Sunday, October 29, 2006

Want to Change the World? Keep These Thoughts in Mind

Solving the world's problems will require some new ideas and some effective selling of many ideas. Taking advantage of opportunities to improve things that are okay now will also take new ideas. That's easy enough to see.

But what counts as a good idea? If you don't know then you can't really say whether your idea is any good. Many factors are really involved here, though we may want to oversimplify the evaluation process and simply assert that we have a good idea ("My idea will be good for women." "My idea will force people to save energy.").

I've written about the characteristics of social pollution before. We obviously want our world-changing ideas to be the opposite of social pollution. We want our "good" ideas to be scientically sound (wherever there is some relevant science), logical, and consistent with widely held human values like freedom, family, and health.

One more element we need to consider is the set of abstract principles that also need to be considered. I'd like to offer a preliminary list of principles to keep in mind as you create an idea and try to sell it to the world:

1. Decision making is emotional not rational.

2. Canging perceptions will be more effective than appealing to emotions or to cold facts.

3. People will work harder to avoid a loss than to achieve a gain.

4. People who benefit from an idea should also bear the costs.

5. Look for ways to gain leverage over an issue, to get the maximum effect per unit of money or time.

6. All changes in society will have unintended consequences, good and bad.

7. People always want to know what's in it for them.

8. Opportunities, rather than perceived problems, are a legitimate focus.

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