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From Push to Pull

Emerging models for mobilizing resources


The signs are around us. We are on the cusp of a shift to a new common sense model that will re-shape many facets of our life, including how we identify ourselves, participate with others, connect with others, mobilize resources and learn. This paper focuses on only one facet of this new common sense model – emerging approaches for mobilizing resources.

Over the past century, we have been perfecting highly efficient approaches to mobilizing resources. These approaches may vary in their details, but they share a common foundation. They are all designed to “push” resources in advance to areas of highest anticipated need.

  • In education, we design standard curricula to expose students to codified information in a pre-determined sequence of experiences
  • In business, we build highly automated plants or service platforms supported by standardized processes seeking to deliver resources to the right place at pre-determined times
  • In technology, we write massive enterprise applications specifying activities that must be performed and resources that must be deployed to meet anticipated demand
  • In the past decade, we have seen early signs of a new model for mobilizing resources

Pull Models
Rather than “push,” this new approach focuses on “pull” – creating platforms that help people to mobilize appropriate resources when the need arises. In lean manufacturing, early elements of a pull model began to emerge from Toyota in the early 1950s. However, lean manufacturing represents a hybrid between push and pull models – it still contains significant elements of push models. More fully developed pull models would take several more decades to emerge in arenas as diverse as media and advertising, global process networks and education. These are not just isolated examples – powerful forces are at work shaping the need for an alternative approach to mobilizing resources. These forces ensure that this new model will spread to all arenas of human activity.

Pull models are emerging as a response to growing uncertainty. Instead of dealing with uncertainty through tighter control, pull models do the opposite. They seek to:

  • Expand the opportunity for creativity by local participants dealing with immediate needs.
  • Exploit the opportunities created by uncertainty – they help people to come together and innovate in response to unanticipated events, drawing upon a growing array of highly specialized and distributed resources
  • Continually expand the choices available while at the same time helping people to find the resources that are most relevant to them
  • Provide people on the periphery with the tools and resources (including connections to other people) required to take initiative and creatively address opportunities as they arise

Push models treat people as passive consumers (even when they are producers like workers on an assembly line) whose needs can be anticipated and shaped by centralized decision-makers.  Pull models treat people as networked creators (even when they are customers purchasing goods and services) who are uniquely positioned to transform uncertainty from a problem into an opportunity. Pull models are ultimately designed to accelerate capability building by participants, helping them to learn as well as innovate, by pursuing trajectories of learning that are tailored to their specific needs.

By mastering the techniques required to make this new model work, companies will be well-positioned to create substantial economic value. Those who adhere rigidly to the old model will likely destroy significant economic value.

Learn more by downloading the thought leadership piece below. 

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