Status Levels: Who eats first and who eats last

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One of the things I have been thinking about the world around us for over a year now.

The question is who eats first?

Whether you are an animal, a bee or human.

Status roles matter.

We live in a world that attaches value to status.

Who gets to eat first?

Who is the alpha?

Who is in charge?

We see something that has been going on for millennia, it turns out that throughout the animal kingdom including and especially humans, status roles matter.

Status roles drive us. Those that obviously seek status, and those that pretend that they don’t notice it or care..

Just about everything you will ever see in a movie theatre or read about in a novel is about status role.

The movies playing in circuit currently are about status roles, the sitcoms, the TV series we binge on, comedies, thrillers we see today, are all about who is moving up and who is moving down.

But off-course TV is a reflection of what man does, this status roles happens in real life and it doesn’t have much to do with money.

Think about that meditation weekend, nothing but a spirituality weekend, except some people at that weekend are friends with the instructor, so they have a little more status.

Off-course the guest instructor meditation weekend is wearing a special outfit sitting on a special chair, he has a little more status than us.

We attend a conference, and some of the people are friends with the organizer, so they have a little more status.

Tribes, these informal groups of people that we are a part of, demand status roles because it is a form of governance.

We need a manager, to manage the manager who manages the staff. Status roles.

Status is about: who is up and who is down.

Capitalism requires status roles. Because it gets to work even after they have enough.

That the ability to be able to say: “I might not have everything but I have more than you” is buried deep within our culture.

That what we have done is to build layer after layer after layer in commerce, in community, based around our roles, our status, our business cards, our standing in the community, our cars, our phones, our addresses where we stay, schools we went to, it is about status levels.

Those Louis Vitton shoes that she is wearing, that Prada bag, who get’s to sit at the cool table at lunch, who is the captain of the football team or the student council, it’s status level.

We repeatedly look at other people and decide where we stand.

They ask you what do you do for a living so that they can decide the level of status they attach to you.

They ask you which college or university you went to so that they can gauge whether to be associated with you or not.

When I went to University, students like me who came from public schools were subconscious not supposed to hang around students from private schools.

When you enter a restaurant as a customer, status roles are already assigned between you and the waiter. We know is assigned a high level and a lower level.

When we prefer those with light skinned [yellow bones], is all about status roles.

When we prefer to hang out with those who win awards and speak English with a clear accent, is all about status roles.

And what marketers have done, is take advantage of this and run with it.

What politicians have done, is take advantage of this and run with it.

Because we understand that deep down, human beings care about status roles.

School is status roles. Who gets to be the teacher’s favourite? Is it the good looking, always clean student? this is status levels.

How do we treat someone who is wearing a cute outfit versus the one who is not?

How are we looking and juxtaposing who has status and who doesn’t and which status matters?

Marketing is about selling status, it is about sales and profits more than anything else.

We want you to spend.

How about some status?

 

Status Levels: You deserve to be free

We just assumed everyone knew they couldn't take it with them.

Who gets the most respect and who gets the least?

Who do we want to associate with and who do we shy away from?

Who gets to eat first and who gets to eat last?

Which company do we want to work for?

It turns out that answers to these questions all point to one social function: Status.

We respect people because of the status we attach to them, either because they are popular, wealthy, good looking, appear on TV, etc.

But this is nothing new, historically status has been used to separate common people from the monarch.

Common folks wore common clothes, and monarch wore expensive and extravagant clothes.

Status has its roots in ancient society where every person had a “place” in the social hierarchy.

Historically, this place was attained either through birth [e.g., born into nobility or an upper class in the caste system[ or by ordainment [e.g., knighted by the king].

This changed during the Age of Enlightenment [roughly the beginning of the 18th century] as a man’s worth began to be judged according to his achievements, which frequently brought great wealth.

A reliable connection was made between merit and worldly success, well-paid jobs were secured primarily through intelligence and ability.

The rich were not just wealthier, they were “better.”

They merited their success, and as such, affluence increasingly became a marker of social status.

Wealth and social status have been inextricably linked ever since.

In his classic treatise The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen argued that the accumulation of wealth is not really what confers status.

Rather, what confers status is the evidence of wealth, which requires its wasteful exhibition, behavior he described as conspicuous consumption.

As examples, Veblen noted the leisure class used silverware, hand-painted china, and high-priced table linens at meals when less expensive substitutes could work as well or better.

People buy fine silverware, Veblen wrote, not to convey food into their mouths but to display that they can afford such things.

I guess is where the phrase “born with a silver spoon in your mouth” comes from when we talk about those who come from affluence.

Veblen noted that the examples he put forth, including manicured lawns, the latest fashions, and exotic dog breeds, confer prestige to owners due to their lofty price tags.

Contemporary research in marketing recognises the symbolic role of possessions in consumers’ lives.

It is widely accepted that people make inferences about others based on their possessions.

Those inferences can reflect others’ success, measured by the things someone owns.

Marketers have used status as a way to get people to buy things.

Even today, marketers sell status as a for people to purchase things.

The thing is status is not real.

Status is in our heads.

Status is the story we tell ourselves and the more we tell it, we believe it and it becomes a self-fulling prophesy.

Status symbols are medals you buy yourself.

Your true worth is not based on your status in society.

When you realise this you will realize that all along we have been duped.

We have been sold a lie by marketers to make us believe that our worth is based on owning an iPhone 8.

We don’t have to use things for people to admire us.

Our happiness is not reliant on continuously buying conspicuous things.

Retail therapy as a way to happiness is a trap, it is meant to increase sales.

The truth is, you can skip the pursuit of happiness altogether and just be happy.

Your value lies not in status or title, but in the roots of your character and depth of your compassion.

You deserve to be free.

 

Who are we seeking to become?

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We get what we invest in.

The time we spend comes back, with interest.

Prof Clay Christensen in his book How Will You Measure Your Life says, I paraphrase: where you spend your time on grows, and where you don’t spend your time on diminishes.

When you invest time on your studies, your chances of passing increases and when you don’t, your chances diminishes.

When you invest time in your relationships, they are likely to be healthy and when you don’t, they are likely to suffer.

If you practice five minutes of piano music every day, you will become a better piano player.

If you spend a little bit more time each day complaining or feeling ashamed, that behavior will become part of you. The words you type, the people you hang with, the media you consume…

The difference between who you are now and who you were five years ago is largely due to how you have spent your time along the way.

The habits we groove become who we are, one minute at a time.

A small thing, repeated, is not a small thing.

[And the same thing is true for brands, organizations and movements.]

Catalytic Innovation: Our obsession with with elite institutions

ivyleague

Our challenge is not a lack of money, the money is there, it needs to be redirected to innovative ideas with social impact.

If we are to alleviate poverty, we need to stop obsessing about elite institutions that continue to benefit the few and excluding the many.

Henry Ford showed us how to democratize and make accessible to millions of people what was an elite product for an elite few.

We need to apply the same principles for bringing social change.

This model can be applied to other services such as:

  • Provision of microlending to startup entrepreneurs;
  • Provision of affordable quality legal services to poor people; or
  • Provision of social houses to poor communities.

Our success is not whether we build elite instutitions charging exorbitant fees and thereby excluding the majority of people, it is whether we are able to provide quality, simpler, affordable services to majority of people who need it the most.

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

100 years ago Henry Ford sat in an ideas conference like this one where they outlined how the next 100 years will look like. He sat there taking notes. He knew what he is going to do after that conference.

He is going to make a product for the masses, and still make money in the process.

Fast-forward 100 years later, we are discussing and laying out how to apply catalytic disruptive innovation for the next 100 years.

I hope you will look at this and do something about it.

I have no doubt that you will succeed.

 

Catalytic Innovation: Access to affordable quality education

Beni-American-University

Let’s look at the last example this time in West Africa, in Nigeria

Access to quality education in Africa is expensive.

The FeesMustFall movement is an example of the frustration students have about high university fees.

The challenge is that even when fees fall, not all students eligible for university will gain access due to capacity constraints.

Meet Gossy Ukanwoke from Nigeria.

Gossy runs Beni American University, Nigeria’s first online university. BAU provides cost effective high quality online courses to thousands of student by connecting technology and education.

In Nigeria, nearly 2 million students competing for 500,000 spots at about 141 accredited universities. This leaves 1,500 000 who can’t get in.

Due to the lack of space and affordable quality education, offering online courses will unlock and give access to thousands of students who cannot afford or access university education.

Since 2014, BAU has graduated over 8000 graduates, currently has 2000 students enrolled.

How is BAU a catalytic innovation?

  1.  Create social change: More young people access education to get jobs and uplift their lives
  2. Scalable: Easy to access online courses by thousands and thousands of students
  3. Meet un-served market: 1,5 millions students who cannot access University education.
  4. Simpler, less costly: Without the cost of paying for the bricks and mortar, physical lectures, online courses are more cheaper and affordable. BAU charges $50 per course, traditional universities charge $250 per course.

Gossy through BAU is democratising access to quality affordable education in Nigeria.

The Catalytic Innovation Model has been applied in Mexico, Bangladesh, India, and other emerging countries.

At the core of this model is:

  • Addressing a social need;
  • Scalable and replicable;
  • Accessible and affordable; and
  • Being able to raise resources.

Today we have tools that can make catalytic innovation more simpler, and affordable.

For example: 3D Printing, Solar energy, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Big Data, make it easier to build solutions at reduced costs and increased accessibility.

Catalytic Innovation: Access to affordable quality primary health care

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While still in Kenya, let’s look at another example in Nairobi

In Kenya, 80% of Kenyan doctors and dentists live in Nairobi while 70% of the population lives in rural areas. Kenya’s ratio of doctor to population is 14 doctors to every 100,000 people. This results in a serious lack of access to doctors in Kenya.

Healthstore Clinics aims to provide affordable healthcare to communities in Kenya by training local residents to provide basic health care, and help them set-up and operate their own clinics.

This model turns residents [often nurses and health practitioners] into clinic owners.

Strict standards and regular inspections by the Healthstore foundation ensure uniform quality heath care. Healthstore clinics are funded through microloans at affordable rates.

Is the Healthstore Clinic model catalytic innovation? let’s test it:

  1. Creating social change: Healthstore Clinic provides access to quality health care to people in rural areas.
  2. Scalable and replicable: the Healthstore Clinic model is a franchise concept and therefore highly scalable
  3. Meet un-served needs: Population in rural that cannot access health care. 70% of the population in rural areas struggle to access quality health care facilities.
  4. Offer products that are simpler and less costs: Combined Healthstore clinics are able to buy in bulk and access bulk discounts for the patients. Patients therefore benefit from these bulks discounts by paying less for medication.
  5. Generate resources: The Healthstore franchisees are able to raise funding from micro-loan facilities in Kenya.
  6. Disparaged or looked down upon: Often health facilities in rural and shanty areas are looked down upon.

Healthstore Clinics have democratized access to quality affordable health care in rural areas to people who could not access it before.

This is how social impact is achieved at a financially sustainable manner.

Catalytic Innovation: Affordable quality makerspace

Gearbox

Let’s look at another example of catalytic innovation, this time from East Africa, Kenya.

Often we are told that many successful startups started from humble beginnings by starting a in a garage such Apple, Microsoft, Google.

In Africa, where having a house with a garage is a luxury.

In Nairobi, a garage is something most entrepreneurs don’t have.

Meet Dr Kamau Gachigi. He has spent a number of his years in Engineering working towards, not only having more engineers through lecturing, but also having engineers who make stuff.

He is the founder of Gearbox, a non-profit organization that provides members with access to modern machines for proto-tying and low volume manufacture.

Gearbox also does training and incubation and acceleration services in order to broaden access to manufacturing in Kenya.

The Gearbox model is like a gym, you pay monthly membership fee and get access to any machine you want to use for produce hardware.

Is Gearbox catalytic innovation?

Let’s test it against the traits of what makes catalytic innovation:

  1. Social Impact: Creating more entrepreneurs, creates jobs, alleviates poverty and uplifts lives
  2. Scalable: Sharing space gives access to more entrepreneurs.
  3. Affordable: Gearbox charges around $50 per month on use of the space with tools and machines, vs. Market price for a workshop space without tools and machines is more than $200 per month
  4. Generate resources: Gearbox has been to access funding from various organisations including international organisations.
  5. Disparaged or looked down: sharing space with other people instead of having your own fancy workshop is often frowned upon.

Kamau through Gearbox has been able to democratize access to working space to thousands of innovators and entrepreneurs who could not access it because it was not affordable.