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The World Benefit Compass & Award

The gulf between intent and action can often be attributed to perceived barriers. The World Benefit Compass helps companies take that first essential step by reducing perceived barriers to participating as an agent of world benefit.

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Elevator Pitch:

The World Benefit Compass is an online platform dedicated to enabling organizations to find direction and select a path forward d uring the critical exploratory and discovery phase. Stories, in video format, are at the heart of this educational resource.  The concept is based on the premise that small steps can eventually lead to big change.

The Compass community identifies inspirational stories of for-profit enterprises that are changing the world through sustainable value innovations.

The World Benefit Compass Award recognizes exemplary projects. To apply, companies share their stories. In conjunction with the community, an expert panel evaluates submissions along the key dimensions of (1) economic impact, (2) social impact, (3) ecological benefits, as well as (4) creativity and ingenuity. The award inspires other companies to act as agents of world benefit.


Here is brief outline and overview of the sections below: 

[A] BARRIERS TO THE FIRST STEP. The Compass uses the power of design to overcome barriers to finding relevant information, and taking action. What are the barriers, and how can design overcome these barriers in a way that enables for-profit enterprises to find direction and select a path forward?

[B] NAVIGATING NEW TERRAIN. This section provides a conceptual overview of the Compass' underlying design principles and intent. Specifically, it addresses how we overcome the barriers described in the first section. 

[C] COMPASS VALUE ADD. How does the Compass add value to the cause of world benefit? Simply put, the Compass focuses on delivering a compelling user experience, intuitive navigation, and inspirational stories (primarily video format) of world benefit innovation.

[D] SURFACING STORIES THROUGH INFORMATION DESIGN. This section looks under the hood, into several ideas and design decisions. It explains the mechanics of how the Compass surfaces and communicates relevant stories of world benefit innovation. I admit, this section is a brain dump.



I think it helps to identify barriers that prevent individuals and companies from taking the critical first step towards realizing sustainable value creation. The proverbial fish that swims in (mis)information does not realize that it is exposed to an average of 5,000 ads per day. While some of these barriers are obvious, others operate below the conscious level:

  • TMI. Or, too much information. As prosumers who research and make decisions, we must constantly screen out avalanches of irrelevant information. Ironically, the abundance of information is a challenge, because it is harder to find relevant content. To learn more about this, read Richard Saul Wurman's (architect and creator of TED) classic book, Information Anxiety (link).
  • TIME. In today's world, time is an especially valuable asset. In the preliminary information-gathering stage, few people want or have time to read a white paper. With respect to information retrieval, we are becoming less patient.
  • Current Modes of Thought. Our own emotions, thinking, and preferences can limit what we allow ourselves to see.
  • Resources. Before taking a single step, businesses are often forced to hire consultants or invest in other resources in order to penetrate through layers of complexity (real or imagined). This may prevent companies, especially small ones, from exploring this new paradigm of value creation.
  • Fear. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of not knowing. Fear of the unknown. Fear of costs. Of asking questions. Real or imaginary. Here, thoughtful information design and friendly a user interface become essential as a design strategy to help people navigate and discover; it is not slapped on for aesthetic purposes. This also serves to maximize audience reach and appeal. (Note the Apple UI Guidelines)

Can you think of other barriers? I can think of one more. Wikipedia and Google are great if you know what you are looking for. But, what if you are unfamiliar with the terminology or industry jargon? Through the power of design, we can overcome each of these barriers without leaving it to chance. 


Have you ever had to navigate a city without a map? This feeling is similar to the experience that confronts us when we are called upon to embrace new ways of thinking, beyond what we are used to. The ideas below are the conceptual underpinnings of the Compass. They are analogies and metaphors. For concrete strategies that can be implemented, refer to Section D: Surfacing Stories Through Information Design, below.

  • Maps. Conceptually, the Compass' UI (user interface) functions like a navigation system and map that enables one to explore new terrain. The word, compass, symbolizes direction and intent as we navigate unfamiliar landscapes. As indicated in the graphic illustration above, we can integrate thoughtful, intuitive design mechanisms that help the user find his or her destination, and along the way, discover ideas that have worked for others in similar industry segments. Section D: Surfacing Stories Through Information Design (below), provides concrete details of how this works.
  • Information Accessibility. Before I studied marketing and business, I was trained as an architect. Designing accessible buildings meant that I had to design walkways and ramps; not everyone can take the stairs. The challenge of information design is similar, and as designers we have to figure out how to make the information accessible to all by considering how our brains encode information. For example, should we provide a search bar, or should we provide maps, which provide context, and stories, which provide meaning?
  • Baby Steps. In their book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (link), authors Chip and Dan Heath* wrote about why people fear and resist change.** The authors recommended several ways to bring about change. One way is to "shrink the change" to a manageable size. The World Benefit Compass is an online platform that 'shrinks the change' through relevant, inspirational stories.


Before reading further, check out the infographic to see how the Compass works. In this model, there are two distinct but interrelated components:

(1) Content and Information Database. The Compass is intended to complement the Wiki for World Benefit (link), which handles cataloging and measurement. For the record, the very idea for the Compass concept is a spin-off from a conversation with Vincent ChengDavid Cooperrider, and Beau Daane. Thanks, guys!

(2) Access. Relevance. Stories. Personal Narrative. This is where the World Benefit Compass adds value: the human dimension. Information is meaningless unless it is relevant to and accessible by the user.


The design of the World Benefit Compass recognizes the way people consume information. Here is how the Compass surfaces and communicates relevant stories of world benefit innovation:

  • Multiple Mediums. Stories, told through audio, video, and written formats (attending to VAK, the Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learning Styles), communicate each idea fully.
  • Emphasis on Video. When reading the printed word, we actively participate in the conjuring of the writer's ideas. An author's writing is composed of abstract symbols, which do not have meaning until we actively construct them in our minds. In contrast, stories in video format have the capacity to communicate more information in greater depth, in less time, and with less effort on our part. This is ideal in the discovery phase. This is how we are wired. Why do you think TED is so engaging, successful, and sticky?
  • Metadata. We now have the ability to tag both moving and still image content. (See this patent application) In simple terms, how does this work? Well, if you have ever tagged pictures of yourself and your friends on Facebook, then you understand. In our quest to curate, manage and provide relevant content to users, this cannot be overlooked.
  • Wayfinding. To aid the users in this critical discovery phase, there are graphic design mechanisms that we can employ. To use the map analogy, color coding gives the content a road-sign clarity, which is what we want. The videos have a 5 or 10 second introduction / elevator pitch, much like a sneak preview on television. You don't have to flip through the video to figure out what it is about. Furthermore, intuitive category definitions support this information discovery process.
  • Navigating Possible Solutions. Powered by the thoughtful integration of user analytics, the Compass for World Benefit works like an Ouija board and planchette. Ashley Jablow pointed out the similarities between this concept, and Beto Lopez's "Prized in Every Search" concept. Amazon's "Recommended" products is an example of how this works. Based on user analytics and survey responses, "Possible Solutions" appear on the page. "Possible Solutions" encourage lateral thinking between domains.
  • Deep Connections. We have the opportunity and foresight to layer in more intelligence than has traditionally been the case. People identify with others who share similar identities such as religious faith, political party, ethnicity, vocation, alma mater, and so on. By designing interactions between individuals and content from a humanistic standpoint, we can create deep, visceral connections. Here, analytics and metadata can be powerful instruments.
  • The No Funnel Rule. In the discovery phase, the funnel model is not ideal for promoting discovery. In fact, at this stage, we want the very opposite!
  • Quality vs. Quantity. Johan Löfström made an important point about video quality vs. quantity. This is for the Fowler Center to determine. Balancing participation and growth with quality is a difficult balance to achieve. Since the Compass' value proposition is quality, relevant information, I am leaning towards quality, over quantity (at least, initially). This is open for more ideas. It simply depends.

Also, consider the "Reasons for Optimism" website. Although this site utilizes images instead of video, it conveys a sense of how the opening page could look, feel, and function.

* The Heath brothers also wrote Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (link), which I highly recommend. The 6 traits of stickiness are: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories.

** I have been reading a lot about why folks resist change. These insights also underpin my other concept, the Internpreneur Starter Kit (ISK) and Certification Program (link). I believe that design should be "hard on the problem, but soft on the people."


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great graphic, Kirk – certainly conveys a lot of info in a simple manner!

Photo of An Old Friend

Thanks, Meena. When I can't quite capture an idea in writing, I draw it. :) This idea has several moving parts, and the relationships between them are important. Plus, I think it is easier to envision mash-ups with other concepts.

Photo of Mike Hatrick

I agree! This is one of the best graphics describing an idea that I have seen. I "got" the idea without having to read any of the text.

Although I did do that afterwards! :-)

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great to have you join us on another challenge, Mike!

Photo of An Old Friend

Thanks Mike, for the feedback. I enjoy doing these illustrations, and am always open to doing it for other concepts (assuming that my schedule allows). Really cool bio story, by the way.

Photo of Mike Hatrick

Thanks Kirk!

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