Maximize This!

Yesterday, I asked “are you a maximizer”? When you look at how you live, day to day, are you a survivor or something more? For most of our time on the planet, mankind has been focused on survival. But modern man aspires to something more. We aspire to maximize, even if we are not that good at it.

As I mentioned, we can only achieve that “something more” when we are part of something. On our own, we fall back to the survival mode. That is an adventure too – like Robinson Crusoe.

But we can see the limitations of this type of adventure. Crusoe has nice survival tools, but he looks out to sea hoping for rescue. To get beyond those limitations, we connect with others in “systems”. Over the last thousand years or so, these systems have become more and more formal and complex. Contrast the scene of Jesus sitting around a table with his followers

With the sistene chapel

Why? It may be because we were not very good at making systems function well at large scale without some sort of coercion. So humans had no choice but to join into systems, knowing that they were less than perfect. That was one of my points yesterday.

Can we do better? We might be able to using the internet, and I suggested this idea yesterday. But we are not there yet. So as I talk about this, it is a bit like talking about airplanes before we actually were making them and using them.

So bear with me.

One step in the right direction that we already have taken is to move from systems that agglomerate power to systems that maximize choice. We moved from aristocracy to market economy. So we move from this

To this

Nice. But is it enough? It would be enough if the choices that our system created were exactly the ones that we need in order to make our lives meaningful. If, for example, buying that new sports car would drive me to nirvana

But it won’t. We know that. What is wrong here? Not the shopping mall or sports car in themselves. They embody a lot of cool thinking. But I think the problem is that there is a disconnect between the choices that our systems generate and the processes that add value to our personal lives. Sometimes these things connect, and lots of time they do not.

So, can we make that connection better? We might be able to if we had the right tools. Like what? Well, there is the rub. We are not sure what those tools look like.

But we do know something. We do know that we get meaning from doing stuff. And we get more meaning when we believe that we do that stuff very well. That we can master it. Like the kung fu guy

If we master something that others need, we establish a potential connection that adds value to both sides. The other folks get better and better choices and I get better and better mastery and rewards for that mastery. And this takes me back to the idea of “maximizing”. A system that maximizes my ability to master things that you need will be pretty awesome.

We call that kind of system a platform. And we are just beginning to figure out how to build really cool platforms. We are not there yet. But we are getting closer. Tomorrow I will give an example of a platform that works well for a narrow function.


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