The Mesh

In his podcast, Akimbo, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

  • In the early stage of the industrial revolution, figuring out how to make stuff is important because there were no factories. Later, factories were forming to replace the cottage industries because it was more productive to produce goods from factories. Factories require people to come together working in coordination and creating efficiencies. With the factories, getting things in sync in the right place at the right time created productivity.
  • Having factories also meant we needed to hire people to staff it because it was cheaper to hire people even when they were idle at times. Having people staffing in the factories makes sense because of the coordination and the information. The factory is efficient because the work activities in the factory can be closely coordinated; also, the information needed to produce the work can be shared promptly in the factory.
  • The key elements of the theory of the firm (by Ronald Coase) explain how hard it is to coordinate everyone’s effort and how imperfectly is the information. The mash principle, from Lisa Ganske, points out that coordination and information elements can work much better with the help of the Internet. The Internet makes it much easier to find people who can do work for us when we need it, and it creates lots more information.
  • While Bitcoin is not about a manipulated currency, Bitcoin is really about the blockchain. The purpose of the blockchain, an open, auditable database, is to get better information from people who are not under our authority and control. The mesh has all sorts of fascinating side effects. It changes the way we get around. It changes where we buy things, and it is going to change the way we organize our firms.
  • A challenge of the gig economy is the questions of where the next gig is going to come from. That is an information problem where the people out there do not know who we are, do not know what we could offer, and do not know when we are available. The mesh has influenced both sides of the equation as more information was being exchanged. Those are information about who is good, information about who is available, information about what you should pay, information about who you should work for. Gradually, the systems are changing the laws of what makes a firm work. The economies of the firm keep changing because it’s easier to rent then it is to buy.
  • Gresham’s Law that says bad money drives out good. Going forward as the mesh becomes more and more powerful, the challenge is going to be how do we give people the confidence to know that something they are considering paying for is going to work. Having the information to know that the right resource will be in the right place and at the right time becomes ever more important. We are no longer relying solely on a few institutions because institutions are becoming more fluid. What we are caring about is the information, information about who did what when and how did the results turn out. This is the big transformation because, in the old days, there was nothing but physical goods. But now we are engaging more with the information around the physical goods than with the goods themselves.
  • As organizations become more loosely linked based on this mash, we are going to know even more about each person’s role, because our relationships to one another are going to outweigh our position in the organization chart. In this economy where the theory of the firm has been upended by more and better information, the ratchet of capitalism and competitiveness will care much less about seniority and superficial roles. We are going to have to be intentional about who we work with and what kind of project we’re building in the first place. We need to think about the work we do and how many people touch our work before it gets to the person we are serving.
  • As we were weaving together our mesh, we are going to take a good hard look at where we fit in. How do we leverage our reputation? How do we keep track of our reputation for the next person? How do we expose it? What did we work on? What did we touch? What was the output?
  • In the old days, we were our resume, but now we are our work. As somebody who shows up and is part of this system, the question is which gigs we are going to take? Are we going to take on any gigs just when we are not busy? Or will we choose to take gigs that we are proud of? We want gigs that add to our list of accomplishments in a way that someone, with good information, will be able to point to and invite us. With so many choices in front of us and all just a click away, who will we click on and who will click on us? That is a choice each of us needs to make, or someone else will make that choice for us.