Karma Capitalism And The Service Paradigm


There's a brilliant write-up on the learning from Trend Buero's Trend Day, entitled Karma Capitalism, on theeightfold.com that seems to talk alot to the service paradigm. I thought it was worth sharing some of the insights with Treehug readers and to point you in the direction of the thinking to read more if you like (because my job is to champion service thinking and my take-out is that alot of the key messages from the Trend Day touch on a service paradigm).In Part 1 of the write-up, theeightfold speaks of the shift from brands creating global aspiration to brands creating local meaning. That "products of substance", relevant to our world today, will prevail. This means a shift away from resource-intense obsolescence to goods and services that continue to connect us and adapt to our specific needs; services that will allow for "deep customization". This is very close to the service paradigm, brilliantly articulated in Chapter 7 of Natural Capitalism, which advocates designing around the customer's real needs, to get closer to what they actually want, and to reduce the waste inherent in our product-focused economy. A product manufacturer needs to sell as many units as possible. A service provider is paid for the ongoing receipt of some form of value and that value is only arrived at by really understanding the distinct, discreet needs of people in the context of their lives/the world. Customization is the "pull" approach to industry — you tell me what your preferences are/let me understand them and I will deliver value, versus I will push a pre-determined product, that fits a system it was once designed within, at you.

Theeightfold cites Professor Mummad Yunus, the Founder of the Grameen Bank, whose success with micro credits honoured him with a Nobel Prize. He looked at banking from a customer needs view (the need to make the poor credit worthy) and argued to challenge to the current system of banking that does the opposite of this. Not so much about material waste, agree, but look at the waste this productized system created. It wasted the potential of half if not more of the world that live in poverty. Simply writing them off because of a pre-determined banking norm.

In Part 2 of theightfold write-up, Josephine Green, Head of Trends and Strategy and Phillips Design, is quoted saying "Companies must return to being learner not givers of information" and as a result a more human impression of innovation/bottom-up innovation. Again, the thinking is close to the service model. It suggests a participative model of creation — one where the customer is invited into the process in order to connect closer to the need and the resource to fulfil that need efficiently and effectively. The approach is open source — it invites consumers in to hand over data/preferences in order to design for their needs.

In Part 4 of the write-up, theeightfold talks of a shift articulated at the Trend Buero Day from the "profitability of things to the profitability of context". The shift is seen within the emergence of the service economy, which requires a new level of awareness and sensitivity to the consumer. Josephine Green (again) touching on systemic design — understanding the holistic context of any given product. What she is suggesting is a service system and she uses the chronic health care as an example. Chronic healthcare requires an ongoing receipt of value to keep the patient healthy (or better, to prevent bad health to begin with), and it might require self-management enabled through networked technology, versus the old world approach that might focus on fixing the problem with drugs to ease the burden of illness. That is a great example of service thinking. Drugs are reactive — a commodity to consume to fix a problem that won't go away. Preventive health or managed health is systemic or service-led. It requires a deep/personal understanding of the care required of an individual patient and an ongoing receipt of value for that patient in order to prevent or further manage an illness. The drug, the product, is simpy one part of that service system.

So glad to this thinking and particularly from Phillips, who, once-upon-a-time described themselves as a product manufacturer.

Ps. Don't know what happened to Part 3 of the Karma Capitalism write-up from theeightfold.

Written by Tamara Giltsoff.