collect all those extra guavas (the ones I can't possibly eat)  and carry them into the market for sale... although, for now, the SGM is imaginary. No one in their right mind would build a store to sell guavas when they are essentially free and abundant.

In the FB group, 'Living Bridges,' there is momentum gathering around the idea of identifying what it is you can do, and then, just doing it -but in collaboration with with others who also can do something useful. Sooner or later you have a lot of useful doing in inventory and you can start looking for people with ideas that need your kind of doing capabilities. 

If Living Bridges can curate the capacity for 'doing useful things' they could pull this of. I will call it the miracle of the living nodes in the living bridge.


The 'pull' chain of needs

If any node  happens to know where lovers of guava live with an insatiable appetite for fresh, organic, guavas we will be on the right track. Perhaps another node in the living bridge knows that there are "extra guavas for sale" on some distant island or knows that a turboprop cargo plane will be on that island later today with space enough in one of its three air-cargo containers for a crate of guavas. The load master at the island airport needs to know that this crate of guavas needs to be placed in the container, that it is scheduled to be transferred at a pick-and-pack 3-hours later in San Juan (PR) where it will be placed in another container on a larger air-freighter scheduled to arrive at a distant international airport in a major city 7-hours later.

The UPC on the crate and on the container contains all the customs, tracking, and destination information required in the distant market, where a UPS truck will pick it up from the terminal and deliver it to the Neighborhood Fresh Fruits store to be unpacked and stocked in the display three hours later --just in time for me to look down on my shopping list where my wife has neatly written, "1 fresh guava."

I will pay more for this guava than anyone on the island has ever paid for a guava. In fact, no one on the island 'buys' guavas. They literally are falling from trees. Everyday hundreds drop to the ground where they rot. The locals love guava and use it dozens of ways. On the other hand, they have little money to buy fresh milk or pay for medical care.

What the node knows

If every living bridge node is acting locally, some node knows where one of the missing components can be accessed. Communicating the need and its proximity to the solution closes gaps. Recognizing the "need" for the guava or any of the other components in the value chain makes the solution more likely. At any given juncture --whether its the urge for a guava, an airplane, a pick-and-pack, a UPS truck, a natural fruit store, or a person with a list on which someone else wrote, "1 fresh guava"—the solution is set in motion. On that day, the likelihood that an Organic Juice Factory will be built by local entrepreneurial people on the island will increase by several orders of magnitude.

Demand for guava will increase. An export price for guava will be established. Hopefully, local people will see the need for industrial refrigeration so they can process guava and build inventory. They will order equipment from a factory in China. Engineers from Germany will design the industrial production process. A US  industrial training company will help teach local people to operate and maintain the factory. A local woman will learn package design. One young man will go to school to study marketing. In all likelihood, the island will prosper enough to build a hospital, send some of its children to medical school, import fresh milk, and improve the airport.

This may seem preposterous but I'd be willing to bet it is a far more plausible plan than getting the world's political leaders on the same page about some kind of federation. Without a hierarchy, each of us is free to do the right thing, if only we think the right thing and act on it.  It'll take 'pull' --dlh

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