Impact-Driven Categories are designed to benefit the weakest, not the strongest
We are at our best when we help the weakest. The weak make us strong.
— Sam Brownback
Throughout history, we have always made progress. As with everything progress too has come at a cost. Part of what makes us human is our unending quest to push the envelope. To challenge ourselves. To innovate. Thanks to innovation and progress within 18 months of a global pandemic we have multiple vaccines and roughly half the global population vaccinated. Even 10 years ago such a feat would be considered impossible. Yet here we are today. But the system is still broken. People are unhappy. Instead of celebrating the win, we are anxious about the future.
Why? The answer lies in the system. The system is not designed to benefit the weakest. It's designed the benefit the strongest.
The poorest, the most marginalized are yet to gain access to the vaccine. And make no mistake that is not a mistake. A mistake is something we can fix. This is intentional. This is by design. The pharmaceutical companies and the rich nations backing them have intentionally designed the COVID-19 vaccination category to benefit the strong.
Can the differently-abled person in the farthest corner of the globe get vaccinated today? The short answer is No. This means the category isn’t designed to benefit the weakest, it's designed the benefit the strongest.
Category design as a management philosophy and approach is a relatively new field. But you can see vestiges of category design. Whether is religion, democracy, or even economic systems, they were designed. And they were designed to be future-proof. Meaning, they were designed to ensure that the strongest is always in control.
When smart entrepreneurs and visionary thinkers caught onto the idea of category design, they realized its potential to create abundance. Its ability to design the future the way they see it.
But these entrepreneurs were born during a different time. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, the founders of Google, all grew up wanting to solve a certain set of problems that were relevant to the time epoch when they were children. And all power to them for solving it and creating wealth for themselves. They were born in a time when the bright lure of free-market capitalism offered hope and prosperity. But today, we know differently. Today we know capitalism is like a moth to the flame. Sadly because of the way the category is designed we all aspire to be exactly like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. But that needs to stop.
“The top 5 tech firms have a market capitalization of USD 9.3 trillion”.
Apple, Microsoft, Google/Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook. All category creators and leaders.
But can you imagine the impact of these categories and companies were designed the benefit the weakest and most vulnerable?
The sad reality is 3.7 billion people have no access to the internet. They are not part of the digital economy. While the “digital world” complained of zoom fatigue from the comfort of their homes, 3.7 billion people had to make ends meet during a lockdown with no access to the internet.
If Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was being designed today, access to the internet would be a basic need together with food, water, shelter.
Now imagine a different world. A world in which companies like Google, Apple, Facebook were designed to benefit the most vulnerable. To solve problems like global access to the internet.
Imagine if Amazon was designed to benefit the daily wage worker. An impact-driven category that is designed to benefit the weakest will always benefit the strongest.
The first generation of category creators and leaders were functional and driven by survival of the fittest/strongest mentality. They were Darwinistic category creators.
But impact-driven category creators like Dan Price are trying to design categories that address the weakest. By taking a payout and raising the minimum wage of his employees to USD 70K per year, Dan has created a movement on wealth creation.
The problems humanity faced 50 years ago were very different from the ones we face today. 50 years ago we wanted to bring the world closer, we needed to communicate, we wanted to build a global village.
But today, we face a very different set of problems. A very different reality. We are facing a climate emergency, depletion of resources, a global pandemic, and much more. The same category-creating rules cannot apply. The rules have changed and category creators need to put impact first. Today, the success of category creators doesn’t lie in just creating wealth for themselves. Next-gen category creators are impact-driven like Dan Price.
The impact-driven categories they create lead to a movement that is driven by the community. The by-product of creating impact-driven categories is it builds sustainable communities.
Imagine a world in which entrepreneurs are creating impact-driven categories that create wealth not just for themselves but also for the weakest and most vulnerable people.
There is a crony capitalistic myth that has been perpetuated — that you need to be ruthless in your quest for wealth, market share, and power. That if men like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg can make it and become billionaires then surely the system works! If you work hard enough if you work smart enough and are single-minded in your approach to creating profit, then you too can make it.
The other extreme of this is a category designed to destroy the strong to lift up the weak.
And we are all brainwashed by one of these ideologies. But it doesn’t have to be either-or.
There are tons of examples that show us a better way. Creating shared community wealth doesn’t have to come at the price of profit. Gravity Payments is one such example. Category design as a philosophy is about creating abundance — an abundance in market share, wealth, and so on. But is it really abundance when it only benefits a few?
We have all been sold the hamster wheel dream. No one put it better than Charles Bukowski:
“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ” Charles Bukowski, Factotum
It's time we changed the dream. Redesigned the category of success to make it impact-driven. The next generation of categories should be about creating equity and equality for those that are touched by it. Only by shared creation can true abundance and real purpose of category design be achieved.