Mr. Juan del Pueblo let's make more pie

As I sit back and contemplate my experiences here in Puerto Rico, the same roadblock appears every time, zero sum game theory. You've seen me blog about it time and time again, but let me refresh your memory.

It goes something like this, quoting from Wikipedia, "In game theory and economic theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s)." What it means for Puerto Rico is that consumers, partners, collaborators, you name it, are demotivated to buy, help, or cooperate, if they think that by doing so, they'll be losing, while you gain.

Pie metaphor

The metaphor used to illustrate this theory is a pie. Now imagine that that this pie represents economic market share, power, or influence. In general when someone uses zero sum thinking, they believe that every piece of the pie is spoken for. They have some, and others have the rest. The bottom line is that there's no pie left.

So if you're a start-up (or anyone looking to make a change) the idea which dominates most people's mind is I've got my pie, and I'm not going to let you have any of my pie. And forget about trying to get them to believe that you want to help them get more pie, because they're very sensitive when it comes to discussing their piece of the pie.

A Few Examples

Now beyond my personal experience over the past six years trying to make a difference here in Puerto Rico, I have to fall back on my expertise as a computer/Internet analyst for some objective proof of the zero sum mentality. Now before anyone counters with any evidence that some of these examples do exist, I'm referring to general trends. The existence of one or two real examples does not offset the nearly complete absence on the island of:

  • participation in Web 2.0, crowdsourced web sites, with of course, the 1 exception Facebook. However I'll leave the explanation of why Facebook has conquered Puerto Rico to my compatriot Jose: "Facebook appeals to Puerto Rican's sense of first, vanity, "Oh! Look at me at Disney!", and two, our curiosity for gossip (we're just plain nosy, and we like it, it's called being presentao).
  • a few of those Web 2.0 tools which are huge in most places but not here: Meetup, Twitter, Evite, and the list goes on, and on, and on, you get the point.
  • user groups, while there have been on and off various user groups around Java, Microsoft Development, Oracle, and Linux, there's really little participation in these informal organizations (my own take is that they fail here because they are based on users getting together to help each other, but helping someone get better at a technology means they might take your pie, so no can do).
  • technical conferences, or the trendy non-conferences such as Ignite:Sessions or Basecamps (see my take above for my theory on why we are missing these valuable events). Any technical conferences that do get held rely heavily on corporate sponsorship, so the events become nothing but grandstands for those corporate sponsors to market to the captive audience.
Knowledge Economy

The government and local business leaders are constantly talking about Puerto Rico creating a knowledge worker-based economy. It's nothing but pure unbridled fantasy and spin. A knowledge-based economy is founded upon the free flow of information, knowledge, skills, and abilities. If this community does not exist, which is my basic supposition, then a knowledge-based economy is not possible.

The only solution to this is to foment a new meme. The economic world is not a mutually exclusive environment, there is another possibility when it comes to zero sum thinking, make more pie. Nowhere in the world is this more drastically demonstrated than in Silicon Valley. So just like Ronald Reagan told Mikail Gorbachev "Mr Gorbachev tear down this wall!" I say to my cohabitants of this beautiful paradise, "Mr. Juan del Pueblo let's make more pie!"

Flickr Creative Commons Contributor: ginnerobot

6 comments:

Anónimo

19 de agosto de 2010, 09:55
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dijo...

Very insightful. But I am afraid it is SO true!

Marcos Polanco

25 de agosto de 2010, 11:30
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dijo...

Your analysis right on...as you know, it is shocking to visit Silicon Valley, wherever everyone is trying to understand what each other does and how they can possibly partner. That's because there was a kid named Steve that had the "pie" of Apple. There was another pair of Dave & Bill that had the "pie" now called Hewlett-Packard. There was another pair of Larry & Sergey who had the "pie" now called Google. Since no one knows just by looking whether you have pie or not, people treat you like you just *might* have it, even if you smell funny and are in bad need of a haircut. Certainly not the case in Puerto Rico...remember, the magic of industrialization came about in a single generation, so we have not lost the agricultural mentality, even if we have iPhones and MacBooks...that not only includes zero-sum thinking (they are *really* not making any more land), but also antiquated attitudes towards royalty and nobility, now called the "government" and "business elites". This is the primary driver for the economic collapse, but we are too engrossed in this ancient mentality to realize it. Regarding the knowledge economy, people are confused...it is not about what you know (in your brain) but about what you know about customers problems, and whether you have the wherewithal to assemble a solution...it is in that assembly where collaboration and risk-sharing is imperative, and where we are utterly stuck, with rhetoric outpacing reality by a country mile. Now, that we have diagnosis, what's the solution? This is not scalable, yet the focus must be on sales outside Puerto Rico, what everyone perceives as "new pie"...you can get something going there.

MC Don Dees

25 de agosto de 2010, 12:06
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dijo...

Thanks for reading and sharing your opinion Marcos, it is very much appreciated.

Your focus on sales outside of Puerto Rico is right on the money. There's pie in them there hills, and plenty of it.

I think it's mostly habit that prevents us from thinking about global markets. But it's more than that, it's difficult thinking about a market that you don't understand or know very well. I'd say that right there is a small opportunity in itself. We need someone to teach us about the global marketplace.

For instance, I know one target market is the other half of the world's population that exists on less than $2 a day. What kind of products do they need to make those $2 go further?

We should brainstorm ideas for setting up a mini-conference around understanding the problems faced by the global market and designing products for a global marketplace. Any potential speakers/benefactors come to mind? Is this something Fomento might be able to help with?

Marcos Polanco

29 de agosto de 2010, 15:49
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dijo...

Yes, Fomento can make a contribution to a conference on global opportunities, and I would recommend that this be presented by a university, Guayacán, SBTDC or some other institutional player they are already familiar with. This maximizes the chances they will make it happen. The heart of entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunities. The local scene talks about how to pursue, but not much about the opportunities. This must be rebalanced.

MC Don Dees

29 de agosto de 2010, 17:52
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dijo...

Sweet! Let me circle the wagons and layout some initial coordination. I'd like to include Francisco Santana from AsoPymes, he has strong ties with Turbao and Universida del Este.

I guess the next item on the agenda is what speakers would be most appropriate. I recently read something about an initiative called PREES with a couple of companies. I remember meeting with Joel Vázquez from e-Nabler during DóndeEs.com's particiaption in EnterPRize. He might be a good participant.

The question is who is an expert an global markets? Anyone in your network?

GOGGA

22 de noviembre de 2010, 05:20
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dijo...

http://esgogga.blogspot.com/2010/11/las-monjas-y-la-bandera.html