2.13.2008

Foundations

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, I had a vision about my original idea of marketing Objectivism to the masses. To briefly summarize my previous post, I believe that Objectivism will only be able succeed in sweeping the world if a organization or business offers the same social environment and self-help services that current religious organizations attempt to do now. Let me explain...

In my half sleepy state, I referred to this organization as "Foundations" in reference to the foundational values of Reason, Purpose, and Self-esteem. The purpose of this organization will be to help individuals achieve these values through lectures, guided discussions, workshops, presentations, and whatever other means are effective. Special topics - such as "How to think clearer", "How independent thinking can help you", "How to be more productive", "How to follow through with your goals", "How to increase self-awareness" - would be presented in weekly meetings. Perhaps on Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons. Any number of different formats might work, but one idea I had was to start the day with a presentation about a topic followed by breakout groups to discuss the topic in depth or perform activities that improve some skill. Say a 30 minute presentation, followed by an hour long breakout session. And perhaps equally important, follow up the with a social gathering (perhaps with coffee and donuts, or a light meal). This gathering offers two pieces of value, it encourages integration of ideas through casual discussions and it builds psychological visibility which encourages participants to come back on a regular basis.

Critical success factors
  • such an organization must provide a value that 90% of the population can immediately grasp so that they eagerly take part.
  • The format of the presentation must be in a non-threating, self-growth format.
  • Presenters and/or group leaders should be well versed in Objectivism.
Obviously, this vision is still in the early stages, so I'm open to suggestions as how to improve it, or even arguments against it. But like most business ideas, the best means of determining success is to try it and see if it succeeds. If not, change it and try again.

8 comments:

  1. By doing this, are you not concerned that people might draw parallels between Objectivism and say Scientology?

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  2. M,
    Honestly, I hadn't even considered the possibility. While yes it is possible, I don't think its a major concern and here's why - first, what I'm proposing could easily be a for-profit business, losing most if not all of the religious connotations. Second, even if a non-for-profit approach is adopted, this proposal is explicitly pro-reason and condemns faith. Hardly the approach of Scientology or any other religion. Third, I'm not proposing a full fledged Objectivist philosophic training. ARI does that well enough. Rather, this proposal strives to create lessons for achieving core values that is easily assessable for the average man to understand. Something more akin to Camp Indecon than Scientology. Fourth, if someone still cannot see the fundamental differences between this organization and Scientology, then they are not the target customer. Its not like Objectivism hasn't already weathered unfair and untrue comparisons before.

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  3. Anonymous2:02 PM

    no no no no no

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  4. Miss Anonymous says: "no no no no no"

    That is what I would expect to hear from my four year old, semi-autistic grandson. Would you, Miss Anonymous, care to be more articulate, perhaps even be so bold as to (1) specify what you object to, and (2) offer a reasoned argument for your position, if any?

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  5. Mr. Drake, I would like to offer another point for discussion because, as I am sure you know, comparisons can aid discussion. I am a member of a successful Objectivist social network. You might find it interesting for what it does and does not do. I would welcome discussion of it.

    Please consider this network:

    http://www.aristotleadventure.com/pao/

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  6. Burgess,
    I would be interested in what your organization does and does not do. The website you link to does not go into great detail, so its difficult for me to compare it with my ideas. Would you mind describing some of the activities of the network? Do you mainly get together once a month for drinks? To watch an interesting movie? To engage in light discussion? Heavy discussion?

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  7. I will give the briefest of anwers, John. You should contact Rachel and Andrew at the Seattle site email address for further details.

    The present pattern is to meet monthly. On odd-numbered months, the social takes place in the regular hosts' home, on a Saturday beginning around noon or five. Attendance is open only to formally and very carefully reviewed members, as the site indicates.

    The socials are socials. Food is a center, as is discussion. Some individuals discuss philososphy, some current events, some their career moves, and other topics. There is no agenda usually. There are no tutored discussions. (Our Facebook website is available for that.)

    The members are very mixed. Some have interest in "philosophy for Rearden" and some in "philosophy for Ragnar." This is why holding a social in a house is best because it allows various eddies and swirls of different interests. A social is a refuge from the unpleasant outside world, as well as serving other purposes of course (potential dates, for the young people).

    The socials are a nexus, an enjoyable one that brings people back again and again. If some individuals want to take on projects, they do so outside SPON, on their own initiative. That way, no project bogs the network down. We do no do things collectively, a surefire recipe for killing attendance.

    Very few students of Objectivism drink. Drinking is fine with most of them, but it interferes with communication. Some of these socials last from Saturday at noon or so to dawn the next day. All depends on the interests of the attendees (and the hosts!)

    Some meetings are thematic. For example, I will be leading a walking tour (architecture and politics) in my neighborhood in a couple of months). I expect about 10 of the 25 SPON members to attend, according to the RSVPs (through Facebook). The three-hour tour ends at 5 pm at an Asian restaurant for a two-hour dinner -- and then goodbye. Most socials, though, are held in homes.

    Careful "gate-keeping" is crucial to success. These are not "public" events. Our standards are high.

    Other questions?

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  8. Burgess,
    Sounds like a Galt's Gulch in Portland. I would love to join such a network, especially because I live in the Bible belt.

    As a comparison, between your social network and what I'm proposing, I would start by saying that this organization is aimed at the general populace. As such, standards for admittance would be much lower (particularly if I run it as a business). It would not be a safe haven, but rather a destroyer for the need of safe havens. A destroyer of irrationality, purposelessness, and low self-esteem.

    Okay, I know that sounds a bit ambitious (to say the least), but that would be the goal.

    If I could name one organization this best resembles, it would be to the now defunct Camp Indecon. This camps was designed for kids, with a design of helping them see simple philosophic relationships and principles through non-threating and thought provoking activities. Curriculum was developed by those knowledgeable about Objectivism, with an eye towards proper order of knowledge and age appropriate activities and discussions. Although must of the kids came from Objectivist families, many of them did not know what Objectivism entailed and "discovered" principles of Objectivism through the classes. And this without once saying the word Objectivism in any of the classes or any of the marketing literature.

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