Respecting the Rodney Principle -Jaffer Ali - MediaBizBloggers
Published: August 18, 2010 at 06:05 AM GMT
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Last Updated: August 18, 2010 at 06:05 AM GMT
By Jaffer Ali
"A girl phoned me the other day and said... Come on over, there's nobody home. I went over. Nobody was home."
One of my favorite comedians of all time is the late great Rodney Dangerfield. The utter simplicity of his comedy has created a rich legacy. His punchy lines always make me laugh as if hearing them for the first time.
If you're wondering what Rodney Dangerfield has to do with business, stay tuned.
"I could tell my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio."
Take another look at both of the jokes above. Now, try to improve them. How? First, try adding something to make them better. Bet you can't do it, can you?
Now try something even harder than adding to them. Try taking something away. Simplify the jokes; make them more verbally economical. Dollars to navy beans you can't do that either.
"I come from a stupid family. During the Civil War, my great uncle fought for the west."
A great business model is like a Rodney Dangerfield joke, and requires neither addition nor subtraction. Great business models – like Rodney Dangerfield jokes – possess a holistic beauty and elegance, described by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gellman as essential to any fundamental understanding of the correct order of things.
Moving from comedy to business – and in today's world this may be a distinction without a difference – it's time to coin a new term: The Rodney Principle. Simply defined, The Rodney Principle describes a business model that can't be simplified any further and to which any attempt to add complexity creates more problems than it solves.
"My father carries around the picture of the kid who came with his wallet."
The Rodney Principle explains complex thoughts in simple terms. To be sure, we face a world of increasing complexities. Unfortunately, our solutions to increased complexity almost always increase complexity even more. Complexity simply begets complexity.
In the great age of titanic, complex systems, additional complexity only makes existing problems worse, and creates new problems at a pace and scale that no one can possibly anticipate. Eventually, complex systems – like far-flung empires – always collapse from the cumulative weight of their own complexity.
This is why The Rodney Principle should be taught at every MBA program from Harvard to Stanford. Classroom attendance and attention would surely pick up! Imagine if every class began with a quote from our erstwhile sage:
"I met the Surgeon General. He offered me a cigarette!"
A typical business model seeks to identify and address real or perceived needs. The essence of The Rodney Principle compels us to take a red pencil to any and every business model we envision or examine. Rodney Dangerfield used his economy of words to bring joy and laughter, and in them we discover and re-discover our most fundamental human conditions. When we apply The Rodney Principle to our business models, we seek their essential DNA first. We seek the beauty, elegance and economy of simple things...
"My uncle's dying wish was to have me sit in his lap…he was in the electric chair!"
Of course not everybody can embrace The Rodney Principle. This is especially true of many in the online digital space.Trapped as they are in an existential cave, all they can see are the dark and illusory shadows of complexity. They're too busy translating The Little Prince into The Castle to make room for the beauty, elegance and sheer simplicity of...
"My mother got morning sickness after I was born."
"If it wasn't for pick-pockets, I'd have no sex life at all."
Conversely, many of our new business models are like bad jokes. And just as bad jokes fade away, so do bad business models. Remember Broadcast.com? Infoseek? March First?
But a great joke is forever. So when you conceptualize your next business model, or even just tweak your present one, apply The Rodney Principle to help you step out of the cave and into the light. At minimum, it will put a smile in your heart.
"With my wife I don't get no respect. I made a toast on her birthday to 'the best woman a man ever had.' The waiter joined me."
Jaffer Ali is the CEO of the Vidsense Video Snack Network, where The Rodney Principle has been in full force from its inception. To reach Jaffer, email him at email@example.com
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