Old version

Gathering Weird-trepreneurs

The main sort of leader we have today is the entrepreneur. To be more specific, let us call him (it's usually a guy) a "same-preneur": because this entrepreneur tries to get many people doing the same thing: to send many people down one funnel. To drive transactions of one type.

Perhaps at one time, samepreneurship made sense. Perhaps it made sense to get everyone a washing machine, or everyone a car.

But it stopped making sense when same-preneurs tried to offer us meaning.

See: the 20th century economic and political order promised us meaning from sameness—from having the same industrial jobs or climbing the same academic or corporate ladders. The idea (which the people swallowed up!) is that there's some package deal we could all subscribe to, that would give us all meaning: a house in the suburbs, 2.3 kids, and bungee jumping once in your life.

There's no such package deal, of course. People's sources of meaning are diverse.

Instead of finding meaning, everyone becomes a player in the same-preneur's game. His transactions keep people isolated, interacting only in a pre-designed way. And they aren't the lasting connections we need. His funnels ignore our deeper motives, leave us unfulfilled, and move us ever faster. Search, click, download, buy.

This is the root of the tremendous waste of our society. And it's also the root of depression. And social division.

It's time to drop same-preneurship.

Weird-trepreneurs

The weird-trepreneur is the opposite of the same-preneur. She builds playgrounds—not funnels—where people do their own thing & become more themselves. She amplifies agency, rather than streamlining it away. She drives open-ended explorations—not transactions—the kind of relationship we yearn for.

Weird-trepreneurs deliver the goods. Explorations and playgrounds are what we were looking for the whole time. They bring us home, rather than leaving us in an isolated consumer rat-race of false promises. They spread agency, rather than streamlining it away. They let us make our own game, rather than playing the same-preneur's.

Want a society with less waste? That rekindles our souls and brings us together? Communities, venues, and organizations built by weirdtrepreneurs will do it.

So, I'd like to urge you to become one!

Of course, there's no playbook yet. There may never be. But I believe there are some common steps.

Step 1. Drop ideas about one source of meaning.

20th Century Thinking tries to give people meaning via meta-narratives, social norms or broad social visions. The tendency is to think everyone just needs to X to find meaning, where X can be anything: becoming more "rational", more Christian, more feminist, get an eth-wallet, etc. Whatever you fill in for X, you are a same-preneur.

Whatever you think everyone needs to do to become more themselves (clean their room? yoga? eye-gazing events? sense-making?) you're part of the problem.

Most of us have believed this lie on some level. Which makes us obsessed with whatever's supposed to be meaningful, and blind to what's actually meaningful in our lives. Weird-trepreneurs need to turn this around—for themseves first—and see how many opportunities are missed, each day, when we focus on what's supposed to be meaningful.

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At the School for Social Design, we gather others' sources of meaning and make cards like this:

image

Step 2. Notice all the lost opportunities for meaning.

Weird-trepreneur have an ethic of hospitality: they treat their neighbors as guests, and adapt things to fit each guests' sources of meaning.

How best to practice this? Well, every social game we play (whether it's "dunking on that guy", "sharing my latest idea", or "talking about feelings") supports some sources of meaning, and undermines others'. No one game can make room for everything meaningful.

So a weird-trapreneur notices when a social game crowds out someone's sources of meaning. She sees mismatches between what'd be most meaningful and what's actually happening, and opportunities to alter games and make things more meaningful.

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The hard part of this, believe it or not, is recognizing social games in the first place. Most of us have no idea that, when we're just hanging out with friends, there's a game afoot, with a structure and rules.

Step 3. Learn to design playgrounds (not funnels), and drive explorations (not transactions).

We've all learned samepreneur design practices. ☹️ UX design moves people along with minimal confusion and few decisions of their own, and gives them a delightfully isolated experience. Mechanism design leads us into transactions, baits us with "incentives" to keep playing one game. Experience designers usually craft an experience for participants, rather than helping them build their own experiences from their own sources of meaning. Paper prototyping is inherently single-player. And with the disciplines of advertising and marketing... I won't even start.

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This is an area where I can help. My textbook

teaches how to design with diverse sources of meaning in mind, as I mentioned above, and to shift design lenses: to design legitimation processes, not incentives or mechanisms; to design rituals and practice spaces, not experiences.

There are many open questions in weird-trepreneurship, but here I hope I can make a contribution.

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Many see a great social change coming. And they say we need to grow somehow as individuals, to prepare for that change. But how do we need to change?

Do we need to meditate? feel through all of our traumas? get real nerdy about systems thinking? become "sense-makers" or sovereign individuals? Do we just need to pile into crypto, the creator economy, or some other business trend?

Here's my proposal: we need to become weird-trepreneurs. And find one another on the playgounds and in the explorations, and rebuild our society around them.

Insert this

A tool or toolkit lets the user get whatever they want done, quickly and efficently. It gets out of the way and provides parts for assembly. But creative people prefer to work with materials which provide grain, friction, or challenge. They prefer to work in environments. They consider creation not just as a way to get to an end goal, but as a process of discovery. Creative environments have the right sort of friction, that leads to discoveries while working, rather than just to finishing the job quickly.

Old Version
Making Spaces

You can make fields more legible for yourself and your friends, by getting a bit nerdy about them. First, by noticing the signs of a good field.

Those basics help you recognize good fields, but not to recommend specific fields to specific people. For that, we need to look at which kinds of connections are possible, and which kinds of discoveries.

So let's go further.

What's meaningful to a parent might be protecting and supporting their child, or watching them discover life. What's meaningful to an employee might be real connections with customers, or creative expression in their work. What's meaningful to a scientist might be testing intuitions about patterns in data. What's meaningful to users of a financial tool may involve a grounded understanding of which purchases will be possible, and when. Etc.

I believe that the design of fields is a distinct method from the funnel- and tube-based design methods we all learned: UX design moves people along with minimal confusion and few decisions of their own, and gives them a delightfully isolated experience. Mechanism design leads us into transactions, and baits us with incentives to keep us engaged. Experience designers usually craft an experience arc for participants, rather than helping them build their own experiences from their own sources of meaning.

Older Version of Beyond Same-preneurship

It's kind of like the authentic relating community, but it's not about authenticity or connection. Or emotions. Although I do like authenticity and emotions,

it's also kind of a community about changing the world. Like the Green Party, humane technologies, zebras unite

Two sorts of people get called "entrepreneurs": the funnel-makers, and the playground-makers:

There are plenty of communities for entrepreneurs. I want a community for playground-builders, specifically.

It is often the case that people have deep knowledge of their loved-ones's goals, but little clue about what's meaningful to them. If this is you, you won't know what to explore together, just what kinds of exchanges are viable.

A good way to find out what's meaningful to people is to ask. It turns out there's a big difference between what people want to get done, and what they find meaningful:

Many see a great social change coming. And they say we need to do something as individuals, to prepare for it.

Do we need to meditate? feel through all of our traumas? get real nerdy about systems thinking? become "sense-makers" or sovereign individuals? Do we just need to pile into crypto, the creator economy, or some other business trend?

Here's my proposal: we need to gather a community of field-makers.

What Does it Mean to Respect the Range of Explorations?

One such problem is ideas of what should be meaningful. Most people have bought a lie that sounds like this: "everyone just needs to X to find meaning" — where X could be: getting "rational", more Christian, more feminist, getting an eth-wallet, cleaning their room, yoga, eye-gazing... Whatever you fill in for X, you create a funnel. You get obsessed with whatever's supposed to be meaningful, and blind to what's actually meaningful in our lives.

The only way to make these kinds of values cards that I'm talking about, is to give up on social norms about what's important. We all have lots of stories about what's supposed to be important. If you're on the right, maybe it's family if you're in the left, maybe it's diversity and social justice. But the things that are actually important to people, which they reveal in fields and they're the things that we need to make these cars about, are quite diverse and include things like exploration, which is not really a value that you're supposed to have or curiosity. These values are not really the focus of any political shoulds political or cultural shows and I think the last thing that we need to have respect for is the difficulty of finding spaces to live by our values, the preciousness of and the backstory.

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We also question ideas of what should be meaningful using activities like

and
Worksheet: On My Own Terms
.

So from my perspective what we need to do first is build a community which has a great respect for fields for the things that people want to explore with each other. Based on this respect, we'll develop articulate things to say about where we can explore what, and who around us has which sources of meaning. This articulacy will help us solve the legibility problems of fields at larger scales, and address those social issues I mentioned.

This is a scalable, survey-based way to measure and compare the success of fields.

I think the answer is it's a community that respects the diversity of what people are exploring in their lives.

Such a community would respect the diversity of explorations explorations possible in parenthood, and the diversity of explorations that's possible in kink. The diversity of explorations possible in business strategy, and the diversity possible in community organizing; or advocacy or board game design.

(Such a community would be countercultural, to say the least. It's not cool for anyone to embrace all these things. Our ideologies almost always say that one kind of exploration is great and one kind's verboten.)

Hmm
Other benefits of community
  • Zoomout. In this system, we ask locals for the best place for each of their value cards across their whole lives. To rank well, our market would really have to be a very good space for a given card.

This involves a kind of blindness. Even if you're helping others accomplish their goals, there's a part of them you're blind to—the part that wants explore, rather than accomplish. The spaces they need, and the paths of attention they'd paint with inside them.

Toss?
Old intro

I want to revisit a question touched on by Scott Alexander in his famous post "Meditations on Moloch". The question:

What does it? Earth could be fair, and all men glad and wise. Instead we have prisons, smokestacks, asylums. What sphinx of cement and aluminum breaks open their skulls and eats up their imagination?