Everyone knows the power of reciprocation – it’s usually a thank you gift as the result of a something received earlier. Reciprocation doesn’t work every time simply because there are too many free riders. Free riders are typically people who feel entitled to receive things for free and take those who help them for granted.
But, free riders should not prevent you from doing good as, thankfully, there are still MANY good people out there who value when something valuable is given to them. These good people feel super compelled to reciprocate. That is pure magic.
You don’t know who is a free rider and who is not when you start helping people. Without making that assessment, you might end up doing a lot of work that may turn out to be just a “thankless” job. You might also get lucky and miss every single free rider. Being that kind of lucky would be ideal but you can rarely engineer that because in general, free riders will be a majority force.
On a lighter note, another option is to wish for others to change and you know what that will result in.
A better alternative
A better alternative would be to build a platform to be COO. No, not asking you to be the chief operating officer. COO that I am referring to here is “creating overwhelming obligations.”
COO = Creating Overwhelming Obligations
If you have a platform through which you can provide significant help to large number of people, you have a number of benefits:
1. Your cost of giving a valuable gift goes down significantly
2. You can scale without having to work like a dog
3. You can reach lot more people
4. You amplify your personal brand as a side benefit | The distinction is very important
5. You can expect your level of fulfillment to go up
When you use your platform to create significant help, everyone including the free riders benefit. But that’s OK as it’s part of the deal. There will always be a small percentage of people who will feel compelled to reciprocate. Not all of them may reach out to you but they may do things to amplify your message creating an even bigger platform for you making it even more simpler to provide signifiant help.
The virtuous cycle
The virtuous cycle looks like this:
1. You create a global platform and provide significant help
2. You provide significant help using the platform
3. Percentage of the people receiving help reciprocate back (sometimes this is as simple as amplifying your message)
4. Your platform grows bigger and reduces your cost of providing even bigger help
5. Go to step 2
A few examples
Fortunately, there is no dearth of people who create overwhelming obligations.
A few are project examples are listed below:
1. Khan Academy | Created an educational revolution. Thanks to Salman Khan
2. TED | Brought insightful content from across the world for the benefit of everyone
3. Wikipedia | Made Encyclopedia almost irrelevant
4. ChangeThis | Bringing awesome manifestos from awesome people for FREE.
5. Kickstarter | Creating a platform to bring many cool projects to life
I don’t want to list individuals as there are far too many to list but you get the idea.
Where could you start?
The process is different for different people (obviously) so I have chosen a sub-set of people who provide services to highlight the steps:
1. Deliver beyond expectations: The easiest way to meet or beat client expectations is to hold yourself to a higher standard than what your clients expect from you. When you go beyond expectations, you automatically create more value. In that process, YOU too become better at your craft.
2. Extract Re-usable Components: While you may be providing specific help, there are always things that are broadly applicable. You can easily extract those re-usable components and polish them up.
3. Package and Make them Relevant for the Present Times: Most advice won’t stand the test of time. But you can polish these components to make them relevant to present times.
4. Share with zero barriers: Next step is important – share these packaged insights with zero barriers. Choose a medium of your choice but share it as if someone is paying a fee.
Then, watch the magic unfold.
Photo Courtesy: nuvonova on flickr