Printer Friendly Page Skirt Traps

Skirt Traps

It might be thought that if the social innovator was Ted Turner or Bill Gates, or had wealthy backers, the trap could be avoided and the innovation would have a far easier time building supporters numbering into the millions.  Perhaps building support could be accomplished more quickly.  But there is a second trap that society has evolved to protect the status-quo and maintain in place those who have already been personally successful.  This trap serves to enhance their success ("Them that has gets") and more important for this analysis, thwarts social innovation.  

The costs to all parties are evaluated by the financial and monetary experts, the economists, to whom even presidents of the US and other mortals erroneously defer.  For complex systems evaluations, economists cannot perform an analysis that goes into the motivations of the parties involved in the innovation proposal beyond the assumption that each party calculates its own benefits in a self-interested way, typically financial.  Often the benefits to all parties are reduced to a comparison of tangible monetary value with and without the innovation, and the analysis is based on some assumptions that are unstated or untenable.  To an economist we are all profit maximizers or at least, self-interest maximizers.  Economists hardly ever look at non-financial factors, like conformity to the norms of peers, a factor usually less important than financial factors, but sometimes dominant.  Economists evaluating innovations have little concern for the effect of the innovation on parties other than the one(s) employing them.

There is one long, slow way that social innovations ultimately succeed.  They avoid the pitfalls of the traps and continue cycling through all of the organizing, publishing, participations, fund raising, and outreach that brought them their first measures of success, over and over, slowly enlarging the number of supporters.  Unfortunately, slow is the key word.  Usually five to thirty years and more should be anticipated.  The slow way has one great advantage: it is not biased with built in competitors, adversaries, opponents, or enemies; and in addition, very rarely, "if you catch the wave of exogenous changes just right" it is not so slow.