WWYD?

I love it when people speculate in public about taking the tenants of What Would Google Do?, to a greater or lesser degree, into their worlds. A few recent examples:

* With nonprofits, Marc Sirkin does some incredible brainstorming (he laments that I didn’t cover nonprofits; so do I; it was because I didn’t have the experience and good ideas he has):

In any case, those same traits and behaviors that Google uses are polar opposite of how many traditional non-profits operate. Like most traditional business models, many non-profits have are caught in an odd spot – it’s clear that something big is happening, but there hasn’t been a forcing function like Napster demolishing the music business for example that has created a need for massive, fundamental change. Unfortunately for many large non-profits, I believe it’s about to happen and is going to really surprise and destroy a lot of well known and traditional institutions.

For example, in the international aid and micro-lending space, organizations like Kiva have been literally exploding out of the woodwork, using business models that traditional aid agencies either can’t or won’t embrace create massive shifts in how donors think about, and interact with both the institution and the recipient of their donation! . . .

New Relationships: Give people control

Over and over I’ve seen it happen. Donors say to a non-profit, I’ll give you money but you need to focus on this or on that. The non-profit’s response (rightly so in the “old world”) is we’ll take your money, but we’re the experts on what we fund, not you. Sorry. . . .

In a “Googley” non-profit, the organization would open up and let folks have a say where their money is going. Non-profits could start by allowing patients, researchers, donors and more rate and rank what is being funded. As Jarvis points out, this doesn’t mean they give up total control, but it does mean that the non-profit starts listening closely. In the future, someone is going to listen, and that’s where I’ll (and everyone else) will donate. Think Yelp, but for what to fund, what programs to create, etc.

How else could non-profits give people control? How about in fundraising? It already happens organically and primarily offline, out of site of the “brand police,” but why not allow donors to create, publicize and promote events that they create, run and manage on a technology platform that supercharges these small, long tail events. . . .

New Architecture: Be a Platform

. . . [S]ay you have a great volunteer in a remote location where you do not have a chapter or an office. Why not empower that donor (with proper training of course!) to use your platform to serve the local community? . . . . Think CafePress or Blogger.. or hell, Salesforce.com for volunteers to create, manage and run their own “chapter” on your behalf. Chaos? Nope, that’s what we call trust baby!

Connect the dots like Best Buy does with their Blue-shirt nation, or like the Red Sox do with their online community to provide guidance, collaboration, support and the help they need to help you succeed. Can you imaging a site like Starbucks or Dell’s idea site that allows both internal and external folks to help redesign everything from structure, policies to fundraising campaigns? If you work in a traditional non-profit, I bet you can’t.. but you’d better.

Radical? I think necessary. . . .

New Society: Elegant Organization

Non-proftis can use community for just about everything under the sun. Here are a few ideas off the top of my head…
* Testing ads with mission affected patients
* Collaborating with donors on how to raise more money
* Collaborating with patients on how to best deliver services locally
* Talking openly with families about policies and program services
* Connecting patients to other patients in similar situations
* Connecting families to families
* Allowing patients and families to rate hospitals, doctors, treatments and more (gasp!)

One more… Get Out of the Way

This is a big one for me and is at the heart of why I think non-profits are headed for big trouble in this new world. Non-profits, like many traditional businesses and business models live for control. They love controlling messaging (you MUST breast feed!), and because they aren’t last I checked under CAN SPAM laws, love spamming and blasting out direct mail, email and more. They rely on controlling the event experience at walks, runs and dinners. They simply think that because they’ve been successful in the past, that they know best.

Those days are over. It’s time to flip things inside out and let your true fans help redesign your organization from the ground up. Have you really talked to donors, patients and families about what they think about those controversial policies? Have you asked your event participants to collaborate with you on how to make the event suit them better? Have you done anything that would indicate that you are actually listening?

Others:

* User-generated health care:”Doctors repeatedly say that patients are one of the most valueable sources of information. Yet the gathering of information from patients is typically restricted to the 15 or so minutes you get to discuss your situation.”

* Short-term social networks (like the Twitterflight) built around hospital stays: “Patients might enjoy meeting others in the same hospital for companionship or finding support from those with similar diagnoses. . . . Or those patients being treated in academic medical centers could find others with similarly rare conditions across the country. ”

* A remade cartoon gallery.

* Will PR replace advertising?

* Making buildings Googley by making their data transparent.

* WWGD shipping. This one’s beyond me, I’m afraid.

Meanwhile, I hear from companies like Best Buy and 3M and Wowowow that they’ve discussed how to implement some of the ideas.

Please keep them coming. I’d love to hear more – about what works and also what doesn’t work, testing the ideas in reality.

  • http://thehammersmithgroup.com Constantine Valhouli

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the shout-out on making buildings Googly. Hammersmith delved further into this in three of our recent reports:

    (a) exploring how technology can be used to enhance the experience of being in space, using some examples from some of the pioneering hotels and senior housing. We expect to see these ideas filter out into multifamily and single family homes next:

    http://thehammersmithgroup.com/images/reports/tech.pdf

    (b) exploring how technology, especialy RFIDs, can be used to increase ambiet findability, searchability, and reduce construction costs and increase returns.

    http://thehammersmithgroup.com/images/reports/rfid.pdf

    (c) And one of my favorite pieces, exploring how the convergence of smart devices, intelligent buildings, converged networks, and smart grids may provide the foundation for an Internet of Things:

    http://thehammersmithgroup.com/images/reports/web4.pdf

    All the best,
    Constantine

  • Mike Manitoba

    I think you mean “tenets,” not “tenants.”

  • http://davidebowman.com David E. Bowman

    Jeff,

    Thanks for mentioning and linking to “user generated health care” and for helping to inspire the concept with your wonderful and thought provoking book. I am deeply appreciative of your work, and plan to continue putting it to use to change the world.

    David E. Bowman.

  • Renaud

    Yes, KIVA is pretty good example of WWGD. http://www.wokai.org applies basically the same concept in China. Seems to be a promising “business model” for non-profits.

  • http://www.ianwaring.com Ian Waring

    Sounds like there’s an elegant organisation to be done in a stock market for non profit funding.

    Ian W.

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  • Joris Baas

    Hi Jeff,

    Here in Amsterdam, at the other side of the Ocean, I’ve met yesterday people from http://www.favelafabric.com. They are designing with the clients users and they call it co-creation. Is that a Googly example of product development?

    PS: Thanks again for your presentation at the NextwebConference here, I dived into your book afterwards.

  • http://www.spot.us David Cohn

    That is exactly the shift that Spot.Us hopes to make…

    “Donors say to a non-profit, I’ll give you money but you need to focus on this or on that. The non-profit’s response (rightly so in the “old world”) is we’ll take your money, but we’re the experts on what we fund, not you. Sorry. . . .”

    I think nonprofit journalism will increase (it won’t be a saving grace as you note). But the way it can increase more – is by giving up some of the editorial control. Let the donors have some control/transparency over where their money goes. That is the shift that Kiva made – as an earlier comment noted. I think all the rising nonprofit journalism ventures should experiment in letting folks decide where their money goes. Once you start letting go – it actually isn’t scary at all. Folks are smart – they tend to put it towards important stuff and they feel more connected to the finished product.

  • http://dsafeer.wordpress.com David Safeer

    I am on the board of directors of a choral group whose mission it is to educate and promote new choral compositions.

    Two platforms come to mind:
    1. A gathering place for choral music educators, including an opportunity to showcase their work
    2. A place to match composers with choral groups. We want to be their premier choral organization in the United States for premiering new works and what a better we to make this happen than having people come to us?

    Thanks for your mind-opening posts and book.

  • James Thomson

    I have a general comment on what seems to be the basic theme of WWGD, that is turning over more responsibility and decision making to consumers. I for one think that consumers already have too many choices in too many areas which needlessly complicate our lives. It’s fine for teenagers and young adults who can spend all of their spare time in pondering what color they would like their next cell phone to be but us older adults have more important things to spend our time on–such as earning a living. Google (or similar internet companies) need to focus on providing ways to simplify our lives and relieve us of the burden of information (and needless choice) overload. I suspect if given a poll the overwhelming majority of us would choose to have fewer but more meaningful choices in our day to day lives. Choice just for the sake of choice is not a good thing.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Couldn’t disagree more. I want to make those choices. I don’t want them made for me. I’ve seen that. it was East Berlin. After having no choice but to drink warm, flat Commie Cola, I was so happy to come across the wall and see Coke AND Pepsi. Choice is power.

      • James Thomson

        Between Soviet-style central planning and the current Internet-based marketplace anarchy a sane middle ground needs to be established. Some kind of automated organizing function needs to be applied to goods and services for quickly and easily selecting among all available products of a similar type based on the needs and preferences of a particular customer. My objection to too many choices has to do with the fact that currently each customer must do their own research for every product they are interested in to a.) find out what is available, b.) compare features among competing products, c.) select among disparate feature sets, d.) evaluate reviews by other customers, e.) search for the best deal, etc. Providing more choices only exacerbates this problem. Finally, if I may be permitted to moralize, it seems to me that providing consumers with even more reasons to consume by providing more choices of things to consume encourages the unbridled and irrational acquisitiveness that has contributed substantially to the current world financial crisis.

      • Andy Freeman

        > Some kind of automated organizing function needs to be applied to goods and services for quickly and easily selecting among all available products of a similar type based on the needs and preferences of a particular customer.

        Congrats. You’ve just described a very valuable product. Figure out how to make it for a reasonable sum and you’ve got a business.

        > Finally, if I may be permitted to moralize

        No, you may not. And your conclusion is wrong. Congress wrongly thought that giving houses to people who couldn’t afford them wouldn’t have any negative consequences. Adding corruption into the system made a bad thing worse.

      • James Thomson

        Reply to Andy Freeman:

        > Congrats. You’ve just described a very valuable product. Figure out how to make it for a reasonable sum and you’ve got a business.

        Google is in a perfect position to provide such a product but that would likely attract more anti-trust scrutiny from the feds. It seems to me that such a product is the next logical step in the maturation of the Internet but who would be trusted to provide such a product given the potential for abuse?

        > Congress wrongly thought that giving houses to people who couldn’t afford them wouldn’t have any negative consequences. Adding corruption into the system made a bad thing worse.

        We could argue that particular point but I suspect neither of us would be swayed by counter-arguments. My point was more related to the large percentage (about 43% per MSN.money) of American households spending more than they make across the board (not just on home mortgages) as measured by household credit card debt (See: http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/SavingandDebt/P70581.asp)

  • Andy Freeman

    > I suspect if given a poll the overwhelming majority of us would choose to have fewer but more meaningful choices in our day to day lives.

    Yes, you want fewer choices. So do I. However, we don’t want the same set of fewer choices.

    That’s why what we really need is not fewer choices, but better ways to manage choices, so we only have to worry about the choices that matter to us.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/daltonmoraesjr Dalton Moraes

    In regards to the topics in your book related to Car Designers, Laboratory Researches and any designed Atoms, my thougths were related to making the designers the platform. Since companies will need to keep their “secret products” and contain the ideas within a given scope, making the Designers the platform would solve these issues. the communities (or mobs) would concentrate around the designers and provide ideas for product enhancements. It is not ideal but it would be the first step on opening the doors for the future.

  • http://www.lcdfernseher32.co.cc/ lcd fernseher 32

    I believe that the growth of journalism wins (a blessing, as I mentioned already). But how could rise by more than is a bit of “editorial control. What have the donors some control / transparency, where the money is used. It does not change Kiva comment before me.