Quoting from the German-only website, "was ist das" Heatball®?
Heatball®, my friends, is a tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit. Well, at least a testament to the creative smart-a#$ in all of us that bucks at one too many rules imposed upon our lives.
Heatball®, is, well.... Reuturs puts it best. "A German entrepreneur is bypassing a European Union ban on light bulbs of more than 60 watts by marketing his own brand [of light bulbs] as mini heaters."
That's right: the plane-jane light bulbs that we all grew up with (as opposed to the fancy, squiggly ones that throw off a sickly spectrum of light) are now being sold as "heaters" as a way to get around a bureaucratic imposition. "Siegfried Rotthaeuser and his brother-in-law have come up with a legal way of importing and distributing 75 and 100 watt light bulbs -- by producing them in China, importing them as 'small heating devices' and selling them as 'heatballs.'"
Let's think about this. Here you have two, entrepreneurial engineers: this is the type of folk that most societies want as citizens. And what do the incentives of that society urge them to do? It's urged them to use their problem-solving skills on finding loopholes in red tape; it's impelled them to use their creative drive to market a useful product that already exists but is unavailable; it's made profitable and special what would normally be a cheap commodity.
Is that how entrepreneurs create real value is society?
One of the underlying assumptions of MBM is that we want to harness the natural tendencies of individuals. For example, people tend to be creative, entrepreneurial and self interested. If the way to get ahead in a society is to creatively take advantage of loopholes, entrepreneurially get around laws, and self interestedly attempt to earn a profit for your family, most people will follow those incentives.
Similarly, we assume that employees in an organization rationally follow incentives. If the incentives are set up for them to act entrepreneurially, they tend to do so. If they're set up--usually inadvertently--to encourage being quiet even when you see a problem (if your boss yells at you for pointing out mistakes), to encourage staying alive vs. being productive (if automatic pay raises are guaranteed each year), or to encourage going along with the status quo (if bureaucratic policies gum up the works) then employees tend to follow those incentives.
The light-bulb-turned-heater entrepreneurs, according to Reuters, describe the mini heaters as "resistance against legislation which is implemented without recourse to democratic and parliamentary processes."
How do the incentives of your government, of your work group, of your projects compel individuals to act? This funny article has made me re-think what incentives I set up day to day--are they beneficial or perverse?
ht: Willie Will
p.s. If you're concerned about the environmental issues at play, again from Reuters: "Rotthaeuser has pledged to donate 30 cents of every heatball sold to saving the rainforest, which the 49-year-old sees as a better way of protecting the environment than investing in energy-saving lamps, which contain toxic mercury."