CAN THE GLOBAL HOUSING PROBLEM BE SOLVED?
A Talk for the Corning Company "Future Opportunities Innovation Workshop"
January 12, 2004
Problems present opportunities. Corning asked me to speak at this workshop because you wanted to know if there is an opportunity for Corning in the housing problem facing the world. I think that there is.
However, traditional approaches haven’t worked and won’t work. In particular, a traditional business model will not address the global housing problem. But there are approaches that will work. The challenge to Corning will be to discover if and how you can fit into the solutions that will work. Can you participate profitably and helpfully in solving the global housing problem?
In this talk I will cover the following ground:
• First I will give you a quick view of the scale and the nature of the global housing problem.
• Then I will indicate some of the solutions that won’t work.
• More importantly I will outline at least one approach that can work.
Groundwork Institute did a demonstration project in which we built a 1000SF house for $300. I will use this project to illustrate the problem, the context in which we must work in order to seriously address it and one approach that is capable of making a serious impact on the global housing problem.
I am impressed with the creativity, adventurousness and intelligence that exists at Corning to have put together this kind of workshop. As I describe the kinds of solutions that can seriously address the world’s housing problem, I am very interested to hear your ideas on what ways Corning can be part of that solution. When I was invited to give this talk they asked me what my fee was. The real answer, and the payment I look forward to, is your creative response to this question. So I will ask for your ideas at the end of the talk.
Goals have a big impact on how we view problems and what we do. Someone once gave me a piece of advice that stuck in my mind, “If you know where you are going, you have a better chance of getting there.” So I want to be clear about Groundwork’s goals. Groundwork’s goal is to address the real needs of every human on the planet, starting with those who need it the most. We don’t want to leave anyone out. While that is not a typical business goal, I will suggest to you that a company that looked at things this way would actually be in a very powerful position and could find unique opportunities.