Everything is hackable: the economy, politics, …

Stimulating intervention by Umair Haque:

Excerpt from a longer article which also includes references to the history of hacking:

Why is everything hackable today? Because in the edgeconomy, the universe of the economically possible has exploded: resources are more and more accessible. And if you can get your hands on it, you can hack it. The point is simple: nothing is impossible when you’re hacking.

Hacking means taking things that suck and making them better. Hacks aren’t always elegant, though they should be. But the logic of hacking is elegant: find things that suck, and make them better.

This is a principle I use in boardrooms all the time. Here’s what happens: I get, ironically enough, huge amounts of jargon thrown at me – what about radical vs incremental innovation, competitive dynamics, value drivers, resource leverage?

Those are important concepts. But they complicate a simpler economic reality: the industrial era left us drowning in a world of bland, dumbed down, sucky “product”. You name it, it mostly sucks: food, cars, clothes, books.

And so the anti-strategic logic of making sucky things better often defeats the best laid plans for world domination of bean-counters. Just ask Steve Jobs.

Hackers play. Hackers don’t spend huge amounts of time learning in a structured way. Yes, textbooks, theories, and models are important – but when they’re called for by stumbling blocks to solving real-world problems.

The bigger the problem you’re focusing on, the more you’ll likely need to play to solve it. Big problems aren’t solved overnight, and they often can’t be solved in a tightly structured way. Hacking goes (way) beyond the limits of structured, rigid thinking.

That’s important – because in a world where you can hack anything, play means that it pays more to start hacking than keep toying with spreadsheets. Who’s the master of this principle? Google, of course. It’s busy hacking the world’s big problems – while competitors are still debating how to “monetize” them.

Hacking industries, markets, and companies is more valuable than hacking technology. Yesterday, hacker principles yielded the greatest gains when applied to technology. Why? Because changing the ways in which we organized and managed people was costly – but bits and microchips were relatively cheap.

Today, it’s hugely powerful to apply hacker principles not to bits, but to industries, markets, and companies – because putting resources and activities together is cheap and getting cheaper.’

The above article is inspired by the dire straights of the American auto industry. But another example Umair uses is politics, and how Obama used asymmetric tactics to overturn Hillary’s lead:

Obama’s campaign didn’t have any of the resources Hillary’s did, to begin with – not cash, not experience, not a brand, not relationships, not Bill. Yet, he was able to accumulate these resources at light-speed.

How? By learning to leverage resources at the edges of the firm, instead of at it’s core.

Orthodox strategy teaches firms to hoard and hide resources at the core. But consider how precisely and deeply the Obama campaign inverted this lesson:

“…in state after state, the campaign turned over its voter lists — normally a closely guarded crown jewel — to volunteers, who used their own laptops and the unlimited night and weekend minutes of their cell-phone plans to contact every name and populate a political organization from the ground up.”

That’s a textbook lesson in edge leverage: often, in a hyperconnected world, instead of hoarding a critical resource, more value can be created by sharing it at the edges.”

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