Hello Folks! We’re here for another episode of the Coworking Values Podcast. Your weekly coworking podcast that aims to give you the freshest and newest topics on the coworking world.
For this episode, we have Bright Simons, President of MPedigree, a leading social enterprise that uses mobile and web technology to battle faking, counterfeiting and tampering of products. He is also a self-confessed Idea Activist which in his words — is that when he gets hung up on an idea, he pushes them with the available tools he has.
Bright Simons will talk about how MPedigree is a product of that idea activism and how trust plays a big part in entrepreneurship. He will delve further with the intimacy of trust between consumers and the brands that they trust. And how that plays in businesses and consumers globally. He will also be talking about how to empower information to be used by all to properly weigh the choices they have and use that information to make better decisions in terms of putting trust on a product or brand.
What kind of trust are we talking about?
It doesn’t belong, because a lot of time, we kind of get this large crisis. And we don’t dig beneath the surface to understand the archaeology behind them, as people call it.
So it’s the backyard is what is interested in that. I started with this trust, and in a very narrow, naive sense, which was how you enable citizens, and then empowered them to navigate markets.
But to vote for a politician or to buy something to market. Information is always in short supply, at least the kind of image that gives you the power to come to a search or turn on your to make a choice.
So my game plan, in the very beginning was how do I connect consumers to information that empowers them by forcing more powerful actors in the market to subject themselves to some standards that reduce the flexibility and therefore the ability to estimate price inflation information.
So information asymmetry is a well known, boring subject, the average citizen was very little of what the government does, but it also knows very little about businesses through and through that the exploited because they can’t get information that is relevant to make decisions.
So that was what I did and the practical manifestation of that was we build solutions that address the problem of counterfeiting as an example I balance evolved considerably.
Bright Simons: Good Ideas Don’t Only Come From Rich Countries
Bernie J Mitchel 0:04
Hello, Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to yet another episode of the Coworking Values podcast. And Zeljko, just before we get to our introduction, how are you today, sir?
Zeljko Crnjaković 0:17
I’m very good, very good. It’s like the last days of summer. And as far as the pandemic goes, we thought everything was going quiet, and then I see on news that part of the world is getting hyped up again.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:37
It is. In fact, I’m not even going to comment on it, because it changes every day. And if I had a pound for every time there’s a new update, I’d have a private jet on 24 hours standby, so I’m avoiding it.
Zeljko Crnjaković 0:52
Let’s be clear for the audience. You do not have a private jet.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:56
Well, what if we have some more sponsors like the one coming after this segment? You know, maybe we can get that private jet. Okay, so a word from Cobot our delicious sponsor.
Zeljko Crnjaković 1:11
This episode is brought to you by Cobot, a leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs, and flexible workspaces around the world. You know, one of the best things about Cobot is that it is produced by people who manage a coworking space and know the ins and outs of the main problems and issues, bugging coworking managers. So, if you want more time for your coworkers and community, check out Cobot at cobot.me and take your coworking management to the next level.
Bernie J Mitchel 1:45
It’s amazing how you say that every week.
Zeljko Crnjaković 1:48
Well, I practice being consistent. It’s all about consistency, quality, and just being in the zone when it comes to sponsors.
Bernie J Mitchel 1:58
You get it like the same beat the same spot.
Zeljko Crnjaković 2:02
I know, I know, it comes naturally.
Bernie J Mitchel 2:05
So, we have a guest in our virtual studio today. And it’s Mr. Bright Simmons.
Zeljko Crnjaković 2:10
So good – it’s virtual because it’s so far away.
Bernie J Mitchel 2:14
It is. This is our first intercontinental podcast, isn’t it?
Zeljko Crnjaković 2:19
No. Maybe we did we have somebody from the US probably.
Bernie J Mitchel 2:24
Yeah, we must have. You can’t do anything in coworking without having someone from the US. So Bright, what are you known for, sir? And what would you like to be known for?
Bright Simmons 2:32
I call myself an ideas activist. I get hung up on some very important ideas, and I push them using all the tools that are available to me. Typical intrapreneurship, we do a lot of technology work. And in the last decade and a half, I’ve kind of cantered on this notion of trust, as the big idea that I’m advocating for, being activist about, pushing through my entrepreneurship. And I do some public interest research as well. But all of it is to advance this idea of activism.
Zeljko Crnjaković 3:11
But Bright when we say, pushing idea of trust, what kind of trust were you talking about? Is it like business trust? Is it like trust between somebody you’re acquainted with? With the public that you can communicate with or partnership trust?
Bright Simmons 3:29
That is a brilliant question because a lot of time, we get bogged down with these large phrases. And we don’t dig beneath the surface to understand the archaeology behind them. I started with this trust in a very narrow and naive sense, which was -had you enable citizens and empower them to navigate markets? So, information asymmetry is a well-known, boring subject, the average citizen knows very little of what the government does, but they also know very little of what businesses do. And through that they are exploited because they can’t get information that is relevant to make decisions, whether to vote for a politician or to buy something in the market. Information is always in short supply, at least the kind of information that gives you the power to assert your autonomy or to make a choice.
So, my game plan in the very beginning was; how do I connect consumers to information that empowers them by forcing more powerful actors in the market to subject themselves to some standards that reduce their flexibility and therefore, the ability to estimate price information. So, that was what I did. And the practical manifestation of that was; we built solutions that addressed the problem of counterfeiting as an example. But that has evolved federally, and recently, I’ve been doing a lot more work around regulation. So, one of the things that is fascinating is that when you think of production, you think of zones where this production of chaos, and a lot of things happen in them that are closed to the end beneficiary. Think of a factory that makes medicine. Nobody knows what goes on in the factory. But you get this box of medicine and you see a brand on it, and you assume that everything was fine. And in puzzles, many parts of the world, everything is not always fine. So, what we do is we make it possible for the inspections of these factories, the data that’s collected around it to be standardized in a manner in which we can inform consumers, if the products that are coming out of these production zones are of the right quality. That’s an example of trust. But that mechanism is not merely empowering consumers by reducing inflammation asymmetry. It is also creating a whole new ecosystem around which the information flow can be regulated. I call those types of things trans mediation, where you’re not really intermediating between two well-defined routes, but you are enabling new nodes to emerge.
Zeljko Crnjaković 6:11
That’s very interesting. I asked you about what kind of trust because we all know that when you trust, or when you talk to your wife, there is a certain type of trust. And without that, there is no married life, as Bernie and I would know. And then we talk about kids, and they should not apply. And then we talk about businesses, and there is a line where small businesses and we all talk about it, and communities especially say you have to be true to your audience, we have to communicate with your audience, and you have to be, most importantly, truthful and keep the audience in mind and the feeling that I’m getting, and you will tell me your experience, the bigger the companies are that kind of line blurs. And, the bigger companies are, the more leeway they have into saying what is true and what is not true?
Bright Simmons 7:12
Yeah, there’s a guy called David Maister, who has this trust equation, that kind of simplifies a lot of it for me. So, he says, trust is equals to credibility plus reliability, plus intimacy, all divided by self-orientation. So, the more reliable something is, the more intimate it is, the more credible it is. And the less self-oriented a particular behaviour is, the more our trust increases. And there are two key elements of this that I think is important. One is this idea of intimacy. I think cultural notions and cultural comforts are very critical. And often we don’t pay as much attention to it. It’s not so surprising, therefore, that things like ethnocentrism and other types of cultural phenomenon that worries some of us and have such an important element with trust. People have always said Scandinavia is such a great place, because for a very long time, they’ve been homogeneous societies. But what do we really mean when we say that homogeneity increases trust? It’s that element of intimacy. And I think people often don’t pay as much attention to that.
The other is this idea of reliability, this idea of consistency. And that is where those that over technologysize the situation. They think of things like blockchain and say, No, we don’t need trust, we need trust less systems, we need permission less systems. They misunderstand that fact, which is that one, I need some cultural connectivity to trust something. And therefore, the branding elements of a brand, the affinity, the storyteller, the narrative is very important. If you create a trust less system, like blockchain, you lose all that. So, people are really not going to trust blockchain any more than they trust their local doctor, their local pharmacist. One of the things we discovered when we’re trying to solve the problem of counterfeit medicines. And this comes back to the issue of localism and all of that once we build these global architectural solutions. And this was how it was supposed to work. This is the kind of data you need to know if the medicine is good for you or not.
And I realized that when people go to pharmacies, and the products which are supposed to have our solution living habit, at the pharmacy told them it’s still fine, they always believe the pharmacist more than they believed our solution, and we never could understand it. Because we’re communicating that if you are buying a pack of medicine, trust this seal that we’ve put on there, because it connects you to information that empowers you. And we forgot the fact that for a lot of people, trust is a very intimate thing. Families I’ve known for 20 years, it’s always going to be more reliable and more credible than any global solution whose motives I don’t completely understand. And I think trust is therefore quite local in that regard.
Bernie J Mitchel 9:55
I’m scrambling around for an accurate question here, but how do you think the pandemic has affected trust? Because there was always already a higher scale, a low trust in government and media. And then this whole pandemic stuff, which is a whole new layer of communication, or missing fake news and all this type of stuff. And then Black Lives Matter happened, and I hope that unleashed a whole, it made public a conversation that was already going on. And the black community, particularly in the US, got their voice heard more accurately than ever, and please disagree with me if you think that’s wrong. And now we’ve sort of commuted less, this is my big riff at the moment and on this podcast is, we are commuting less, so we’re spending more time locally. So Kofi, who we will link to in the show notes, one of his things with Urban MBA, and helping young people in Hackney is, the more connected a community is, the more respect or connection, young people will have to wait. So that will affect a whole wave of things like, crime and educational direction, and ability to do things. But that was a sort of an explanation, bro. Sorry.
Bright Simmons 11:21
I think the thing with the COVID thing was that, in the beginning, there was all this emphasis on, we need to rely on science and data. And these are global phenomenon, global mechanisms. And the more we could subject to a standardized, global way of dealing with the disease, the better for all of us. And it took on more than it could handle by trying to become this global arbiter of trust in data and science. And of course, that never works with trust, right? Because people want intimacy, and therefore it wasn’t too long before this blue bar structure started to unravel with local politics in the United States.
I remember people walking into legislative buildings, or whatever they call them in the US state level, with guns and saying, Look, we don’t want to subscribe to these rules. I remember the attempt made to federalize the response and people on the conservative end of the spectrum will say, No, you cannot federalize it, you need to keep it. Local states have to make decisions about the response. And it was fascinating watching that. The truth of the matter, though, is that you need some kind of trans localism. You need to have local intimacy. But in order to be able to establish reliability, you need some degree of interconnectivity among the different locals. And I think that is where we are now. Where are the nodes and how the nodes connect? Two things; one is, and this is where the Black Lives Matter anger comes in. People do want to upset their uniqueness. But the same time you want to be treated equally. And often we don’t observe that there is an interesting contradiction that arises, because it’s like a compass, there’s a particular compass, where you have equality, efficiency, community, I forgot the fourth one. But there are these competing values and the framework, and the tensions among those competing values, define the tensions of our lives today, as a global society. On the one hand, you have African Americans, Africans, people of black origin, African ancestry, that do want to be noted, and recognized and respected for who they are and for the ability and for the right to devolve from the broader structure that American society has become. But at the same time, they want to assert their equality. They want to asset their common will, their common affinity.
The tensions can be resolved only when we first accept that there are some tensions in the sense that the more efficient the method, typically the most standardized at this. But at the same time, if you want people to feel a vested stake in the arrangement, and in these outcomes in particular, then you want them to be able to say that they have some autonomy from the system. How do we reconcile these forces? I think we start to do that when we begin to look at the level of urgency. People need some degree of liberty. Liberty was the other accompanying value. So, it’s liberty, equality, community, and efficiency.
And the thing with liberty and the reason why it’s so important, and why free thinking is so critical to all of this is because without this ability to devolve and then to join back on my own terms, it gets very difficult. And that is why some communitarians struggle to become credible champions for this idea of inclusive societies, because without enabling the individual to join on their own terms to a size agency, you kind of struggle to maintain the credibility of the whole system. And I think these types of resolutions that we struggling with, and I don’t know whether what we need is some stepping back, every now and then, to look again at the balance among these different values, as opposed to thinking that they are not intentional, I think their intention is really a matter of how we balance them at any one moment in history. And until we see it that way, I think we suffer this problem where we kind of feel we can maximally advance all of them at the same time at the same rate, and it does not work.
Bernie J Mitchel 15:54
Before we got to this podcast, I was on a webinar with Antonin and Laetitia, and we were talking about the 15 Minute city. This was a part of a conversation, but one of the things was in the 20th century, everything was about growing big and huge. And then I remember going to a lesson about copywriting for business or something horrible like that. And the lady opened by saying, you know, if you are using the words global and solution in everything you write on your website, you already lost. This was 10 years ago. And this thing about being global. I can be Bernie Mitchell global solutions. It doesn’t really mean anything, but I could never reach anything. The intimacy that you mentioned is lost. We were talking about barking before we came on, there’s so many offices around barking that sort of like, Bernie Mitchell global solutions, but they’re running from an office above a chip shop.
Bright Simmons 17:08
And then you have politicians send your money to tax savings. So, it’s an excuse, rather, it’s not an explanation for anything, right. We don’t care that the globalization allows you to do it. That was the point. The point is whether or not you should be doing it.
Bernie J Mitchel 17:28
And the other thing I meant to say is, I feel when we are in the West, say we’re a global thing, it’s like there was this whole thing about the other Edward Sayid and the East invented the West. And I’ll put a link in the show notes because I’ll never be able to explain accurately. But when we say global, it’s kind of assumes that it’s Europe and America and then the rest of the world will tag along, obediently. Is that accurate? Or have I really got it wrong?
Bright Simmons 17:57
It’s a fascinating point. I mean, we stopped seeing westernization for a while, right? And we said globalization, a part of it was because there was a genuine rise in Asia, that transformed global supply chains in a way that made the whole westernization rubric be difficult to sustain. There was genuinely a time where Asian values around maximal production, conformism in production systems have been going on for a while getting noticed, starting with the Toyota way. So, how you build these giant industrial systems. And then when the Japanese threatened to buy California, and strip it off, because the rest of America is useless. I think people started to take notes. And the idea that all of globalization was really westernization then evolved a little bit. And now we have this idea of the global elite and where the meat in the bag or wherever it is, is for everybody. But the same time they are also worried about Freemasons and Riyadh societies.
Bernie J Mitchel 19:02
And the Illuminati.
Bright Simmons 19:03
And the illuminati and things that are not good at all, because the default from a certain generic globalization way of looking at the world. So, I think on the one hand, there is definitely a misconception about the scale at which we are dealing with these things in multiple dimensions. What do I mean by that? I mean that it is true that when it comes to manufacturing, there is indeed a trend towards hyper globalisation, what I call hyper integration. I wrote a paper not too long ago, because I had the luxury to spend about a year and a half doing work with the Centre for Global Development in DC of course, we rarely go into DC but then do work with them. And I came up with this idea of hyper integration as a way of looking at the what I call a pause, play pause platform world for a long time the idea of; so if you think of manufacturing, the idea that if I am Toyota or if I am Walmart, I can build one giant platform and have all these suppliers orbit to my platform. And because I accumulate power through this platformization, everyone that’s going to win is going to win like that. So, we have Amazon as the counter Amazon as a counter proposal, same concept, right? You platformize. You build power, you are complete. And then we realized not too long ago that these things can work very well in one dimension. And when you try to extend it into another dimension, they collapse. Let me explain. So, when you take Facebook at what it does social media, people are quite clear that everything else can follow the same logic and maybe try that with digital currencies. So, they tried to build Libra and it was a big failure. There’s a big failure, because currency management, and how we handle money.
What is money? Well, it has an archaeology beneath it, that you need to dig deeper to understand all the dimensions of these different locals that have agreed on a compromise basis to enable a global monetary system to emerge. It is not the same as retail and mass manufacturing. How we have a global monetary system, as opposed to a global manufacturing system are completely different things. And because other things are also emerging, global health, global education, etc. We have to be careful that we don’t think we can transport or transmute one logic of globalization into another logic. And that is a challenge that we have with a lot of things right now. People look at Facebook and the good. So, why can’t I do currency that way, or can’t I do race relations that way? They’re not different, they have different ideologies.
There are things that every single point in history that if traversed have left a mark, and those marks often prevent you from denying the history. And one of the great things that globalization has done is to enable us to deny the histories of pens. And I think where you see things like BLM and other things in marriage, is when people insist that these histories will not be forgotten. What are the other histories that will not be forgotten? Because they are important in establishing, I was talking to you about London before we started this this conversation on the record, and are saying that every time I go to London, every local that I go to, some of that history I’ve been allowed to imprint, you get a bit of that also in Paris, but in a lot of other cities, you don’t right? You go to one part of the city and there is zero imprinting of history, or this imprinting of history is what brings the vesteddness that makes it possible without taking the solution. And people don’t feel that they have a vested stake. It doesn’t matter that it’s efficient, right? They are not free. And when people feel that they are not free, they rebel. So, that is where we are right now with globalization. Westernization is no longer complete personalization.
But it’s definitely an issue of global elites that often are not in focus, by which I mean that even if they are in Japan, or China and Saudi Arabia, they see themselves as having an apex lokao, which they want to distribute around the rest of the world, and be filled in many places. They fail in monitoring integration in some respects, they’re not too good after 20 tries in education, and in different educational systems around the world. And in health, it’s a complete mess. So, we have to just find other ways of understanding how these very large segments of our lives can become more efficient without thinking that we need to go to the globalization.
Bernie J Mitchel 23:40
I could feel something else coming on here. Right, but we’re near the end of our time. What I would encourage people to do is to go to, we’ll put a link in the show notes. And there’s a video on the front page there, ladies, and gentlemen, and it shows Bright’s solution. Oh no, I said solution. And see how easy is? It shows the, what would you say like the anti-counterfeiting chip movement? Because there’s a bit in that video, where the guy that has gone to the pharmacy in faith, got a flu vaccination, and then it’s affected, he ended up dying in the end. But he walked in somewhere full of trust and walked out. And that was a mistake, and what comes across in that video is not an experience I have in in London. If I go into a pharmacy, I know it’s going to be okay. And quite often I get sold like a sugar tablet thinking it is going to give me more energy, focus and creativity. But you know, that’s marketing and it’s a big difference between selling counterfeit goods and selling very good marketing that plugs into me. So, go look at that, ladies, and gentlemen. And is there another TED talk as well? I was a bit disappointed that you only got a million and a half views on your TED Talk. Hopefully, we can double that.
Bright Simmons 25:15
Exactly. There’s always hope.
Bernie J Mitchel 25:19
Where is your voice online at the moment? Where’s the best social media or blog or anything to keep up with your rants?
Bright Simmons 25:30
So, I do a lot of Twittering. As everyone does nowadays. And I write on my blog, BrightSimmons.com. And I’m starting a new movement around power and trust called Transmediaries. So, it’s transmediaries.org.
Bernie J Mitchel 25:31
Have a follow of that Twitter, folks. It is as an epic mix of politics, opinion, and entrepreneurship. So, thank you. And I noticed how you resist talking about Trump in there. Thank you very much for your time today, Bright . Anything we need to mention before we go?
Bright Simmons 26:16
No, no, it was a great conversation. Thank you for having me. I just ask that people find their causes, and that they passionately proactively advocate for their causes. That’s what we have now. That’s the biggest expression of freedom is to have a cause and to be able to push it.
Zeljko Crnjaković 26:34
Yeah, what a great way to finish this podcast. And just to remind everybody, feel free to follow the podcast on the European Coworking Assembly website. Or you can listen to us on sounder iTunes, Spotify, Google podcasts, whatever. We’re on Amazon, probably we are because Amazon just launched a new podcast platform and it’s adding podcasts. So, probably we are there to say wherever you listen to your podcast, feel free to subscribe. And of course, write to us. So, we know your interests, your questions, and that’s it. Talk to you next week.