Herewith, a set of responses to burning questions from you via Twitter. If you like, you can leave your own responses - or answers to these questions - in the comments.
visiondesigner: @umairh I followed your tweets so far over 3 months. And just interested what is the book that inspired you the most?
There are tons of books that inspired me. The one that really provoked me to start writing, and to think that management was more than just buzzwords was Gary Hamel’s staggeringly awesome Leading the Revolution.
monsieurquinn: @umairh re: #ask What place will greed have in a new valued-led economic model?
Interesting question. I suggest that greed will be a negative value, because the dictum that naked, narrow, ego-driven, soulless, blind, avaricious, self-interest, that munches away the future, destroys the natural world, eats community, shatters trust, evaporates the good - well, that that could have ever been the motive force of prosperity is a belief that's circling down the intellectual drain.
And it's important to note that it's a belief that doesn't have a basis in real economics. Adam Smith, for example, contrary to what you might have heard from pundits and talking heads, never (ever) saw unbridled greed as good.
theorocha: @umairh What do you think about bloggers posting for ad campaigns? #ask
I think it’s lame, inefficient, toxic, and that advertisers should realize there are radically more productive ways to utilize communication than merely pushing product. Like actually communicating.
harscoat: @umairh a question then: who (firms, associations, government) apart from you is promoting "betterness"? Where is the betterness community?
Betterness isn’t a slogan – it’s not about promotion (and I’m certainly not “selling “ it).
It’s a paradigm, a set of new organizing principles, that transcends the limitations of industrial age business. Who’s pursuing it? Social entrepreneurs; a handful of blue chip companies like Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Google, and Timberland, that are redefining assumptions, values, standards, jobs, accounts, bottom lines, resources; social investment funds; communities of practice and interest; next generation markets and exchanges, to name just a tiny few.
But it’s not today’s examples that matter. Business as we know it is obsolete. Where’s the evidence? Well, do you want fries with that zombieconomy? That’s the real point.
andregalhardo: @umairh Left x Right + New Capitalism. Would you consider yourself a "left" thinker?
I think “left” and “right” is a spectrum built for yesterday's world. Today, neither side’s assumptions and beliefs are a good fit with the principles of authentic prosperity, institutional innovation, the concept of wisdom, or the constructivist perspective that emphasizes emergence and interconnection.
If you want to think about next-generation capitalism, ask yourself: “what’s the capital” – and then, “what’s the “ism” (ie, how do we allocate, utilize, seed it).
TheEricHeath: @umairh With the vast majority of people on Twitter trying to blog for a quick buck, how do you establish yourself differently and to stay?
Do meaningful stuff that matters the most. The quick buck makers tend to fade away as quickly as the bucks they tend (not) to make. Aim for a longer half-life; shoot for significance. Help people solve real problems, issues, and challenges.
Bighutch24: @umairh one more, what question have you spent the most time on in the past month?
Finishing up my forthcoming book, “Constructive Capitalism”, and starting my next one, “Awesomeness”.
Bighutch24: @umairh if you had five human attributes to give a company what would they be?
I’d gently suggest that more than a few companies fit the various criteria we assign to mental pathologies. They’re paranoid, delusional, schizophrenic, depressive (and depressing) – and at the limit, they’re sociopathic, with a blind disregard for anything beyond what the ego wants, now, at any cost.
The challenge is building companies that mirror the traits of mentally healthy people. What do you think those might be?
Niels_Bremen: @umairh I´m graduating this month. From your view: What is the biggest challenge i have to meet, and how can i positively use it?
Apart from the fact that we’re facing the biggest youth unemployment crisis since – well, ever – the fact that today’s youth have to bail out yesterday’s party-all-the-time smorgasbord of squandering the future, and the fact that today’s youth, in many countries, will have to support their aging forebears, I’d suggest this.
The real opportunity is once-in-a-century: to reinvent the whole shebang of yesterday’s broken institutions. So first, foremost, and most fundamentally: think big. Really, really, outrageously big. For example, if you want to be an educator, don’t just think about what kind of teaching job you’ll get. Think about how you’d build a radically more productive, efficient, elevating educational system, from the ground up, from the grass roots. Then focus on taking small but sure steps to making it happen.
thinkglobal16: @umairh What are your thoughts on the recent outsourcing craze at firms? Is it sustainable long-term without client service suffering?
Outsourcing isn’t just shifting jobs. It’s evaporating jobs, since the jobs that are shipped overseas end up (what a surprise) devoid of benefits, security, tenure, training, or much of the stuff that makes a job more than just piecemeal work.
Service is just one in which a company’s – and an economy’s – long run health suffers. Other ways include, but aren’t limited to: innovation, passion, execution, transformation, information, and mission and vision.
mtvhotbend: @umairh what will be smart money doing this year?
Investing in meaningful stuff that matters the most. The dumb money will be investing in the opposite: stuff that props up the Ponzi zombieconomy.
As I’ll discuss in my book, if you’d done that, you would have tripled your money instead of, during the worst decade in recent financial history, watching it get vaporized.
avinashmeetoo: @umairh "What can a small country like Mauritius, where I live, do to develop further?"
Here’s the score: the future’s up for grabs to anyone. Whomever can build tomorrow’s institutions first. Mauritius (or anywhere else) can pioneer them. It could build fair-trade zones, new measures of GDP, more complete accounts, new kinds of corporations. If you can do any or all those, over the next decade, the world will beat a path to your door
Stephen_shi: @umairh sorry about the last reply. I meant to say radical change. Thanx umair.
Stephen_shi: @umairh Ask: what can we as individuals do to bring about racial change?
lol. If 10% of people were to stop eating at your local toxic fast food chain – guess what? The whole company would instantly be unprofitable, bankrupt, kaput. The thing you can do most to bring about radical change is to be the change.
You can read my Betterness Manifesto for how to get started.
robtyrie: @umairh what is the hypothesis of the "ask" experiment?
That there are might be more interesting ways for us to hang out than me writing a long, boring article once a week.
steve_e: @umairh Sure. What do u think of people calling instruments such as bonds and securitizations (cat, envrionmental etc) 'green investments'?
It depends on the institutional arrangements behind the products. Right now, most “green” institutions are just industrial age ones in disguise – hence, the products are, too.
Jeremydms: @umairh does china's economic success lend credence to the benefits of opening-up\liberalising or refutes it do to heavy hand of the state.
I think what China’s success does in tear the Washington Consensus to shreds. In no meaningful sense is China “liberalized” or “open” as an economy. Yet, what it doesn’t do – yet – is prove the Beijing Consensus is a path to lasting prosperity.
persianista: @umairh I asked you if my hair and beauty salons are part of the problem or part of the solution?
That depends on if you guys do mullets or not.
OK, seriously. Do you pay for your carbon emissions? Do you realize the bulk of your revenues from services (haircuts) or toxic products (the mass-made gunk that goes in our hair). Do your customers love you? Have you changed the structure of the industry so that cutting hair isn’t one where the bulk of returns flow to the top, where chairs are rented to hair-cutters, and all the risk is assumed by them, stifling innovation, and crushing creativity? Have you built an organization where cutting hair isn’t just a McJob – but a career, a calling, a passion, that fulfills the people that do it?
Those are just a tiny handful of the questions you’ll probably have to grapple with if you want to be a Constructive Capitalist.
Mad_Panda: @umairh #ask : five tips for leading creative teams
Generally, you should only need three.
1. Zero in on what really, totally, absolutely sucks.
2. Ask yourself why, why, why, why it sucks until you reach the root cause.
3. Now come up with at least ten ridiculously, hopelessly utopian, childish ways to make it totally, unstoppably awesome. The dumber in yesterday’s terms, the better.
vibrantpickle: @umairh what is the first book an aspiring entrepreneur should buy?
Alfred Chandler's ridiculously epic Inventing the Electronic Century. To understand how the first and perhaps still pre-eminent ventureconomy in the world, Silicon Valley, emerged.
boetter: @umairh Try this: How to manage IP rights in a world thats becoming too fast, too complex and too networked?
Have less of them. Have ones of smaller duration. Have a higher bar for granting them. Have contingent ones, that expire when a firm does something evil. Have remixable ones. Have IP derivatives. Result? More liquid, efficient markets, less gridlock. Why is China such a dynamic economy? Because entrepreneurs aren’t as strangled by privileging incumbents with gigantic “property” grants as ours are.
mdl4: @umairh What's your take on the Austrian School? I am _dying_ to know! #ask
I’m a believer in free markets. But what many “Austrians” who aren’t economists forget is that free markets are also fair markets. The definition of Hayekian catallaxy depends critically not just on freedom, but on fairness first – if I can force you to trade with me, then the price mechanism is an illusion.
We’re confused about the real source of the plenitude markets unlock, in other words.
That said, I think Hayekian catallaxy depends first on what I’ve called efficient communities: a dense social matrix through which meta-information about market participants and exchanges flows. For markets to be giant, super-efficient computers means that the plug has to be turned on first.
jakeluer: @umairh What is the worst mistake an entrepreneur can make? #askumairh
Not trying their damnedest to make lots of mistakes, embracing those mistakes with courage and ferocity, and remembering that “success” isn’t just selling out – it’s buying in. These are all really the same thing. The worst mistake is failing to understand the awesome power of failure.
suiteforsix: @umairh What inspires you that there will be hope for a better tomorrow?
Every time I’m in the third world, I make a point to hang out with underprivileged orphans. These are kids who've suffered in ways that leave you reeling. In all the years I’ve done it, I’ve seen them daunted by the turmoil that surrounds them, the challenges that confront them, afraid of tomorrow. Why, then, are we?
What inspires me to think that there’s hope for a better tomorrow? The tiny hidden miracle of every day is that we can create one.