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Olympics - Greatness Recognized Around the World

The Olympics are so well ingrained that they do not need explanation, and the reward system is the standard (Gold, Silver, Bronze). Hundreds of countries funnelmoney and time for global recognition. How can we use those methods for social good?

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Written by DeletedUser

Every four years, the Summer and Winter Olympics come around, and much of the world tunes their televisions, monitors their Twitter accounts, and checks the medal counts, receiving similar information all over the world. The focus is on excelling where few can participate, and celebrating those who happen to be at the top of their game for those few weeks.

Global Recognition
Even though there are numerous world championships each year, many people outside of the sport do not pay attention except for once every four years, during the Olympics. You could be the world champion for 3 years in a row, but people outside of your country and sport probably won't know your name unless you medal in the Olympics.
And if you say you got a Gold, Silver, or Bronze medal at the Olympics, people know what that means, and recognize it as an incredible feat.
You likely recognized the Olympic rings immediately, and knew somewhat what this inspiration would be about.
What can be done to award businesses that create social good in a similar way, where everyone immediately recognizes such an achievement?

Participation and Investment
In 2012, over 200 countries sent athletes to London for the Olympics. Though that in itself is amazing, what also needs to be considered is that every year there is a significant amount of money and time put into training for the Olympics. This is done by people, companies, organizations, and countries that want to excel and be recognized for their greatness. 
Imagine if this sort of preparation and funding was poured into creating social good.

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Photo of Nathalie Collins

Duncan, it's so cool to see your inspiration! I was just thinking about the Olympics myself. To add to your insights, I think another reason we tune into the awards ceremonies so intently is because we've followed the athletes along their journeys the entire time. There's solidarity in watching your nation's athletes compete and then a grand finale in the medal ceremony that we all want to be a part of. How might the supporters of sustainable businesses feel like they're part of the challenge and therefore emotionally invested in the award?

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DeletedUser

Absolutely - becoming emotionally invested and involved in the reward process dramatically increases the support. Would somehow rewarding the business supporters help make them feel as though they are part of the process? Not necessarily from a monetary/traditional shareholder point of view, but maybe becoming a shareholder in making the world a better place. It could help create a group similar to tech evangelists, increasing the size and strength of the supporting group.

Photo of Jess Jaime

Building off of your ideas, I think a fraction of the same solidarity people feel for Olympic athletes can be found in identifying with a brand, especially when then can actively participate in that brand. GoPro, for instance, highlights the work of individuals using their cameras every day. I have many friends who religiously submit GoPro photos, in the hopes of being featured as GoPro's "shot of the day". Perhaps we could use small rewards and recognition to gradually make a greater difference?

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DeletedUser

From a user standpoint, being rewarded is a very effective form of motivation for participation. It makes them feel valued and special, possibly more likely to be loyal to the business/brand/organization.
From a brand point of view, having loyal users is a gold mine. Your friends who use GoPro are a prime example: if they need a new helmet/action camera, they know where to go. Plus, GoPro also receives tons of user-created media that they can (presumably) use how they wish. Therefore, they are greatly rewarded by the smaller reward system they have designed for their users.

I like where this is going, Jessica - businesses rewarding themselves by rewarding their customers. Kind of like paying it forward, in a way that comes right back at you? Maybe that's more like a loan with interest.

Photo of Jess Jaime

Oh very interesting!
Loving your analogy of the reward being like a loan with interest. Brings to mind the idea of microloans in developing nations. Maybe companies could task some of their expansion to their "consumers". . . Like giving microloans of the company's brand and mission (rather than cash) so people can start a branch of their very own . . .

Photo of Jess Jaime

Or perhaps we're thinking of businesses on too stationary of terms.
Rather than having a top-down, hierarchical-style business, perhaps sustainable businesses should focus on the individual actions of their participants?
The example I can cite is http://dribbble.com/
Dribbble is a site where professional graphic designers gather to post and discuss their works in progress. But unlike Facebook, Behance, etc, you are not allowed to post whenever you'd like. Each designer is given only three "shots" a month, to inspire them to only share their best work. That way, there isn't the sort of "carpet-bombing" of design that happens on cites like Tumblr (visual overload!). Dribbble asks its participants to self-edit and contribute only what is necessary.
In this way, Dribbble's power is de-centralized. The designers all adhere to the same code, but the focus of Dribbble is not on the platform, but on enhancing what is possible in graphic design.
Could we shift the focus away from a company and onto the actions of the people themselves?

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DeletedUser

Ooh, interesting. I really like the idea of this decentralized power that still benefits everyone, furthering the ideas and aspirations of everyone involved. It celebrates all levels of participation, from the brand, to the user, to the industry/sphere/mentality in which they work.
By shifting the focus onto the actions of people, a business could be supported by having people act in favor of the platform, and furthering its actions.
Continuing with GoPro for another example, people who take photos are pushing the levels of the sports they participate in, not exactly furthering the GoPro brand, but expanding the boundaries of the extreme sports world. This benefits both GoPro, sports, and the individuals, and all GoPro had to do was create a user-base that was dedicated and willing participants.

Photo of Nathalie Collins

Duncan and Jessica, this is an awesome discussion! Putting it together with some of the measurement inspirations, it begs the question of how each person can understand the impact of their contribution to the company's goals. If we're decentralizing action and featuring the work of the community, it would be extremely gratifying for each community member to get feedback on how their action impacts the greater whole. I remember considering this when designing spam filtering UI for an email interface - if you knew how marking a message as spam helped others to not receive similar emails, maybe you'd be more likely to do it. Feedback rewards and continues to incite action.

Photo of Jess Jaime

Ahhh a very good point! Building again off of the Dribbble example, the posts on the homepage of the site are sorted by positive feedback, as well as number of comments and views. Simplistic, yes. But it is equally as important to take into account what happens with "junk" posts.
I'm curious: how does Open IDEO resolve that issue? I'm new here, but I'm sure some inspirations must, well, be lacking in substance. Do webmasters delete the less-than-inspiring posts? Or do they actively curate the top posts and let the bottom ones stay buried?
It may also be important to consider accountability in a situation with decentralized power. People may be interested enough in a hobby, like GoPro photography, or a passion field, like graphic design, but there may have to be a stringent set of rules in place to keep people from abusing such a system/business. Would just the threat of peer review, like on AirBnb, be enough to entice people to keep their promises?

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DeletedUser

I think that support from the community for positive ideas or actions and furthering of the social good mission would be enough to encourage people to stay true to their word/commitment.

The possibility of negative peer review/community approval should be enough to regulate individuals, I think. It is not so successful with businesses, especially large corporations (e.g. the finance industry who for years said that fear of public mistrust would keep them in line, however that was shown not to be the case, and the change in public opinion seems to have had little impact on the industry), but people seem to have much more concern over personal reputation, as the impact is directed only at them.

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