04.10.12 | Eight Practical Steps to Design for Emerging Markets (by Paul Polak)

For over 30 years Dr. Paul Polak, a 79-year-old former psychiatrist and founder a for-profit social venture with the mission of inspiring and leading a revolution in how companies design, price, market and distribute products to benefit the 2.6 billion customers who live on less than $2 a day.

The single biggest reason that the appropriate technology movement died and most technologies for developing countries never reach scale is that nobody seems to know how to design for the market.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve looked at hundreds of technologies for developing countries.

Some provided elegant solutions for challenging technical problems. Some were big and clumsy. Some  were far too expensive. Some of were beautifully simple and radically affordable.

But only a handful were capable of reaching a million or more customers who live on less than two dollars a day.

If you succeed, against all odds, in designing a transformative radically affordable technology, you still have addressed only 25 % of the problem. The other 75% is marketing it effectively, which requires designing and implementing an effective branding, mass marketing and last mile distribution strategy.

Any competent electrical engineer can design a beautiful solar lantern that provides enough light to read or cook by in a village thatched roof house. But designing it with the features that a poor family is willing to pay for, at a price providing them a 4 month payback from savings in kerosene, batteries and candles, is an entirely different matter.Designing a branding and marketing strategy and a last mile supply chain that will put it in the hands of a million or more customers is three quarters of the design challenge.

Eight Practical Steps to Design for the Market:

1. Interview 25 Likely Customers before you start.

2. Design to a CustomerDerived Target Pricepoint from the very beginning

3. Select the price/effectiveness Tradeoffs Acceptable to Customers to reach the target price

4. Create a Proof of Concept Prototype

5. If it Works, Put it in the Hands of at Least Ten Customers, learn  what’s wrong with it, and fix it

6. Design a Branding, Marketing and Distribution Strategy capable of reaching a million customers

7. Field Test the Technology and the Branding, Marketing and Last Mile Distribution Strategy in at least five different villages for at least four months, and modify it from what you learn

8. Scale Up Systematically to Reach at Least a Million Customers

To read the entire article, Death of Appropriate Technology II:  How to Design for the Market

Or watch video: Paul Polak on Practical Problem Solving



10.06.11 | Wisdom for Entrepreneurs from Steve Jobs

Remembering Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

1. Create a product with soul. Jobs proved that to create a product that customers would not just use, but love, you have to marry science with art.

2. Start small but think big. “I want to put a ding in the universe,” Jobs famously said.

3. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t build the life that someone else wants you to- Jobs’s life is a lesson in making original decisions.

4. Stick to your guns. Interviewers often said that Jobs was a tough interview- he didn’t answer their questions, but rather always said exactly what he wanted to say.

5. Find real solutions to real problems. Jobs made the claim early on that 99-cent mp3s would save the music industry. Indeed- since April 2008, the Apple iTunes Store has been the number one music vendor in the U.S., and by October 4, 2011, the iTunes store sold its 16 billionth song.

6. Become a market leader. Own and control the technology that you create and use, to reduce the ability for others to successfully imitate to your standards.

7. Make a product that can sell itself. Apple’s advertisements were famous for simply showcasing their products. They didn’t work overtime to convince you- their elegant user interface did, all on its own, by being head and shoulders above the competition.

8. Don’t listen to your customers too much. Jobs was famous for his assertion that listening to customers too much is a waste of time. You have to think on their behalf but ignore their skepticism if you’re going to create something that no one has ever seen before.

9. Live every day as though you have nothing to lose. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose,” said Jobs. “There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

10. Look at the silver lining in failure. When Jobs was fired from Apple, he said, “I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me.” But, he realized, it was the best thing that ever happened to him, because it freed him to enter one of the most creative periods of his life, he said in his Stanford commencement speech.

11. If you love what you do, you will find a way. Jobs said that when he was fired from Apple, he thought about running away from the valley. But then he realized that he loved what he did, and the events at Apple couldn’t change that.

12. Have faith in your journey. Jobs described you can’t connect all of the dots when you look forward in time, but you can, in retrospect, see the way that pieces fall into place to bring you lessons.

13. Trust your inner voice. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice,” he said- following his inner voice allowed Jobs to both pivot into different projects and to innovate.

14. Be a perfectionist. We’ve all heard the stories of Jobs being an unapologetic taskmaster, to the point that he alienated some co-workers. And yet, his passion created products that speak for themselves.

15. Keep your eye on the endgame. “I don’t really care about being right, you know, I just care about success,” Jobs famously said, after he was fired by Apple. Borrow ideas if you have to, but focus on the implementation, and on improving rather than the politics of business.

16. Surround yourself with talent. Although Steve stands out as the leader who made Apple what it is today, it’s a myth that he alone is responsible for Apple’s success. A team of talented leaders- Phil Schiller, Jony Ive, Peter Oppenheimer, Tim Cook, and Ron Johnson- work overtime at Apple to build Apple.

17. Let simplicity reign. Jobs was famous for talking about the power of saying “no” when it came to adding bells and whistles to his products. It’s been said that choosing what not to do was more important to him than choosing what to do.

18. Create a unified team. Under Jobs, the executive team at Apple held weekly meetings to review every single product under development, and handed responsibility for all expenses to its Chief Financial Officer alone. Jobs thought that Sony, for example, had too many divisions to create a viable iPod, iPad or iPhone competitor. “It’s not synergy that makes [Apple] work,” he said, “it’s that we’re a unified team.”

19. Teach your company your vision. Apple hired an academic from Yale Management School to create an “Apple University” inside the company, so that his knowledge could be passed on and the structure and vision of Apple could be taught to future employees.

20. Create buzz. Apple creates a lot of hype by keeping its new products a secret until the very last minute. Although the policies of its tight ship are occasionally controversial, it seems to have incidents in which employees leave prototypes in bars fueling even more speculation on the web about the next iPhone.

21. Keep a Beginner’s Mind. “There’s a phrase in Buddhism, ‘Beginner’s mind.’ It’s wonderful to have a beginner’s mind,” Jobs once said. Keep a sense of exploration and wonder in the world.

22. Be a yardstick of quality. “Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected,” said Jobs.

23. Think differently. Although the Apple stores were considered a huge risk, Jobs pushed ahead with the idea, pointing out that “innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Apple now has over 357 stores worldwide, and in 2010 the stores earned over $3.2 billion, about 13% of total Apple sales.

24. Defy expectations- visually. At his 2008 Keynote speech, Jobs showed how the MacBook air fit into a standard office envelope, creating an image that no on could forget.

25. Stay hungry. Stay foolish. This was a phrase that Jobs saw on an issue of The Whole Earth Catalogue, a magazine he loved when he was growing up. They printed it on the back cover of their final issue, he described in his in his 2005 speech at Stanford. “I have always wished that for myself,” he said.

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12.15.10 | Next Generation Business Strategies for the Base of the Pyramid: New Approaches for Building Mutual Value

During the last decade, first-generation “Base of the Pyramid” (BoP) ventures focused primarily on “finding a fortune at the BoP” by selling existing goods to and sourcing familiar products from the world’s four billion poorest people. Many of these initiatives did not scale, and some failed outright. But through that experience, crucial lessons have been learned. Innovators are now succeeding–thanks to a more sophisticated and nuanced approach based on “”creating a fortune with the BoP.” In this new book, Ted London, Stuart L. Hart, and six leading Base of the Pyramid thought and practice leaders show how to apply today’s most significant BoP innovations, techniques, and business models. For more, go to

05.22.09 | Bono: Creativity Thrives in Crisis

Bono discusses the global economic crisis in the March 06, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone:

“I get really nervous when some of the smartest people I know – some of the smartest people in the world – don’t know what’s about to happen.

I believe, in the end, creativity thrives in difficult conditions.

I think we’ll see some amazing things come out of this, though my heart goes out to people losing their jobs” (Source: Article by Jann S. Wenner, Rolling Stone Magazine).

03.18.09 | A Wide Blue Ocean of Opportunity

Like the ebb and flow of ocean tides, our current economic crisis represents both great challenges and equally great opportunities. The blue ocean is where companies can catch the wave of the merging economy. If we exercise our power of choice, we can make the best of this crisis. Blue Ocean Strategy is one such approach to navigating the turbulent economic waters. From the book by the same title, Blue Ocean Strategy challenges companies to break out of the red ocean of bloody competition by creating uncontested market space that makes the competition irrelevant. In the red ocean, firms pursue either differentiation OR low cost. In the blue world, the goal is to create new markets by leveraging value AND differentiation.

What is a Blue Ocean Strategy? The authors explain by comparing to traditional strategic thinking or Red ocean strategy:

1. DO NOT compete in existing market space. INSTEAD create uncontested market space
2. DO NOT beat the competition. INSTEAD make the competition irrelevant
3. DO NOT exploit existing demand. INSTEAD create and capture new demand.
4. DO NOT make the value/cost trade-off. INSTEAD break the value/cost trade-off.
5. DO NOT align the whole system of a company’s activities with its strategic choice of differentiation or low cost. INSTEAD align the whole system of a company’s activities in pursuit of both differentiation AND low cost.

A blue ocean is created in the region where a company’s actions favourably affect both its cost structure and it value proposition to buyers. Cost savings are made from eliminating and reducing the factors an industry competes on. Buyer value is lifted by raising and creating elements the industry has never offered. Over time, costs are reduced further as scale economies kick in, due to the high sales volumes that superior value generates.

01.21.08 | Tahoma Group acquires Green Depot

PRESS RELEASE: Effective Immediately!

GREEN DEPOT Inc. is under new ownership and open for business.
“I am endorsing the continuation of Green Depot by the new owners. I am confident that they will carry forward Tom’s vision of sustainable, energy-efficient living. I look forward to the expansion and great success of this business whose time has come. Good luck Jonathan – and all who have signed on for the ride!”
– Liz St.Louis, wife of Tom St.Louis, founding owner of Green Depot

The GREEN DEPOT has been a pioneer in energy efficient building systems for over fifteen years. After the passing of Tom St.Louis, a Northwest EcoBuilding Guild board member and friend of the St. Louis family approached Jonathan Campbell of Tahoma Group to continue the legacy of GREEN DEPOT Inc. and the green building revolution that Tom had been such an instrumental pioneer. Over the past two months, Jonathan has met with local developers, trades people, builders and community leaders to explore how to best steward the company toward the future. He purchased the company January 1, 2008.

GREEN DEPOT specializes in high performance building systems that lower energy usage, reduce maintenance, and save money while making your building more comfortable. GREEN DEPOT provides these products and more: Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), Fiberglass Windows and Doors, Skylights, Structured Insulated Panels (SIPS), Drain-water Heat Exchangers, Energy Recovery Ventilators (HRV/ERV), Waterproofing membranes, Masonry heaters, and more.

As a member of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild and Master Builders Association, GREEN DEPOT offers products that qualify for Energy Star, BuiltGreen,TM & LEEDTM programs.

GREEN DEPOT is presently building a home that will showcase these products and their performance in a living showroom.

Green Depot also provides consulting and workshops that promote smart, healthy, energy efficient building solutions.

Today, we’re announcing that as of February 1st 2008, GREEN DEPOT Inc. will open a storefront in downtown Olympia. Initially it will share retail space with einmaleins located at 121 State Ave NE Olympia, WA 98501.

To celebrate the re-launch of GREEN DEPOT we want to welcome you all to our new showroom on Friday, February 1st, 2008 from 5pm – 9pm for a Wine and Cheese Reception as part of First Friday in Downtown. The new owners and management team will be available to answer questions and showcase the new product lines.

Jonathan Campbell and the GREEN DEPOT Team

For more information, please see our websites at:

10.07.07 | The Starfish and the Spider

If you cut off a spider’s head, it dies; if you cut off a starfish’s leg it grows a new one, and that leg can grow into an entirely new starfish. Traditional top-down organizations are like spiders, but now starfish organizations are changing the face of business and the world.

What’s the hidden power behind the success of Wikipedia, craigslist, and Skype? What do eBay and General Electric have in common with the abolitionist and women’s rights movements? What fundamental choice put General Motors and Toyota on vastly different paths? After five years of ground-breaking research Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom have discovered some unexpected answers, gripping stories, and a tapestry of unlikely connections. The Starfish and the Spider argues that organizations fall into two categories: traditional “spiders,” which have a rigid hierarchy and top-down leadership, and revolutionary “starfish,” which rely on the power of peer relationships.

The Starfish and the Spider explores what happens when starfish take on spiders (such as the music industry vs. Napster, Kazaa, and the P2P services that followed). It reveals how established companies and institutions, from IBM to Intuit to the US government, are also learning how to incorporate starfish principles to achieve success. And it will teach you:

How the Apaches evaded the powerful Spanish army for 200 years
The power of a simple circle
The importance of catalysts, who have an uncanny ability to bring people together.
How the Internet has become a breeding ground for leaderless organizations
How Alcoholics Anonymous has reached millions of members with only a shared ideology and without a leader.

The Starfish and the Spider is the rare book that will change how you understand the world around you. You’ll never see things the same way again.
You can read more about it at

05.09.07 | The Story behind our Name and Logo

Tahoma is a Salishan word meaning “snow peak.” It was what the first peoples of the Northwest called Mt. Rainer before the white man got here. The reason we chose it is that we want to identify with the Northwest in general (the mountain dominates every panorama) and reflect our awareness of and sensitivities for the indigenous people and their holistic stewardship of the land. It is our way of honoring the place before modern culture intruded.

04.20.07 | Life Relationship

Life and business are integrally related. What we really believe will come out in how we do business. Separating life into distinct categories damages, sometimes irreparably, any attempt to live a whole and satisfying life, a coherent life with meaning and purpose. The damage to life is most obvious when the separation is applied to daily work. We look at business in the context of surrounding relationships.

Tahoma consulting will bring to the client relationship the experience of holding these perspectives in tension while navigating an ever-changing global landscape. We will ask questions that will bring these to light, and then designing a process to move toward the integration of these values.

Three Domains