Thursday, November 13, 2014


Today, Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Obama made a historic announcement of their respective targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

President Obama pledged in 2009 to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. To accomplish this, he initiated a number of aggressive plans including promoting better vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Today, he pledged that the United States would cut emissions by 26% from 2005 levels by 2025. This is on par with the pace with his current plans. Let’s hope the new Congress and Senate won’t break this very important promise to the world.

The Chinese President pledged to peak Chinese CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make every effort to cut back early. This seems not so significant, but it is a very good pledge given that China still has a significantly vested interest in continuing modernization and lifting its people out of poverty. China also pledged to expand zero-emission sources in renewable and nuclear energy to match its current dependency on coal-fired capacity. While dependency on nuclear power is questionable and mere promise to “peak” emission is only as good as the promise, it is commendable that China is at least trying. With one-fifth of the world’s population and a very good model to alleviate poverty but at the high cost of corruption, it is just very difficult to do the right thing when it is very much influenced by the western consumption culture.

China’s goals seem achievable. A 2011 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggests that China is on course to meet this goal and a MIT study with more conservative estimates suggest China has to be aggressive in its policies to meet this goal.

It is unprecedented for the two largest economies, energy consumers and carbon emitters in the world to come together and pledge to work cooperatively. This signaled to the other world leaders to follow in anticipation of the next year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference negotiations in Paris. This is a good sign. We are finally seeing some global vision in moving beyond the climate change denial and doing something about it. For the U.S., it may be our coming to terms with good science and bad politics; for China, this is about necessity. The mounting social pressure and visible air pollutions just is too much for its people to burden.

Mind you, the two nations have also been discussing other economic cooperation and more progressive immigration policies to allow a better exchange for human capital and their expertise. This would encourage a more open exchange of social responsibility and good corporate governance for China and better access to the growing economy for the United States. With these things (environmental incentives, economic opportunities, and corporate governance) reaching for progress and balance between the two nations, the sustainability movement has a chance.

Full speed ahead I say.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Creative Collective

Big Data is all the rage these days. It’s probably the first time in human history that we have gathered so much information about our individual and collective habits that we can actually do something meaningful with the information. Many marketers jump to the chance to better segment demographics and develop archetypical consumption habits to encourage selling more junk we don’t need.

Yes, let’s all catch the mad gold rush to Mt. Spendmore.

But there are better ways to use big data, isn’t there? Many industries are challenged to enhance reliability, reduce costs, and stimulate revenue while using materials and energy more efficiently with big data. This is a step in the right direction, but often overlooked is the ability for these industries to embrace information technology even further to leverage dynamic real-time demand response to optimize process—the whole process of consumption from producers to consumers. While some are using big data this way in small increments, they have not yet fully actualized the social tech’s offering of multi-stakeholder collaboration; and by definition they neglect the bigger picture of why it is important to achieve efficiency, reduce cost, and promote reliability. In my opinion, the end goal is to work our way to less dependency on the more scarce resources and turn our attention to utilizing more of the abundance we already have through collective efforts (trash recycling anyone?).

 So while the smart industries are sorting through mountains of information to figure out just how to be more efficient, they are turning a blind eye to combining information to form a dynamic communication method for a new way of thinking about the economy. This I find troubling. Perhaps it’s a mere symptom of linear static thinking that is prevalent in western metaphysics—where Americans seem to believe things are penultimate of the Monadology, Eastern thoughts often resolve to know things are in constant flux, that perfection is impossible because there is always room for improvement; and therefore, things are not as what they seem.

Where does this leave us in terms of innovation? If you really think about creativity and innovation, the components include originality and value creation. But to limit creativity and innovation to individuals is short changing the human race. While a degree of freedom is necessary for the exercise of creativity and innovation, but collective mentality and innovation are not mutually exclusive. I like to think we are somewhat capable of collaborating and creating common core solutions that are, well, ORIGINAL. So when we begin to think of the constant flux of things and the potential that big data offers us in terms of running into the next new big thing (Google for example), we see that the conundrum isn’t in why we can’t think in better ways. Rather it’s more about why we have not yet picked the better pack to believe in better outcomes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Energy Bar For Thoughts

Let’s take a look at energy consumption. No particular reason, but because I feel this is as a good of a place to start than any.

Our collective demand for energy has been ever rising. There are few stock market crashes and bubble bursts in our timeline to slow the energy demand a bit, but we are resilient creatures aren’t we? We keep crawling out from under the previous recessions and building the GDP block game piece by piece, faster and faster.

Today, as the world’s GDPs rise on average by 3.2% per year, and in some places (China) where 7% is considered astonishingly slow, our global energy consumption will increase by 1.4% per year in the next twenty or so years according to a Bloomberg Sustainalytics Industry Report. At some point in the distant past, we would say that developed countries accounted for the largest share of energy consumption as if laying guilt is somehow making us feel better that much of the developing world hasn’t caught up to our level of unsustainable bad habits. But that’s changing. In 2007, energy use amongst non-OECD nations exceeded their OECD counterparts for the first time. China’s energy demand has increased by 150% and is now the world’s largest consumer of power. India is on pace to match China’s demand on resources by 2035. The Middle East is also expected to become a significantly energy intensive region and its vast natural reserves do not help curb the consumption habits.

Water in the context of power consumption is also being overlooked. Our current technologies, from burning fossil fuel to fracking to nuclear power, are some of the most water intensive operations known to man. The U.S. electricity demand requires an estimated 136 billion gallons of water per day. Each kWh of energy requires an average of 25 gallons of water. According to a Forbes magazine article, your iPhone can use up to 1kWh of power each year. That’s 25 gallons of water per person per year for Siri! According to the United Nations, 2/3 of the world’s population could be living under water-stress by 2025.

Water and energy consumption are also connected in another very intimate and devastating way. It often involves large spills requiring vast manpower to clean up and huge fines and bad PR for companies (*cough* BP).

For all these reasons and then some, including the highly debated and scientifically established thing known as “climate change”, regulators around the world are passing legislation to reduce the impact of our energy demand and method of production. The Canadians set goals to produce 90% of its electricity from low-emitting technologies by 2020. Europeans and the Japanese have put in place strict environmental control laws and have been successful in controlling acid rain and urban smog. The Chinese have aggressive clean production and circular economy laws in addition to its various environmental protection laws. Their effectiveness is impeded by a lack for social and political will and shall remain open to judgment of its success. These regulatory challenges translate to increased operational costs including major investment capital on new equipment and compliance costs paid to useless lawyers like me. Please, save yourself the penny and let us do something more beneficial for a change.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tired of the Same Old Content Marketing Discussion? Me too!

- by Lauren Campbell-Kong

(This is a piece originally published on "The Culture of Send", a blog for Yes, that's a domain you can visit. BrainBox ltd is a new kind of content company that combines a social purpose for sustainability with a focus on education to bring new perspectives on content marketing. Stay tuned for more from the BrainBox.)

There has been some big news recently in the social media sphere: In the month of October alone Infusionsoft announced a new $55 million round of funding (spearheaded by Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs) and Hubspot went public, raising $125 million during their IPO. These are both huge developments in the world of digital marketing, specifically content marketing.

Inbound/Content marketing has taken the sector by storm, creating entirely new ways to attract potential consumers, clients, and leads. In the past, marketing functioned as "bring the ads to the people" through advertising in magazines, trade shows, etc. but when Inbound marketing revolutionized the industry with the "bring people to the ads" mentality, the ground underneath many advertising and marketing agencies shook; to be honest, I don't know if it is done shaking.

The idea behind this "bring people to the ads" is to produce high quality, highly informative content (blogposts, white papers, articles, etc.) to show potential purchasers that "you know what you're doing," building credibility and developing trust, increasing SEO in the process. The theory is the more content you generate, the more you increase your odds of showing up in search engine results (after you've optimized your site, your blog, your content of course). This coupled with the idea that you then promote your message on social media is supposedly the 'holy grail' to marketing in the digital age.

But is it?

With all the articles out there on "how to generate content" and the conferences surrounding "Inbound Methodology" and the multiple Google hangouts I get invited to weekly to help "Make Sense of Google Analytics", I honestly wonder if this is the 'Holy Grail' or if marketing is lost, wondering in a sea of digital misinformation and trendy band-aids (you know, like the Spider Man Band-aids that are available after a movie launch, but can't be found anywhere 6 months later).

Hell, I read an article today from a well reputable and highly credible social media online community discussing the issues that B2B marketers have. The top 3 issues were: Measuring Content Effectiveness, Producing Content Consistently, and Producing Engaging Content; cornerstones of the 'Holy Grail' approach. Doesn't sound like a 'Holy Grail' to me.

Never once in the article did the author truly dig down deep into the meat of the problem to offer up good, well worn advice. Instead, band-aids were handed out: Make sure you promote an interoffice culture that embraces social media, have a meeting that tells everyone how to properly engage and interact on behalf of the business, think like your customer etc. The issue with these 'tips' is they don't actually look at an individual company's situation and attempt to help, they throw a large blanket to the social media wind and hope your company falls under it.

I guess that's why many companies pay an organization like Hubspot or Infusionsoft to help them. Infusionsoft offers automated marketing software that is supposed to decrease time spent marketing on social media platforms, allowing you to schedule posts and not worry about getting them out in the interwebs. Hubspot, prides itself on the one-on-one customer service you receive with your membership payment, to help address your content marketing issues, but even the service reps regurgitate the same information that has been pushed their way; "be sure to provide quality content, post 3-4 blogs a week," etc. They also offer many Webinars, newsletters, and emails to educate you on Inbound Methodology, but again, they apply a broad overview of this methodology and think it applies to everyone's process. In a world of target marketing, with big data to back it up, I thought the 'throw it against the wall and see what sticks' mentality was gone.

But it isn't, it is just disguised as something else right now.

Quality of engagement is the crux of all of this. How can we measure quality of engagement? How do we know the value of allowing your consumers contact you in real time via social media or the value of sharing a video that can inspire others. We don't know how far this reach can be, let alone how to measure it. Especially in different industries where the culture of engagement is different throughout.

The point is, you can't measure quality of engagement in Google Analytics (Google offers some really neat measuring capabilities though). In an industry that sees the never ending opportunity that the digital age has provided us, the process in how to interact and engage is only half of it, the other half requires a shift in the measurement process and moving away from "three sheets to the wind" mentality. After all, no one wants to rely solely on the wind to spread your message: that's why we developed technology.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Does Your Company Think About Transportation and Marketing in the Same Context?

Today, only 5% of Americans use public transit. 77% of us drive to work and only 10% share rides. According to the US Census Bureau, we were doing a lot better in the 20's when 20% of us shared rides.

On average, commuters loses 34 hours to traffic congestion each year. Deloitte reports that we waste 4.76 billion hours per year. Translating that into dollar value, that's $429 million per day. It's about $160 billion worth of productivity each year cycled through the exhaust pipe and turned into polluted air.

That cost is only on the individuals. The government pays a certain amount as part of its public service obligations. We, in turn, pay for that through our taxes.

Companies offering a transportation solution to their workers encourages a pattern of consequences improving their bottom lines. Google, for example, found by providing shuttle services to its employees it lowered worker stress, increased talent pool, and eliminated some cost of building parking infrastructures. This also help reduce the fuel demand, emissions, and vehicle traffic.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Speak to the World.

We have come to identify the norms of social hierarchy with the professional paraphernalia of social control. Justice, is not exclusively vested in the formal institutions of the law or political intrigue. But we insist there is a world of difference. The conventions of a social order are important but they are only conventions of our choosing.The authority of power is subject to our common human experience. No social, legal or political institutions exists apart from the normative narratives that give meaning. 
Once the narrative is properly communicated and understood in context, the legal and social political institutions becomes not merely a system of order to be observed, but a world in which we live happily.

We are now
not in the nostalgia of a chance for better politics,
induced by the early successes of conquering,
but in a rather grisly dawn,
when it has become apparent that
what triumphant laws have done
is to merely mask the real danger,
painted over by
the dull broken walls,
or actually deteriorated

Adaptation from Aldous Huxley

Yes. we support a civil Umbrella Revolution. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cultivate Your Ecosystem

“The most indicative metric of a community’s health is the cross-pollination of stakeholders.” – Brian Watson,

Our society is perfectly willing to break down everything into its parts, analyze the gears, and then put them back together to see if they work better. Somewhere in the process, we forget the purpose is to put the parts back together with better arrangements so they will work more effectively as the whole.

But we are obsessed with the parts, aren’t we?

Since our ingenious human mind went to work to deconstruct reality into metaphysical planks, we misplaced that grander purpose of recognizing the whole. We see a clock in its parts and are marveled by the intricate gears and details; but a clock in its parts does not tell time. Society in its parts does not succeed. The metaphysical planks are not ideas in motion. Seeing things broken down into parts does not facilitate change. It merely perpetuates the glorified “busy” that permeates modern society.

And so we stay busy to be in separate parts of this grandiose idea of a universe.


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