The Tragedy of the Commons

The Tragedy of the Commons

The Tragedy of the Commons (or the Tragedy of the Unregulated Commons) is a mental model developed by Garrett Hardin, rooted in economic theory. The "tragedy" refers to a set of individuals who, acting rationally, independently and in their own self-interest can create a situation where they destroy the collective's long-term viability by depleting a common resource. 

The original example referred to individuals sharing a 'common' parcel of land for herding or fishing. If an individual utilised the common area more than their fair share, they may receive an individual benefit (a few more fatter animals or a larger catch), but if all individuals made this decision, the common land would be overgrazed or overfished ultimately leading to it's destruction.

The theory is often seen as an example of emergent behaviour, or the outcomes of individual interactions in complex adaptive systems.

In essence then, there is a failure to think long-term in favour of quick and immediate gains.

So what are some examples in Marketing & Advertising?

Technology, Culture and Consumer Adoption: An Interview with Steve Stout, Ben Horowitz and Kanye West

Technology, Culture and Consumer Adoption: An Interview with Steve Stout, Ben Horowitz and Kanye West

During the Canne Festival of Creativity, Steve StouteBen Horowitz and Kanye West took the stage for a discussion titled 'Technology, Culture and Consumer Adoption: Learning to Read the Cultural Landscape'. 

The talk itself was a rather rambling affair (Kanye as usual got lost off on various tangents of thought) but there was definitely some interesting ideas put forward. I have provided the video and my take on the whole thing below.

On Technology and Culture

Technology is now so prevalent in consumer hands. It has democratised the technology products themselves, and it has democratised our entertainment. It now plays a huge role in everybody's life.

The flip side to this is it has created incredible complexity and noise. We have created a fast food mentality with our information, treating culture as disposable.

Looking to the future, we will start to see a much stronger focus on culture playing a bigger part within technology and marketing. The Beats acquisition by Apple is a classic example - two innovators (Iovine and Dre) with creative force and cultural relevancy were essentially brought on to bridge the culture gap for the company. Apple will build upon their true core, to be a truly aspirational brand. 

On Achieving Relevancy

Bridging cultures is all about creating shared values. What is authentically you (the brand), and what is authentically us (the consumer). And what is mutually beneficial for us both. Bring them together - that's the basis of a relationship.   

The Two Pizza Team Rule

The Two Pizza Team Rule

When you need to come up with a big idea or address a critical problem, the more people you can throw at it the better, right? More brains must equal more ideas - although there is a big case to say that this mindset is very wrong.

The problem with groupthink approaches is that they very rarely deliver better ideas. The more people involved in the project or meeting, the more complicated briefings become, and the more hand holding is required to get people up to speed. In turn, more time is required to review the output from each individual, and you can get bogged down providing additional feedback.

The small group principle is based on a simple insight - everyone in the room should be there for a reason. Either you are critical to the meeting, or you should be off doing other work as opposed to wasting time and slowing down the project. The key here is simplicity.

Steve Jobs was famous for ruthlessly surveying a room before he began any meeting and throwing anyone out he felt shouldn't be there. He believed the key to Apple's success was to have small groups of smart and highly creative people working together, and based on the organisations success he was probably on to something.