I’m a big believer in the saying “What goes around, comes around.” I firmly believe that time spent educating and helping potential customers (without asking for anything in return) is time well spent for companies and individuals who are looking to build their client base. Let’s take a simple example — a couple weeks ago, I changed the theme on my blog. Cory Miller, who developed the theme I implemented, IM’d me and both helped me fix a couple bugs in the code as well as gave me some fantastic ideas for improvements to my blog. I appreciated it. No, he didn’t see any direct benefit for spending that time helping me, but you can bet that if/when anyone asks me for a reference for a blog designer — Cory will be the 1st person I mention. When I think of “blog designer,” I now think of Cory. That’s a big win for him without spending a dime to advertise his services. Every business could benefit from this approach. Sure, it takes time and effort, but I think it would lead indirectly to future revenues for any company willing to invest the time.

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Microsoft is taking a similar approach of helping others as a strategy for worldwide expansion & marketing — they recently launched an expanded Microsoft Unlimited Potential (whitepaper PDF) as a way to spread their influence & brand throughout the world. The aim is to bring the efficiencies of technology to the next 5 billion people on earth. Microsoft will sell software that retails for several hundred dollars in the developed world for $3 to qualifying 3rd world countries and organizations. Sound crazy? Not so fast. This is a win-win for everyone — Microsoft extends their brand name into areas of the world that would take years to reach normally and builds customer good will in the process. When those people do get out of poverty, who do you think they will remember for helping them? Microsoft. And to those in the developed world who think this is unfair (why should I have to pay $400 for a program that could be sold for a dollor or two?)?? Get over it.

As a side note, I have a huge amount of respect for Bill Gates for being so devoted to philanthropy, but in addition to being a great way to help bring millions out of poverty, this program is a business strategy first and philanthropic venture second. Here’s a great post outlining the business motives for the program.

Since the United States is essentially the world’s largest corporation, it seems that the US should have a better long-term business strategy to build goodwill with other corporations (countries). Who is making the long-term strategic decisions for the US? Is their some special advisor to the President in the white house? Since Presidents can only serve a maximum of 8 years, it doesn’t seem they don’t have much motive to do what is in the long-term best interest of the country. The most successful companies don’t make decisions based on what is in their best interest this year or next, but 10 years from now. Is the United States doing what is best for this country 20 years from now? I hate to get into politics, but I really don’t think we are. Our invasion of Iraq has likely created more terrorists than there were prior to the war.

There is a profound difference between the strategies Microsoft and the US, who both want to exert influence throughout the world, are using to accomplish their long term goals. Microsoft is focusing on improving lives by giving those in need the means to help themselves. The US is exerting their influence by force, which is a vastly different approach. To me, it really comes down to this: You CAN’T force people to change. I really struggle to understand why more people don’t realize this FACT of life. People need to have the desire for change internally before any substantial change will occur. How do you cure a recovering alcoholic? You can’t — until they get motivated to change themself. All you can do is be there for support. Give them the tools to succeed. Change in Iraq should come from within. Apparently, the a top US general wants to accelerate the growth of our military by 65,000 soldiers. I seriously don’t get it. Military action doesn’t build goodwill with anyone anywhere. We’re going to stuggle with international relations until our leaders realize the significance of this basic fact of life.

Just IMAGINE how far $423 BILLION dollars (approximate cost of Iraq war as of today) could have gone if spent trying to relieve poverty in 3rd world countries. Think of the infrastructure that could have been built. Think of how much those helped would appreciate the help once they rise above the poverty line.

Seems pretty obvious to me. The United States government should take a page from Microsoft’s book — help others rather than attempt to force change.


  • Drew, hey, thanks for this! I thoroughly enjoy seeing my designs used … I don’t always get to help out people individually, like I did for you … but it’s fun when I can!

    –Cory

  • Lots of points to cover.

    re: term limits. Generally the two term limit is considered a curb on the power of the presidency. Overall thats generally a good thing as otherwise the President would possibly play his role to ensure he stayed President, rather than for the good of anyone else.

    Agree the Iraq War was a terrible idea. My own opinion is that the entire purpose of 9/11 was to draw us into a conflict in the Middle East, thus polarizing the conflict and strenghtening the power base of the terrorist extremists.

    As to the US govt vs Microsoft and how they think. The difference is essentially cultural. You may be interested in researching into Spiral Dynamics as a social theory by Beck and Cowan.

    http://www.amazon.com/Spiral-Dynamics-Mastering-Values-Leadership/dp/1405133562/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-2675592-2784106?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1178502875&sr=1-1

    -Athol