Energy replaces mass

by Bruce Kasanoff on October 28, 2010

It is easy to lose site of the degree to which a “mass production” mindset permeates our society. All our institutions and many of our habits are based on this increasingly outdated model.

As Sir Ken Robinson asks, why do we “educate our children in batches?” Do we really think that their age is a more important common denominator than their interests or abilities?

I’d like to suggest that we have vast reservoirs of untapped energy, in human form, that the mass mindset utterly ignores or beats out of us. There’s little room for creativity on assembly lines, and our schools, companies and even religious institutions are designed like assembly lines.

Bring too much energy to school, and you will be medicated. Bring too much energy to work, and you will be fired.

Seemingly intractable problems confront our society. Our financial system remains enfeebled, still teetering on the edge of disaster. The Baby Boom can’t afford to retire, and we can’t afford to pay people the pensions they have already been promised. Our infrastructure is falling apart. We are either running our of carbon-based fuels, pushing our climate to the brink of disaster, or both.

And yet our mass mindset still causes us to look to big government and big business for solutions. Forget it.

The real solutions will come when we shift our mindset. The coming years will be about tapping into the energy inside ourselves. I don’t mean this in any sort of New Age way. We need to break each problem down into smaller and smaller pieces, until people like you and I can solve them.

Of course, we won’t do this alone. We will do this by connecting in shifting patterns with other people, and by using capabilities in shifting patterns. In the Mass world, big institutions made stuff for us, or out of us. In the Energy world, we make stuff on our own, with others, and collectively.

This is not a pipe dream. Look at Apple’s App Store, where countless individuals and small groups have developed over 300,000 Apps in less than three years. Look at the way breaking news stories are increasingly covered by people with smart phones and Twitter accounts. Look at microlending, and look at organization like DonorsChoose, which allow individual donors to fund individual classrooms.

The more we let people bring their energy to school and work, the faster we will move past these difficult days and into another era of prosperity.

Bruce Kasanoff is Managing Director of Now Possible.

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