Just Tools for Life

Stan Rhodes recently sent us a couple books in the mail: “Influence: Science and Practice” by Robert Cialdini and “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath.  I quickly devoured both books as they both proved to be interesting and well written.

The topics are somewhat similar, but each book inspired a completely different reaction from me.  “Influence” is written as an alternative to text books and covers why people comply and what influences their decisions.  After putting the book down, I was compelled to add theory to theory.  I tapped into my own memory bank to see how I had acted in similar situations to the ones described.  I questioned the validity and usefulness of other aspects of the theory. I was all set to write a letter to the author and begin a discussion group.

But what’s the point in that?  The book did help me make a few healthy changes in my thinking pattern, but is that why these books were sent to us?  To beget more theory?  I held off my letter writing campaign for the moment and decided to read book number two: “Made to Stick”.

While the Heath brothers also had a dose of theory to offer, it stepped beyond the bounds of academia and into a world of reality.  It made the theory practical and tangible, but more importantly, inspiring.  When I set this book down, I didn’t want to write the authors about what I liked and what I didn’t like about their theory; I wanted to act.

I believe Stan sent us these books because we are struggling to make our own theory inspirational.  We are surrounded by our own ideas and have explored them to such depth that it becomes difficult to transfer these thoughts to others.  The Heath brothers term this gap the “Curse of Knowledge”.

The remedy?  A simple core statement.  Unexpected twists to sustain attention.  Concrete images.  A dose of credibility.  Emotional connections.  And Stories.  (SUCCESs)

I was inspired to create a simple core statement to describe Open Source Ecology.

Our previous catch phrase was so long that I never failed to stumble over it: Optimizing essential tools and technologies within the public domain for sustainable and just living.

If it doesn’t slip smoothly off my own tongue, then its as much as forgotten in the minds of the public.  Its informative, but not sticky.  And as I learned in “Made to Stick”, if it doesn’t stick, its as good as dead.

Then, at our simplest, who are we? What is our Essence?

Local , small-scale producers.
Research and development
Right Livelihood.

We’re about a lot of things.  But what’s the core?

My brainstorm progressed:

Making a living eco/justice.
Public Development of tools for right livelihood.
Just life made easy.

Or better yet,  “Just Tools for Life.”

That stuck for me.  I knew it because my brainstorming session got stuck too.  I couldn’t think of anything better– for the moment at least.

Why do I like it?

“Just tools” means “simply tools.” It also implies that the tools are “appropriate”, fair, and by extension ecological.  Tools that are “for life” are designed to last a life time and if read another way, the implication is that we design/have/build a wide variety of tools– not just tools for building or scrubbing the floor, but tools for all aspects of a sustainable lifestyle.

That little phrase says a lot and I think it hits the core of our work at the same time.

Another existing phrase that I do like is “Global Village Construction Set”, but I think most people don’t have the associations to understand its meaning at a glance.

Open Source Ecology
Just Tools for Life: A Global Village Construction Set.

What do you think.  Does it describe what we do?  Is it the Core of our work?  Is it sticky?  Go do something else, then come back to this question.  Can you remember the phrase?  Do you have your own ideas?  Share them!

Also, a quick presentation title could be Open Source Engineering:Just Tools for Life

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