As crowd-driven business models become more advanced and widely adopted by geeks, entrepreneurs, politicians and social activists, I had the pleasure of speaking with an advocate for “all-crowd” models. Jan Hutchins, former mayor of Los Gatos and Television news anchor, currently CEO of the thought leadership marketing company, SocialAgenda Media, is known for his profound, social action-centric speeches, and ways he influenced and inspired audiences during his years on television and in political office to collaborate and work together toward common goals.
Jan, do you think great things can be achieved alone?
Jan Hutchins: Any great accomplishment is created and supported by a crowd of people almost by definition. Who does anything alone, unsupported by an army of unseen helpers? Who succeeds without a bevy of benefactors who pay for and adopt the product or service?
In media and elsewhere you advocate focusing on solutions vs re-living problems. What world problems are you passionate to solve? How can equally passionate tribes solve them?
Jan Hutchins: Most of us are trained to think the locus of control is outside of ourselves and that we are in some way alone battling forces arrayed against us. We therefore consider challenges to what we want as “problems” to be solved and something that actually exists in a kind of static, unchanging way. So we fight “wars” against drugs, terror, poverty, etc. as though the enemy to be conquered is tangible, real and a static situation to be solved. It is these mistaken illusions about life many of us humans hold as beliefs that arouse my passion to address.
My hallucinations have reality as a continuum, a whole that’s dynamic, constantly changing, fluid as it were. Dealing with situations in that universe from a position of opposition might create waves but it changes very little about the fluid we’re fighting. Instead we benefit from asking different questions, like why is it wet in the first place? Is the dynamic headed toward some kind of entropy that is acceptable and we can just wait for it to occur? In other words will it dry up on its own? Are there forces available to guide the water elsewhere? What would be the least energy used way to do that? Can we move where there is no water? Can we build a boat? In this universe the water has as much right to exist as I do and my respect for the whole helps me remember I’m not the center of the universe and need to include the “whole” in my judgments.
What effect has technology made on crowd-powered decision making processes and crowd-lead actions?
Jan Hutchins: Technology developed in institutions like Stanford, government spending that birthed the Internet, enterprises that created video games, computers, smart phones, and their many counterparts have connected humans in powerful, direct ways that like a nervous system have begun to animate the human family to begin to be able to move as one organism.
Like Wikipedia and its 30 million articles in 286 languages, including over 4 million in English, all free, and all done with only one (or few upto now?) paid employee!
Like Muji, one of Japan’s best-known brands, that made close to $2 billion last year, much of it from ideas generated through crowdsourcing.
Like NASA that regularly taps the masses to solve tricky problems.
Crowdsourcing is the first industrial operating system native to the information age. It’s exploiting the fundamental dynamics of a networked world.
Why are you passionate about crowdfunding as a crowd-driven model for activism?
Jan Hutchins: Individuals are able to organize themselves though online platforms to obtain resources and create political and social change. Connections enable entrepreneurs to ask strangers for cash to start a project, tourists can use spare couches while traveling. The recession forced many of us to look for bargains and uncover new ways of earning an income.
Crowdfunding is quickly becoming the world’s incubation platform, changing the role of gatekeeper and finally giving the world true choice in determining which ideas come to life.
Crowdfunding is empowering people to fund what actually matters to them, turning the sourcing process into a discovery process, making selection efficient and fair.
As a result, the ideas brought to life are those the world chooses, not the ideas that a limited number of gatekeepers secretly select.
How does understanding of crowdfunding can help everybody who is reading this article?
Jan Hutchins: There is effectively no excuse any more for not self-actualizing. We live in a new world of possibilities. Virtually anything you want to see, say, do, create, know how to do is available to you and according to Google’s Chair there are billions more people in Asia and elsewhere who will be joining the party in the next few years.
What made you passionate about crow-driven business and community models? What out of problems you encountered in your political and TV career that you wish were crowdsourcesd and crowdfunded, and what could it change?
Jan Hutchins: I proposed a kind of citizen journalism version of crowdsourcing in 1990, suggesting our little news operation at TV36 in San Jose could compete with the big stations by giving video recorders out to the public and encouraging them to help us find news. We could have used some crowdfunding as well and had/have a good case for it since deregulated broadcasting does such a terrible job of serving the public interest.
While I was on the Los Gatos town council I did a kind of crowdsourcing to help the community feel involved in government and practice what John Gardiner, the founder of Common Cause, called learning communities. The world is ready for learning, I hope.
How do you plan to utilize crowdfunding?
Jan Hutchins: We have an idea to make the content creation and event management sectors better, easier to produce, “crowd-powered”. We are currently working on creation the platform, and when we are ready we will invite our users to co-fund it and co-create it.
What action can reader / audience take right now?
Jan Hutchins: As Nike reminds, just do it. You now have the tools.
- License: Image author owned
- License: Image author owned
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By Tom McCarthy, business journalist and blogger.