"Eventually, imitation picked up some respectability from scholars. In 1926, Ellsworth Faris, a renowned scholar at that time, was questioning the view of imitation as “a primary instinct.” Instead of an inferior and mindless “cheap trick,” Shenkar says, imitation came to be recognized as a form of intelligence. Now biologists agree that imitation is essential to evolution, he writes. Business scholars have been left behind, and businesses, especially in the U.S., have lost the ability to gain from imitation, Shenkar says.
Companies, rather than just imitate, should combine creativity and imitation, and come up with their own competitive advantage. This group of businesses is what Shenkar calls “imovators.”
-Russell Flannery | Why Imitation Bests Innovation | Forbes
As a new father, I spent the majority of our daughters first three years copying down every word and every act. Documenting her growth and her impact on our lives. I took thousands of photos and wrote down volumes of advice for her to someday heed. Im not sure if I am alone in this,…and it may have something to do with my wife being a trauma surgeon and our dinner converstions often revolving around traumatic events that most parents think will never happen to them...but once our daughter turned two, I had a heightened sense of mortality and a driving desire to ensure we left the most valuable things behind should we not live long enough to provide them over time.
By the time she turned four, I realized that she was acutely aware of her surroundings and the dynamic relationships within them. Suddenly, documentation and advice that I could provide was no longer as valuable as the example I could be for her. Her mother was already providing (and continues to provide) what I consider, an exemplary model of what a person could achieve and contribute through dedication, discipline and a commitment to improving the lives of others. It was now time that I took advantage of the time afforded me and similarly participate in a more ambitious pursuit of leaving the world a little better than how we found it… and in-turn more significantly contribute to an environmental norm where our daughter is inspired and empowered to find the same fulfillment in a life of service.
Because of my professional background in the restaurant industry, I can’t help but see the similarities between hospitality and charity. The more involved with philanthropy I became, it started to seem more and more like the non-profit sector was heavily relying on strategies that were borrowed from the retail sector instead of on strategies that were customized more for their unique service oriented goals.
In other words, a retailer’s goal seems to be the extraction of the highest price the market will bear for a given “product” and “lifestyle” whereas many directors of 501(c)3 organizations describe the goal of their charities as “to make it as: easy, enjoyable, fulfilling and as productive as possible for those willing to share their excess with people or institutions who display a genuine need in their organized pursuit of goals that most closely mirror the sponsors’ tastes and values, then thank them (up to 11 times annually) and then encourage them to give again.”
I simplify this, although perhaps a bit ignorantly, by saying that a retailer’s goal of convincing people to spend as much money as possible on goods and services for themselves is at cross-purposes with a charities goal to simply increase the awareness of their selfless cause, make it as convenient as possible to contribute to it and then recognizing them / saying “Thank You” to those who are inclined to invest in a better world for others.
So…if the goals are so different, why are their marketing strategies so similar. For example, I can understand why a retailer would have a $5 minimum on all credit card purchases. It’s because their job is to get customers to spend as much as possible. So when a charity puts a minimum amount on a gift it’s not practical. It’s actually counter productive because they are essentially saying “No Thank You” to any gift less than $5. Is that really what they want to do? If the goal is to “increase awareness of their selfless cause, making it as convenient as possible to contribute to it and then recognizing them / saying “Thank You” to those who are inclined to invest in a better world for others.”…they are not accomplishing a single one of their goals. and if the strategy does happen to work, it’s likely working only on those who are the most strongly inclined to give and neglects the theoretically larger pool of those who care but just haven’t given or aren't giving as frequently as they otherwise might / be capable of.
In the world of hospitality, one of the biggest rules is “never say “No.” Hospitality is a lot like charity in that products are less important than experience. Both are service industries who are more in the business of making people happy than they are in selling a product. Both realize the value of small transactions adding up over time and that more than anything: culture builds the bottom line. Making people happy means making them comfortable and making them feel valued (See Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). We accomplish this in restaurants and hotels not only by manipulating the physical environment (e.g., lighting, air temperature, air flow, scents, color and texture of furnishings, sound levels, uniforms, window placement & site-lines, etc..) but by treating “customers” like valued guests...like bosses without whom we would not exist. This means acknowledging them by name, thanking them regularly and anticipating their needs so that they experience as little cognitive dissonance as possible and come to identify the establishment as an extension of themselves. I would no sooner support the decision of a restaurant operator that required a valued guest to go to the kitchen and cook a steak if they desired one, than I could support the decision of a nonprofit that required a donor to attend an event or navigate a website if they wanted to give a gift.
"I want to bring “guest-focused service” to the non-profit sector by bringing the proverbial “steak” to the the table…which, in this case is the collection basket”.
The technology to create viral awareness and facilitate instant transactions is widely available already…and it has been for some time. In fact, it seems like every other sector is employing this technology with the exception of the non-profit sector. Perhaps it’s because most non-profits have very limited human resources and a need to allocate them to more vital tasks. But existing time sensitive approaches to user-friendly “cut-and-paste” platforms are being used in every creative sector from engineering to design and they present opportunities for non-profits that are far more practical than those employed by big box retailers or marketing firms that see fundraising as more of a business enterprise than a social movement.
We developed Hawser by taking, what we view as, the best parts of these models and assembling them into a unique adaptable platform that can effectively supplement any nonprofit’s fundraising efforts by creating an engaging, easy-to-use app that continually broadcasts an organization’s 5 second elevator pitch to millions of potential supporters while serving as a portal to their collection basket and any existing media or marketing as well. This enables any authorized charitable organization to reach more people and monetize any of their social media. Lots of other platforms incorporate some or most of this but none is doing it quite the way we are...for free.
Check writers are a dying breed and replacing major donors is getting more and more difficult. The immediacy of Hawser paired with the “moral media” component offers the next generation of supporters (Millennials and others predisposed to abbreviated interactions and deeper connections in an age of exponential technological evolution that inherently reduces physical face to face interaction while increasing the reliance on mobile devices) an outlet to define who they are and empower them to help shape the world they live in.
This effort, to be a good steward of the resources God has blessed me with in order to improve the lives of others, is the example I want to set for our daughter. Whether or not I am successful is not nearly important as trying my best to make it real.
To the four family members and two friends who bother reading these entries, -I'll be posting another dozen photos & videos and then one or two more articles before retiring this project and printing it all for Catherine to read someday.