Ideas Are Things

By | January 30, 2008


One guy I’m always inspired by is Jan Chipchase, who does more for Nokia’s credibility than any of their products. Here he observes how small things are more likely to spread more rapidly than big ones, making them closer relations to ideas than to things:

Today we’re comfortable with the rapid dissemination of information and ideas from one side of the globe to the other. What’s in Tokyo today can be in Tehran tomorrow and vice versa.

When physical things reach a certain size – being pocketable seems about right, their ability to be picked up and moved around increases considerably. All things being equal small objects much like ideas, travel further, travel faster. They are put into bags, pockets and inevitably are introduced to people in far off lands. And if those people in far off lands like and value them enough, the container ships follow.

Great idea, and reminds me of Negroponte’s bits and atoms shtick (sorry, meme.) Two points: Never underestimate the power of small things. People are much more likely to buy them than big ones, for the simple reason that they’re less expensive. Retailers from Body Shop to IKEA understand this, and make sure there’s lots of small things to buy in their shops so people feel they are part of the experience, even if they can’t actually afford the lifestyle itself. And of course, these little products, and the branded bags they come in, walk out of the shop and around with the customer (in places like Indonesia, the bags are recycled as prestige items in themselves.)

Second point: Jan sees all this stuff because he travels. He is the modern equivalent of the foreign correspondent; because now traditional media can’t afford them, it’s people like him whose trained and observant eye (and great camera work) captures the stuff the rest of us don’t see, either because we’re not there or because we’re not looking properly.

Jan Chipchase – Future Perfect: Further, Faster

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