Solving economic problems with a netflix prize

Rob linked to Umair Haque’s suggestion: Solve America’s Employment Crisis With a Netflix Prize. The whole thing is worth a read but here’s the core idea: for each of America’s beleagured industries…

Here’s what I’d do: run a series of national innovation awesomeness tournaments in each of the industries above. The prize? Let’s take a page from Netflix and offer a million bucks each. The challenge? To radically reimagine each industry for the 21st century. Then, I’d seed the top ten ideas in each category with $10 million each, syndicating further investments with the private sector — and let ’em rip. Total pricetag to the people? About $150-250 million — a drop in the bucket compared to the bailouts. Total returns? They promise to be exactly what we need today: disruptive, radical, and world-changing.

Umair contrasts this with the standard central government approach:

President Barack Obama has just spent millions hiring mega-consultants to cook up a national innovation strategy. That’s so 20th century, it hurts.

Yeah, that pretty much sums up how I feel about most grandiose government approaches to issues. Rob comments:

Now Umair – speaks not only the truth but also sense… His thesis is that we live in a Zombie Economy – where all the gains go to a few – where traps are set for the many.

1 thought on “Solving economic problems with a netflix prize

  1. Mike Wagner

    Thanks, as usual Johnnie, for stirring the pot with this post and actually for the last 4 or 5 postings.

    This particular post picks up on a question I’ve been reflecting on – why do we believe complex problems can be solved by complex solutions?

    The netflix prize proposal is a good example of “thoughtful nudge” intended to have a positive effect on a complex problem.

    What little I grasp of cause/effect models like Cynefin, it would seem seem wise to nudge complex problems and look for positive patterns of change over the vast “reform” legislations and centralized planning we place such confidence into.

    Just thinking out loud here but it does bring me back to a saying of yours, “observe more, change less”.

    Thanks again for casting your voice into the world via your blog.

    Keep creating…it freaks people out,



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