RE: Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky

Yes! From page 41 of Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky:
“Trentway-Wagar was arguing that because carpooling used to be inconvenient, it should always be inconvenient…Curiously, an organization that commits to helping society manage a problem also commits itself to the preservation of that same problem, as its institutional existence hinges on society’s continued need for its management. Bus companies provide a critical service—public transportation—but they also commit themselves, as Trentway-Wagar did, to fending off competition from alternative ways of moving people from one place to another.”

Shirky uses the Trentway-Wagar example to articulately reveal what I intuitively understood. Trentway-Wagar is an Ontario bus company threatened by a carpooling website. An ancient bus company versus the digital hotshot. Rather than pivot, innovate, collaborate…anything really Trentway-Wagar cowardly wanted the legal system to crush

What I grasped from Shirky’s quote is that it’s the preservation of the problem that is most important. represented a better solution to the problem and Trentway-Wagar couldn’t have that much less handle that.

Amazon closed bookstores in small towns because the physical bookstores had limited shelf space. Yet at the end of the day it is the same book.

Uber is far more convenient than a cab yet both cars take you from Point A to Destination B. Cabs are fighting Uber using the courts rather than innovate: they are (desperately) attempting to preserve the problem. Which in their case feels like frantically eating all the ice cream in a blackout before it all melts.

Disruption means you suck at solving the problem. All those resources, all that experience and you’re still dealing with the problem with one solution. Or that your solution was ok up to a certain point but like in many cop movies when the Feds step in…”We’ll take it from here.”

I get the frustration now…that companies like Trentway-Wagar and taxi cabs have against disruption. But it’s stupid. People complain about taking the bus, they complain about cabs. Complaints are business opportunities…when people are frustrated, annoyed…no you didn’t solve the problem: your solution kinda works but really you suck at solving the problem. If the frustration is still there then that’s a ripe business harvest.

No matter how much money I was making…why would I ever preserve the problem? That’s cowardly.


Also published on Medium.

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