I am reading Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, and he talks about the economic logic behind a choice between a Lindt truffle and a Hershey's kiss. He notes that the subjects of the experiment behave "irrationally" by choosing a free Kiss over a deeply discounted Lindt. The Lindt would give them considerably more "pleasure units" net of any cost, or "displeasure units". His point is that free is powerful.
I won't argue against his free-is-irrational thesis, nor will I dwell on the fact that he assumes Lindt's bramd marketing has sufficiently convinced everyone that their taste is vastly superior to Hershey's (I know many people who are not "foodies" that would DISLIKE the Lindt vs. the Kiss at any price, including FREE, since they were raised on Kisses and find dark, rich chocolate too intense.)
I will note another phenomenon - percentages. A price sensitive consumer may do the math that, in his experiment, a 100% decrease in price (1 cent to free for the Kiss) is preferable to a ~7% discount on the Lindt. Why? My assumption is that chocolate eaters, like most consumers, software engineers, CEOs, etc., think in terms of an experience in terms of absolute "pleasure" or utility/value but also the comparative percentages.
I see Founders act this way - wait too long for funding because they don't want a smaller percentage ownership. Or fund too soon - trying to get a huge percentage of a still ambiguous market.
Consumers act this way - buying a deeply discounted hotel vs. a Fairly priced one without a discount.
As a software manager, would you hire (all things equal) someone who claimed success increasing performance or scalability 100% or someone who made no such claim? Would you bother to ask about absolute performance numbers and consider that the engineer without the increase may have written the code right the first time?
I am sure I have been fooled by percentages before....have you?
Sunday, March 28, 2010
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Monday, March 15, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
http://www.storyofstuff.com/ is a good example of how media can be used for good. This is a clip I would show to my children. I doubt this will ever go past marketing, and catalyze real change, but it reminds me that, as an American, to subscribe to such mindless consumption is simply shameful. I'm all for consumption --- of services and ideas and innovation. Consumption with a purpose more lasting than the instant sugar high.
Individuals on both sides of the mean share a common flaw --- the need to use material goods to define themselves. The poor do it out of survival instinct. The wealthy out of intellectual laziness or emotional convenience. Most of the smart people I know consume very little outside of coffee and the occasional bottle of wine. They're all too busy creating new companies and trying to create new services. Not to consume more, really, but to reinvest in OTHER even bigger innovations. Myself, I never think of things I'll buy with extra money...I always think of the ideas I could fund...
We as a generation and society seem to have lost our pride in discipline, hard work, and denial of immediate gratification. My personal pledge here is to reduce the stuff I consume, and to use my knowledge of technology to produce new stuff that is greater than the sum of its waste and adds value back to the system. Energetically, I can only change forms --- but perhaps I can work to even the balance a bit.
I'm open to ideas on how to convince those mesmerized by consumption to step away, to go on a stuff diet. While I applaud the video, I think it's too convenient to be a messenger without a plan. I found their "Call to Action" items weak. Inspiration without action is just cheap entertainment. The hard work, the discipline, to change every day habits is what is needed. They did succeed in motivating this little rant, for what it's worth. At least the Google Bot can enjoy my soliloquy.
Maybe that's the first step --- some sort of list that can be shared to remind people to add one anti-consumption deed to their rituals per day/week/month. If I can shave 1 unit of consumption off per week, for example --- food, fossil fuels, waste, etc. --- and design it into the rituals, I can look my kids in the eyes and say that I didn't mess the planet up for them. Right now, I can't really say that! Perhaps I'll build an App for that...so Apple can sell more stuff!