Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fighting Dirty Over Clean Coal

As the world's 67th most important clean coal blogger (as of June 2008), I feel that it's my responsibility to post this and comment...

Makes me think of Al Gore's call for strategic persuasion. And makes me wonder if Al would think if this ad has taken that persuasion too far.

Is it ok, ethically, under any circumstances, to persuade without touching the argument?

The clean coal debate is not about whether coal is a black, dusty, unhealthy substance. It's about whether it makes sense to invest heavily in technologies that could, if successful, pull carbon dioxide out of coal emissions and store it safely.

Here's a TV spot from the other side of the debate. Not a whole lot better. But is that an excuse?

I feel like we have a nuh-uh, yeah-huh argument on our hands here. Bummer.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Rules, Incentives, Virtue, and Janitors

Watched my first 2009 TED Talk yesterday.

Barry Schwartz.

Practical wisdom. Janitors. Virtue. Dignity. And rules and incentives and their limitations.

Barry says Ray Anderson...

Turned a part of the evil empire into a zero footprint or almost a zero footprint business. Why? Because it was the right thing to do. And a bonus he's discovering is that he's actually going to make even more money.

Really? A bonus? Not a driving force?

The thought that planted the seeds of The Carrot Project had to do with harnessing greed and steering it toward good: using consumer education and garden variety market demand to yank businesses out of the age old pattern of treating damage to natural and human capital like costs for others to bear.

The thought had very little to do with virtue. I wonder what Barry would think.

I also wonder what he'd think about the Willie the Janitor connection.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Love Letters

Some wise words from Thich Nhat Hanh:

There are pacifists who can write protest letters of great condemnation but who are incapable of writing a love letter. You have to write in such a way that the other person is receptive toward reading; you have to speak in such a way that the other person is receptive toward listening. If you do not, it is not worth the trouble to write or to speak. To write in such a way is to practice meditation.

He wrote that in reference to true love.

I think it applies everywhere. We truly are supposed to be some kind of different.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Forgotten Allies

I did a video post on the Carrot Project blog a few hours ago, and I didn't want More Perfect Market to get jealous...

Worth considering the ways we might be able bridge the cultural gap between intrapreneurs and activists. Three days in a packed conference room doing mock audits was a good start for me.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

ODE to a Puddle

About three weeks ago, I saw something cool, wanted to remember it, and figured Twitter'd be as good a place to take a note as any:

jdegrazia: birds drinking from a puddle outside. water not the most appetizing. but watching those guys use their beaks to scoop water is awesome.

While I was there, I saw this:

odemagazine: direct message us if you'd like to be profiled on our site as a SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR!!! We're looking for positive stories!

I was feeling socially entrepreneurial at the moment, so I got in touch.

And, sure enough, a few emails later, this afternoon, the ODE people sent me a link.

Once again, I'm famous. And pretty excited about the picture. It's from the farm show (and the Carrot Project blog).

Thank you blackbirds.

Posted via email from Radical Transparency

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Open Source Medicine and Inherited Crunchiness

GlaxoSmithKline is cutting prices and pooling patents.

Which is a good thing. And can't not be a business move.

CEO Andrew Witty says:

I think the shareholders understand this and it's my job to make sure I can explain it. I think we can. I think it's absolutely the kind of thing large global companies need to be demonstrating, that they've got a more balanced view of the world than short-term returns.

So. Focus on long-term returns. Excellent.

And what else?

Marketing? Warmth and fuzziness for existing customers? Warmth and fuzziness for new customers?

But how?

GSK owns Aquafresh, Sensodyne, Nicorette, Breathe Right, and heaps of brand name medicines. Would people switch from Crest and Colgate if they knew Aquafresh's parent company just decided to increase their commitment to saving lives in the developing world? Should they?

I hope so.

I think.

But I guess what I really hope is that GSK demands that all of its subsidiaries start demonstrating "a more balanced view of the world than short-term returns."

Thanks to Alexa for spreading the news (and for getting on the inside and pushing for big things).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Predicting the Pebbles

My sister and I talk a lot about mind like water. We got it from a YouTube video of a talk that Getting Things Done author David Allen gave at Google about a year ago.

Essential to the metaphor is the fact that a pool of water is really good at accepting a new input, reacting, adjusting accordingly, and then regaining equilibrium. Throw a pebble into a pool, and the pool splashes a bit; ripples flow; the pebble settles on the bottom; and the pool smooths back to a state of readiness, a state almost identical to that of the pre-pebble pool. Throw a boulder into the pool, and the pool splashes a boulder sized splash; ripples might as well be waves at first; the boulder crashes into the bottom; pebbles and dirt down there move around and resettle; the water level rises noticeably; and the pool smooths back to a state of readiness, a state that might look a little different, especially if there's a chunk of boulder forming an island in the pool, but a state not at all unlike that of the pre-boulder pool.

And the basic mind like water teaching is that in order to achieve a mindstate that can accept all new inputs - pebbles, boulders, and everything else - we need to cultivate a stillness and emptiness that will allow us to commit total mindful focus to any emerging sight or sound (or event or person or thought or piece of news).

And there are lots of thing people do to try to cultivate that. Meditation. Exercise. Calendars. Alarm clocks. Alcohol. Various kinds of to do lists. Commitment never to carry the heaviest, most difficult thoughts around for long.

And there are lots of applications, situations in which mind like water starts making lots of sense.

For example, a couple of days ago, Gary Vaynerchuk posted this video...

Just some fun little interconnecting thought lines: social media early adoption and minds like water. Be fun to hear Gary Vee's thoughts on the metaphor.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Moonlighting Experiment

I think it's fair to file this under the adventures of a rookie entrepreneur category.

And it's also fair to say that I did not keep my promise to make the next video I posted less than three minutes long. Though the one I did for the Carrot Project Blog was short. Maybe I can say that one was the next video, and this one had no promised time limit. Maybe?


So, anyone, everyone, please moonlight. And, while you're moonlighting, tell people you're moonlighting. And see how they respond. And then tell me what happens. I'm convinced that there's powerful mystery in that word.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hacking Transportation

Someone please take Mike Turner, turn him into a business, scale him up, and make AeroCivics and AeroJettas and AeroOutbacks and AeroCherokees for everyone. Please.

I was cautiously excited when I saw James Governor talk about hacking electricity.

Mike went ahead and hacked transportation. And then started talking about it...

For a total materials cost of $400, I've created a car that blows away the highway mileage of any car currently in production.

Read about it. It's a great story. With great pictures. The car is totally beautifully ugly.

And note the fact that Mike is not afraid to rock an AOL email address. Like my mom. I love it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Jumpstart Theory

We don't actually need people to consume ethically. We just need companies to think that people might start consuming ethically. Capitalism will take care of the rest.

That's loosely quoted from a conversation I had today with the founder of one of The Carrot Project's potential collaborators/competitors.

The man's out to start marketing wars.

He believes that his job is to convince companies that people are ready to start caring, to show companies that if they make changes, and if they talk about how important those changes are, people will listen.

So his plan is to build the consumer education tools, make them great, generate some buzz, and then fade into the background. Companies will see the opportunity. They'll adjust. They'll market the adjustments. Consumers will respond. Competitors will one up them, both with adjustments and communication. They'll one up back. And - TA DA! - we'll have races to the top.

Simultaneously cynical and wildly optimistic. A rare combination. Gave me pause for sure. For a few minutes anyway...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pennies Per Chicken Breast

I watched the Super Bowl in Wilmington, NC in a room full of screaming Polamalu jerseys.

People were eating KFC. And making garbage. Buckets. Plastic plates. Napkins. Sporks.

And it made me think about the moment in Bill McDonough's TED Talk when he talks about away. What does it mean to throw something away? Away from what? Away from whom? Away from where?

And that made me think about KFC's decision to sell garbage along with their food.

So I wondered...

What if KFC decided to not to sell garbage anymore? What if they started serving compostable potato sporks?

What if their costs went up by pennies per chicken breast and nickels per sandwich? What if their prices went up accordingly?

And what if they marketed it, clearly, honestly, and on Super Bowl Sunday?

Imagine a medley of interviews with KFC execs and employees: chicken fryers, middle managers, and the PepsiCo CEO. And imagine a multi-voiced explanation:

We don't have to make trash, so we've stopped. No more plastic. No more pollution. All our packaging is now biodegradable and nutritious. You can bury it in your gardens. It'll help your tomatoes grow. But sustainable packaging is more expensive. So we've cut our margins a little bit and raised our prices a little bit. And we realize there's risk in that. Risk that we'll lose you, our customers. But. We need to do the right thing. And we think that you'll support us in that. We hope. We trust. And so we've done it. Visit, and tell us what you think and what you suggest we do next.

I think it'd work. And imagine the precedent it would set if it did.