"The unedited musings of a
Why FREE ain't FREE!
When it's not transparent, it can be a dangerous meme!
Transparency is one of the competencies of self-management in the EI
Theory of Performance. If you haven't seen that theory or learned
about it, we have a free series of eCoaching messages at
all you need to do is drop over and sign up to receive the EI Theory
of Performance information. If you want to learn about memes, I
So, what about this FREE ain't FREE thing?
I'm going to use two examples that you are aware of in coaching, as
I want to be clear about what I'm discussing here. Actually, what
Iím discussing at one layer is the difference in our business model,
so let me be upfront about those issues.
All business, like nature competes.
Whether we like it or not, all organisms compete for resources. Why?
I'm not sure except that it seems that the only organisms in nature
are those that--over time--have adapted to their environment.
Without going into a lot of discussion here, I wanted to just set
the premise, that competition is perfectly naturally. There may be
another discussion about how do we change what is natural to what is
more compassionate, but I'll leave that for now.
In competition in business and in life, the spoils go to the
victor/adapter. Again, I'm not sure why, but it is natural, just
look around at the hierarchy of predation...again another discussion
for later--something I would like to change without making everyone
In discussing the FREE ain't FREE model, what marketers have learned
to do over time is to use psychology against you...in other words at
different levels of being, we can see predators become very much
more sophisticated, especially among the human species. And believe
me, "you ain't see nuthin' yet" as the saying goes in American
I said I would use two examples to make my point, so here goes.
The two business models are 1 Coach PLUS and Coachville. Both offer
information, community, learning and growth, no question about it,
yet in order to help you understand why you should promote 1 Coach
PLUS as well as Coachville takes some understanding about business
There are several unique things about the FREE versus PAID model,
let me list a few of them as I think through this out loud with you.
Let's take the PAID subscription model:
1. Paid models are transparent, in other words you pay for something
upfront and receive what you paid for or your money is returned.
2. Paid models involve payment at time of service.
3. Paid models allow for predictability of income and expense.
4. Paid models don't need to use "bait and fish" psychology to
5. Paid models are cheaper to users over time.
6. Paid models require that quality be high, otherwise people don't
Let's look at the FREE subscription model:
1. FREE models get you involved through a FREE offering, much like
2. FREE models use a "bait and fish" psychology to lure you into
paying money for things.
3. FREE models build wealth through size, numbers and frequency.
4. FREE models, when used to further an agenda, can be layered with
vagueness about their mission.
5. FREE models depend on continuous offerings of products and
services for sale to support their mission.
6. FREE models can't monitor quality because almost anyone (using
the Internet) will take something for free.
Now, let me be clear 1 Coach PLUS is a PAID model and Coachville is
a FREE model.
Both contain information about coaching, yet there are several
1. 1 Coach PLUS has no hidden agenda, it is a mode of delivering
content and therefore its mission is to deliver content to people
who are willing to pay for that content.
2. Coachville has an agenda, I won't call it hidden as it is in the
cards, however most people don't see it when they come into the
community and thus become a "member" by accepting FREE.
3. The Coachville membership is used to further an agenda...what is
that agenda? To become the biggest, most powerful force in coaching,
to lead the coaching world in terms of philosophy and to influence
the world to the "coachville way." Does this sound like anything
else you might have read...? Hint. The HP Way, the IBM way, etc. In
other words, Coachville is nothing more than an enterprise with a
mission, one that is not transparent to its members. In business, we
often see leadership engaged in what we call "hidden agendas." This
comes often as a result of an organization being influenced by the
philosophy of the leader as discussed in primal leadership.
4. When an organization under one guise is led by a single
philosophy (especially when it is disguised as being from many),
what you have is a powerful memetic generator. [A memetic generator
is something that makes sense to most people who are unsuspecting in
true terms of its nature (or its short and long term effects),
therefore allow the meme being perpetrated to enter into the
cognitive, emotional and motivational system without filtering
through the "danger Will Robinson" amygdala. In some cases, it
becomes infective as the meme is perpetrated to others who do not
understand the hidden agenda, nor are in fear of it, again because
it makes sense...that is the leverage of most powerful meme!]
Now, this is not an article about why Coachville is a demon and 1
Coach PLUS is the good guy because every good intention is in play
in both cases. However, the world is a mess with good intentions.
Now, for those of you who wonder how can any system not be a meme
generator? It can't. Every system, person, business and network is a
meme generator. The only "system" that is not a meme generator is
the implicate order and it has no agenda, it merely "dances in the
field." It takes a human, who has the "power of agenda" to engage
the meme generator, much like a "virus" is NOT alive, it requires
the living organism in order to be "living" and being capable of
being spread. I'll talk more about this another time, but suffice it
to say, we are all guilty of this one, no finger pointing here, just
information about what is and what isn't.
What makes the FREE and PAID model meme generators different?
1. PAID generates the meme on the front-end and therefore sustains
itself as a meme generator to the person buying the memes and is
only able to perpetuate itself through results.
2. FREE generates the memes over time and sustains itself (through
competition for attention) through infecting people with deeper and
deeper levels of involvement over time--selling them stuff--the more
FREE, the more opportunity for sales.
Both are meme generators, however, let's go back to examples of
Coachville and 1 Coach PLUS.
Let's look at a deeper level of meme generation:
Coachville and 1 Coach PLUS are full of alternative points of view
in coaching although each one has one leader.
1 Coach PLUS has no agenda other than as a content delivery model
for professionals and to create a relationship with the community
for increased levels of involvement over time, however once you pay
you get things for FREE. I don't plan to use your membership as a
way to leverage any hidden agenda. All agendas I have such as
Generati are transparent for those of you who become involved at
deeper levels. If you don't know what generati is, visit
Coachville has an agenda to become the biggest, most powerful, most
influential community in the coaching world. They intend on industry
oversight, accreditation, soon probably licensing, politics and of
course representation of their membership--basically a FREE
"unfiltered" unqualified FREE membership, which can be represented
as "largest, biggest, greatest" because of the size and numbers.
This is the SAME model we see as ICF, which basically started the
same way in the same vein and evolved to become a so-called industry
standard. This is all very clear in business strategy as "first
mover," "size makes might" and what is not legitimate can be
legitimized over time through membership growth because of the
cloudt. Many great people and business systems have been formed in
exactly this manner...in fact if we go back to meme generation, we
can identify that many of the world's religions, nation-states and
societies use the same factor...membership as a way to yield power
If we take this FREE model a part we see many things that are
Meme generation is no sin. <tongue in cheek here, let's not get too
serious here> However, when meme generation is NOT transparent, we
open up a can of worms, ESPECIALLY when it is a "good" meme! Good
memes are those memes that are determined as "okay, beneficial,
non-destructive, have utility beyond themselves," etc. etc.
Remember, what I said, a "good" meme bypasses the natural filtering
system that says "Danger, Will Robinson" and is infective...which
means it is a good meme and very powerful to unsuspecting people.
I'm not going to belabor this addition any further with all of this
because quite frankly, the meaning of life is wrapped up in this
discussion of memes and therefore it could take all day to
communicate the clear differentiation between the two business
models and business models in general.
In fact, I'll close, because if you're aware, you get my points.
In summary, here's what I'm saying.
1. All business models rely on natural laws.
2. All business models rely on enrolling customers through
3. All business models use a combination of desire, need and action
to create affinity.
4. Most(all?) business models rely on the lack of transparency to
entice customers to purchase.
5. FREE business models rely on the "back-end" to sustain them.
6. PAID business subscription models rely on the front-end, if true
subscription based and not "bait and fish."
7. FREE is a good, often extremely efficient meme generator.
8. FREE, with an agenda can be dangerous if the agenda is not
9. Size and numbers is often a way to legitimize anything through
10. Membership can often legitimize something which is otherwise not
legitimate without size and numbers.
FREE ain't always FREE and what comes of "your" vote through
membership is not always what you think/feel it would mean when you
signed into FREE. Therefore, unless you "opt-out" you're considered
as ethically supporting whatever the leadership does WITH your vote!
Consider the effects of your choices beyond only the individual
benefits...consider the collective.
Generally speaking, the inability to consider all dimensions of
choices...creates as many problems as it solves.
Subscribe to my memes at
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Mike Jay, August 2002