Are You a Platypus?

A few thoughts on David Wiley’s ESR conference keynote, in which he described FlatWorld Knowledge as “a bit of a platypus” in the market.

Think about it: A venemous duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed egg-laying mammal really shouldn’t exist. It’s no wonder that the european naturalists who first discovered the thing at first thought it was some kind of elaborate practical joke.

But the platypus does exist, last surviving member of its genus, and the remarkably well-adapted anchor of the Australian wetlands.

The point is this: Many of the most disruptive social innovations of all time have been playpuses–unexpected, even illogical ideas that reasonably shouldn’t exist. Like banks for people with literally nothing to put in them. Or peasant farmers who give eye exams. Or college textbooks you give away for free.

Each of these organizations, and many who will yet change the face of social entrepreneurship have adapted like the platypus–in some ways to better function in their environments (with webbed feet and self-sealing nostrils) and some in ways that help them shape that environment (like the beaver tail, or even the venom.)

One might argue that you have to be a platypus to make in the space.

But this much is sure. Any platypus out there can relate to the classic Ghandi quote that for me was the crux of David’s talk: “First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Long live the platypus.


One response to “Are You a Platypus?

  1. Thanks for sharing this helpful info!

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