Thursday, February 24, 2011

Figuring out What's Next Big Trend and Why Maybe You Don't Want to Know

That title -- "Figuring Out What's Next Big Trend and Why Maybe You Don't Want to Know" sounds kinda ominous, doesn't it?  Well, I didn't mean it like that. I'm not afraid of the future. Not a bit.

I think the main trends that we are going to be dealing with are all about the crowd. Crowd everything: crowd financing, crowd sourcing are going to be very big. If you haven't already, check out Kickstarter gives creative people -- or at least people with an idea -- a place to make a pitch, and then let other people support them financially. I've supported:
  • TickTock, a wristband that transforms a Ipod Nano (the new, square ones) into the coolest watch ever.
  • Lumina, an eye mask that wakes you up by gradually getting brighter, like the sun rising.
  • The Stork, "... a game/social experiment which encourages people to perform brave acts of kindness."
  • The Manual, "a new limited-run print magazine that takes a fresh look at design on the web."
  • The Shape of Design, a book that combines one person's thinging about "design and thinking about the topics that orbit the practice: storytelling, concept, craft, and improvisation."
 These projects,  and others that haven't been succussful in their bid to be funded, are novel and interesting and cool. In the old, 3 years before now world, I would only be a part of these projects if I was actually a part of the project. I most likely wouldn't have had the opportunity to know these people in the first place. And my puny little $10 or $25 or $100 contribution wouldn't be very useful. When my tiny contribution combined with other people who also think these projects are cool, it has the power to make dreams come true.

Crowd financing and micro financing aren't  extremely new, although I think the way that idea has been blended with social networking at the Kickstarter site is novel. Another related idea, though, really is new. That's the idea of a Network of Strangers That Have Something in Common.

Right now we have some pretty robust networks on the net -- Facebook and LinkedIn are two that I participate in daily. But these networks are networks of people I know or have some direct connection with. LinkedIn, in fact, actually actively discourages me from linking to people I don't know. And I get why they feel that way. But what if I could search a network for people that share common interests or want to do something that I want to also do? If there was some sort of rating on my reputation, like rating systmes used on Yelp or Ebay, where people who had worked with me could rate the quality of my participation, then you wouldn't necessarily need to "know" me to want to team with me. So Network of Strangers -- you heard it here first!

Which leads me to my next trend -- Influencer Identification. Just like back in High School, there was that one kid who led the pack and set the styles, in groups there are individuals or groups of them, that are driving the bus. In the past we ordinary mortals didn't have enough data presented in such a way that we could see what what was happening. But we do now, and visual information analytics is becoming more sophisticated and more available, every day. This technology can also be used to determine where innovation is happening, and how that innovation is being funded. Quid is one of those tools. quoted Bob Goodson, one of Quid's founders as saying, "The idea is to pinpoint where innovation is happening, what trends are emerging and who is funding them." Bob Goodson uses Quid to mine YouNoodle, a site that introduces entrepreneurs to people who want to fund them.

So with all this wonderfulness going on, why did I say, "Why Maybe You Don't Want to Know" in my title? Because if your aim is to increase your ability to monetize yourself, perhaps you don't want people to know so much about you because with the decrease in uncertainty, comes a decrease in the volatility associated with you. The Harvard Business Review (March 2011) in it's article "Experts are More Persuasive When They're Less Certian," says, ""People value potential more than achievement. Given identical stats for a veteran pro athlete's first five years of performance and a rookie's predicted five-year performance, study subjects choose to pay the rookie nearly  $1 million more in year six."
In other words, because we don't know just how wonderful the rookie is, we are will to pay more money for him. Because he might be fantastic. And the veteran, even the best, most wonderful veteran, is a know quantity. You've probably noticed this effect at work, where the person who is hired off the street starts at a sometimes significantly higher salary than the person who is already employeed by the company. So if you are on the rookie side of that equation, perhaps you don't want the company to know TOO much about you! Only enough to be sure that you are indeed wonderful! It would be very interesting to to see how the fees paid to people who have community ratings relate to the people who don't have those ratings. Or how people's fees in networks where you "know" folks relate to those in networks of strangers.

I'm fascinated by the way the future is unfolding. Let's see if I'm right about these tends.


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