2012-03-27

The Rise Of The Misfit Economy

Across the globe, diverse innovators operating in the black, gray, and informal economies are developing solutions to a myriad of challenges. This is a look at some of those innovators.

Ask yourself: Who are the greatest innovators of our time? You’re probably thinking Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, or some other Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The usual suspects, right? We’re not surprised. This fits with the most common myth about innovation, that it comes only from people who are genetically endowed with the ability to innovate. It’s always the lone innovator, sitting in a white lab coat who suddenly gets stricken with one great idea. This myth has been dispelled by phenomenal work done by Steven Johnson in Where Good Ideas Come From and Kevin Kelly in What Technology Wants; yet most still believe the engine of the economy is fueled by innovators working in the formal world and on the pages of the Harvard Business Review.

To dispel some of these myths, we’re spending much of the next year exploring the worlds and distilling the best practices of lesser-known innovators. We’ll be posting stories from our field research and from relevant guest contributors to this blog. And rather than treat these innovators as a homogeneous group working in black and informal markets across the globe, we introduce a series of archetypes that illustrate the diversity of those who make up the Misfit Economy:

1: The Gangster

Motivated, loyal, seeks a sense of belonging and shows a willingness to take risks. Most often found in the black market. Has a tendency towards territorial behavior and likes to protect "turf." Operates within hierarchical structures.

2: The Hacker

Anti-establishment, educated, skilled, and experimental. Pursues reputation through risk-taking. Most often found online. Holds values of openness and anarchy.

3: The Unseen

Resourceful, motivated by frugality and a concern for livelihood. Often found within gray markets and the informal economy; dependent on social capital and community for survival.

4: The Copycat

Fiercely independent and competitive. Feels a sense of entitlement to imitate and appropriate. Operates within shadow or "copycat" markets.

5: The Agitator

Inquisitive, mission-driven, primarily motivated by the need to influence and alter. Displays tremendous ability to mobilize populations. Likely found in antagonism with an existing political structure.

6: The Zealot

Charismatic, visionary, pursues truth and stability. Feels most comfortable when in control. Operates largely in hierarchical structures. Perceives only one reality, and has a tendency toward closed-mindedness and orthodoxy.

7: The Provocateur

True individuals motivated by the need for attention; operate in peer-based networks and found mostly in niches bordering on artistic or urban culture. Have a tremendous capacity to shock and provoke.

We’ll be posting regular stories from the field highlighting real-life examples of the archetypes above and distilling key insights from that innovator’s daily work. Of course, we’re also open to suggestions of people to interview. If you know of any great misfits we should speak to, please write us at hello [at] misfiteconomy [dot] com. And if the topic intrigues you, please support our Kickstarter campaign.

Check out ]The Misfit Economy site or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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