Last week, John Winsor shared some toughts regarding how the pace of change has become greater than most companies are able to manage and what can be done about it, if you find yourself in that place. I liked what he had to say, but one part in particular caused me to think in a bit of a different direction. In this part, John shares a train of thought on the implications of purchasing a level app for his iPhone rather than buying an actual level. Here's what he says:
Today every sector of the global economy is being affected by the relentless drive for efficiencies. This might have been obvious to you but it really struck home last week when I was trying to hang a picture. I was without a level and about to run out to get a level when Bridget said, “I’ll bet there’s a level app on the iPhone.” Sure enough there are 4 free apps plus a slew of them that cost 99 cents. I downloaded one in a minute. My new level worked great.
While I’ve always been blinded the bright light of technology and innovation I started thinking about the negative effects of my actions. My decision to download the level app meant that the retailer, the level manufacturer, the metal supplier and all of their employees lost out on revenue. While my actions benefited me, as a consumer, it had broad implications for society, as a whole. By extracting economic inefficiencies, others in the society lost.
All of what he says here is true. But there are at least a couple more societal implications he leaves out—implications that in my mind, are positive. By not going out to buy a level, he can spend that money elsewhere. Perhaps he'll spend it at a local restaurant or business, benefiting his local economy more than if he'd spent it at a national chain that sells levels.
In addition to that, there is the long term environmental impact. By not buying a level, he's not buying a tool he will rarely use and eventually have to discard. If this happens at scale, across a number of items and people, we begin producing fewer things that wind up in landfills. This too, has a significant positive societal impact.
Between the economy, the inventive ways people are using technology similar to how John talks about above, and the generosity of people in sharing how they're solving problems, we're starting to see more and more people question what they really need to buy. The cumulative effect of all of this is helping us realize that maybe we don't need as much as we think we do. For example, do I really need a knife meant for only slicing tomatoes? (Hmmm... I should probably return that...)
This is something I'm increasingly excited about—finding ways to use the things we already have to solve problems we rarely encoutner instead of making people go out and buy something they'll wind up throwing away after light use. It's also something I'm very familiar with, having grown up on a small farm where we had few dollars to spend on new tools and a lot of things around us that could be repurposed if we creatively looked at them. Anyway...
The world has a funny way of balancing things out, or leveling them out in this case. After decades of producing far too many things we don't really need, it's inspiring to see how the time and place we're living in is making that happen broadly and rapidly across a number of industries.