Sep 16, 2012
5.6 billion people earn less than 15 dollars a day; 2.6 billion of them earn less than 2 dollars/day. The most powerful companies in the world, like Apple, design primarily for the other 10% of the world that can afford their products. That's the low hanging fruit. After decades of studying the other 90%, Paul Polak says that to reach them requires a "ruthless" focus on affordability and understanding local context. However, the problem with affordability is that in trying to optimize for that one metric of price, we often externalize problems of another metric. Cars gets cheaper and fuel is affordable, while war is imminent and glaciers are melting. Still, that's the easier challenge. Other issue of being sensitive to local contexts is far subtler. Our paradigm for centralized organizing simply can't handle million different contexts; scale, in that model, is bound to favor mono-culture over diversity. This is why we subversily -- through consumeristic, charitable, and social policies -- try to coerce the untapped 90% into the habits of the 10%, and call that market growth. Such "social entrepreneurship" cannot create resilient seventh-generation solutions. To do so, you either have to sacrifice scale or centralized organizing; ie. be small or distribute the impact.