The Platform, Part III: Transforming Consumption, Section B

In the last post, we wrote about the challenges that today’s Consumption-Production-Marketing (and Investment) model present to us in creating a sustainable American economy and access to opportunity. We’ve repeated that model in the graphic below to help us refer to the processes and interrelationships of the processes.

High-level model suggesting relationships of key components related to "Acquiring Stuff" within the American capitalist-based economy.

High-level model suggesting relationships of key components related to “Acquiring Stuff” within the American capitalist-based economy.

In this post, we want to consider how we might start to transform these processes, particularly the one that every American can control: Consumption. We want to talk a bit about assessing and exploiting the information that this model generates and how we might use Connected Age technologies to create more value and an eventual solution-based approach to smarter consumption and production. Most importantly, we want to tie this model to creating greater access to opportunity to Fulfill the American Promise.

Value

Note that none of the data native to or generated by the loop in the above model offers any informational insight about the quality or value of the stuff produced or consumed (either goods or services). In our current economy, the pertinent information has to do with the financial gain that can accrue to the Producer, Marketer or Investor; while it’s true that money can also be a source of information, this is not the kind information flow that best depicts the American economy.

Today, the Consumer, who ultimately funds the cycle and is the ultimate source of return on investment, has the least input into the process in terms of identifying value or generating information. The Consumer, who should be on a level playing field in terms of information flow, could provide much more useful information for the entire system if we better harness the connecting technologies we have available to us today. Big Data analysis won’t be nearly as useful to knowledge generation about our economy if all it’s concerned with is tracking how much stuff Consumers buy!

The Consumer, who should be creating both the demand and the means of identifying value, actually has only a small role in this loop, other than to acquire stuff. In the graphic above, note how the solid arrows point one way. Apart from tracking what stuff consumers buy, where is the information flow on behalf of the Consumer?

This loop affects how the American Promise might be fulfilled in a big way! New technologies and the resulting gadgets we can buy because of new inventions and innovations have subtly changed the way we look at opportunity and value in America. We’ve forgotten the interdependent responsibilities of buying and selling, the basis of a value-creating capitalistic culture. We’ve become ill-informed Consumers of goods and services in this great nation, and it’s past time we transformed that part of American life.

That’s right: both Producers and Consumers have a complementary responsibility to help drive the cycle of Production, Marketing and Consumption (and thus effectively influence Investment). The model today is Production and Marketing driving Consumption, whereas the market should really be Consumption driving Production (and Marketing as needed in the case of value creation that has not yet been adequately promoted). Investment will chase after either model as long as the information flows are there.

Consumers must influence Producers to make and deliver sustainable goods and services that account for long-term value, not the whims of today’s hottest craze. This was also a lesson that former City of Lewes, DE Mayor Jim Ford imparted in a recent post.

Solutions?

So, what do we do to bring about more value-driven Consumer behaviors? How do we make our stuff tell a better story about our lives as individuals, communities and as a nation committed to a long-term, sustainable economic future?

One way to begin Consumer behavior change is to start using the transformational power of our information technology to inform ourselves about what has happened to the United States in the last 40-50 years as far as politics and budgets are concerned. We need to overcome the political influence that some have sought to leverage in distorting the use of IT to separate us from each other. The gulf that edge-driven politics has created using IT today also inhibits bringing about a sustainable economy through generation of maximum opportunity to participate in that economy.

Fixing these kinds of problems requires individual responsibility and even an individual change in the way we Consume and Produce goods and services in the United States and abroad. Producing, selling and buying simply to make money can no longer be the primary rationale for the American Connected Age form of capitalism.

Production and Consumption requires more intelligence than that in a globally Connected Age. We need to harness IT innovation and change our political infrastructure to leverage these new opportunities to succeed as a people – we need to create better access to opportunity for all to participate in these new economies. Buying and selling and making money is inherent to capitalism and is great as long as Producers deliver real value and not just bottom lines. It’s even greater if everyone has an equal shot at participating in the opportunities we create as a nation.

Perhaps the most important responsibility we need to take on as Americans is to transform ourselves away from the compulsion to acquire stuff. We all need to contribute to reassigning value to what America Produces and Consumes through the “Stuff Acquisition” model. This is how we ensure Producers produce good and meaningful stuff that helps us sustain a good environment and infrastructure that America needs to prosper. Consumers can and must drive this!

We are a connected people in this country and we need to start using that connectivity to become The United States once again. Our nation can once again reflect concern for our future generations by transforming the way we buy and use stuff. We can live up to the important and relevant responsibilities we’ve taken upon ourselves to lead the rest of the world in supporting societies that embrace freer and more open forms of government and care for the environment in which we all live together.

If there’s one place innovative thinking could be introduced with the prospect of good return on investment, it’s in the development of an adaptive model of American capitalism that embraces smarter Production, Investment, Marketing and Consumption. We welcome the discussion of what that model looks like as we move forward with FAPITCA! The graphic above is the “as-is” model but what we need is the “to-be” model, as engineers call them. Please join in this critical discussion to help our nation design this model!

Our next post in this series on Building a Platform will look at protecting and securing our environment and infrastructure, two deeply interconnected challenges for America which have a significant role to play in how we use, consume and ultimately dispose of our stuff!

Originally posted by Carl and Chuck Hunt, 6/12/2014.

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