Date: January 18, 2009

The architecture of scaffolding

We’ve had a lot of discussion, both online and off, about the V in VRM. It speaks one kind of relating, in the economic sphere. Which is just one sphere.

Britt Blaser has spoken often of the kind of RM that begins with a G — GRM for Government Relationship Management.

We’ve also talked about why we start with the individual in our work with VRM. Why not start with groups, and group empowerment? Especially since “social” is such a hot theme?

The answer is that relating starts with individuals. Even though it always involves more. One’s relationship with one’s self may be interesting to a shrink, but it’s too small for building a society, an economy, a politiy.

Erik Cecil, a friend and freshly minted blogger, almost poetically captures something about relating in this paragraph from his latest post:

IntERdependence is the engine of democracy; it creates the nanostructures of new economies.  People lined 137 miles of railroad track, therefore, not to see some new Hercules.   They came to see in their new President a reflection of their individual importance reflected back to them in the President they just elected.   He not only moved the power of democracy to the edge, but opened the path back to the middle.   Reverberating throughout the crowds was the music of interdependence.  Let the new freedom ring.

We’re in new territory here — one we’re just beginning to make for ourselves.

Creating a market force

So I’ve been asked (somewhere… can’t find it right now, so maybe one of ya’ll will remind me) if the last three paragraphs of this post by Daniel Goleman speak in some way to VRM. Here they are:

The singular force that can drive this transformation of every manmade thing for the better is neither government fiat nor the standard tactics of environmentalists, but rather radical transparency in the marketplace. If we as buyers can know the actual ecological impacts of the stuff we buy at the point of purchase, and can compare those impacts to competing products, we can make better choices. The means for such radical transparency has already launched. Software innovations now allow any of us to access a vast database about the hidden harms in whatever we are about to buy, and to do this where it matters most, at the point of purchase. As we stand in the aisle of a store, we can know which brand has the fewest chemicals of concern, or the better carbon footprint. In the Beta version of such software, you click your cell phone’s camera on a product’s bar code, and get an instant readout of how this brand compares to competitors on any of hundreds of environmental, health, or social impacts. In a planned software upgrade, that same comparison would go on automatically with whatever you buy on your credit card, and suggestions for better purchases next time you shop would routinely come your way by email.

Such transparency software converts shopping into a vote, letting us target manufacturing processes and product ingredients we want to avoid, and rewarding smarter alternatives. As enough of us apply these decision rules, market share will shift, giving companies powerful, direct data on what shoppers want — and want to avoid — in their products.

Creating a market force that continually leverages ongoing upgrades throughout the supply chain could open the door to immense business opportunities over the next several decades. We need to reinvent industry, starting with the most basic platforms in industrial chemistry and manufacturing design. And that would change every thing.

It’s certainly consistent with VRM. And the first four words of the last paragraph are exactly what we expect VRM to do.

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