THE HUMAN GREED PYRAMID: An Illustration of How Innovations Interrelate With Humans’ Consumption Patterns and Natural Inclinations, and How to Plot Innovation That Works on Humans

Attend the next ‘Human Greed Pyramid workshop – How To See Into The Future: Innovation, Success, Influence & 4IR

What if there was a framework to explain the success, innovation and effectiveness of almost everything? Be it in music, technology, comedy, medicine, entrepreneurship and other creations?

This is what I’ve indulged in for a long while now.

The Adjacent Possible Theory by Stuart A. Kauffman is great in illustrating how innovation forms and ascends.

I’ve plotted a framework that illustrates how innovation interrelates with human consumption, and how to plot innovation that will work on humans. I call it The Human Greed Pyramid.

First, let’s form a frame to understand Success, Effectiveness and Innovation – so to set the wheel of understanding what and how innovation works

Below, for the sake of understanding, I would like to paint a graphic picture for us to distinguish between success, effectiveness and innovation.

When innovation is successful, it means it has touched a point of effectiveness, i.e. a mark where the innovation collides with the elements that which it is supposed to drive and effect.


  • When a comedian tells a joke and his/her audience laughs, the joke is the innovation if it works. The audience laughing is the effectiveness of the joke (the innovation), i.e. the mark the comedian is aiming to hit.
  • When a soccer player kicks and scores a goal, the game and/or the kicking of the ball are the innovation, the ball hitting the net is the effectiveness.
  • When an entrepreneur creates a product, if it works in bring to bring beyond Break Even Point sales, it means it is effective, successful and innovative.

Therefore, innovation is that which works, i.e. is effective, and therefore successful.

N.B. I haven’t said anything about newness (novelty).

Where does newness (novelty) come when we talk of innovation?

Comedians tell their old jokes to crowds who know the joke and still laugh. We watch comedy specials we’ve seen many times and still laugh. The jokes are still effective and therefore successful and innovative – per the understanding that we’ve gathered above.

Also, when a comedian forms a new joke and the audience laughs, is it likewise innovation: the joke is effective and thus successful.

A new entrepreneur can make similar products – a replica – to another business. If they sell beyond BEP, they are an innovation, i.e. they work and they are effective and thus a success.

Innovation is that which works, i.e. effective and thus a success.

This is regardless of whether it is new or old. If it works, it is innovative because it is effective and successful.

This is how success, innovation and effectiveness interplay.

N.B. I know this definition of ‘innovative’ is contrary to our general understanding of ‘innovative’ – that an innovative thing has to have newness (novelty) in it. That is ok, but, please, for this post, to reach an understanding of what we are gathered here for today (can I get an amen), assume innovation as that which works and not necessarily just new.

Thusly, in this post, I will refer to innovation that has newness (novelty) in as ‘new innovation’ and innovation that is old (effective) as just ‘innovation.’

Humans are greedy: Pushing innovation forward

We are greedy human beings. We want to beat the mark always of what is already is innovated. We want to push forward effectiveness, i.e. pushing forward innovation and reaching ‘new innovation.’

Everyone wants to create novelties – be it in comedy (Comedians want new jokes, i.e. novel jokes), technology, storytelling, etc.

It has been so since the beginning of man’s time on earth. Or ‘Homo sapiens’ as evolutionary scientists call us.

We are a species that unlike our lookalike neighbours, the monkeys, and any other animals as far as we know – dogs to fish to birds and other wonders of the animal kind, can think of an object and built it and innovate it further. No animals other than humans have made a car.

Our cognition is special in that way – seemingly better than all animals and maybe even more dangerous.

Imagine what would happen if monkeys learned and remembered to use guns. They can – if they are about that – pursue killing us (WHY: Because we’ve been greedily taking the land we share with them and other animals and keeping it for our covetous materialism).

But, they won’t learn and pursue that. Because they are not like us – their cognition limits them to just eating bananas and not making a banana shake with a blender they’ve invented. They invent absolutely nothing those monkeys. All they do all day is eat what they didn’t plant.

Humans build. We created gunpowder, guns to nuclear bombs – and still continue to innovate more lethal and agile weapons. Our cognition is set up that way, i.e. it allows us to build weapons – and more dangerous weapons, cars – and faster cars, so on and indeed forth.

We keep pushing forward

We want to keep pushing innovation forward, i.e. cognitively advancing innovation into new innovation.

Can we trace points of innovation and new-innovation – i.e. points of effectiveness? Comes in the Adjacent Possible Theory

The Adjacent Possible theory by Stuart A. Kauffman is effective in explaining the points.

My Human Greed Pyramid helps us understand in a hierarchical sense the realm, factors, advantages and rules within which we live in and are bound by to innovate and produce new innovations: (a) Nature (including us humans), (b) Natural Human Inclinations, (c) Cultures, (d) Cognition, and (e) Innovation (the manmade).

I will explain The Human Greed Pyramid later.

The Adjacent Possible is a theory coined theoretical biologist Stuart A. Kauffman to explain and model evolution of planet earth.

It says that our planet evolved and evolves per the order allowed by the environment at that/the time. For a certain a novelty to form – e.g. sunflowers before they were sunflowers, it is dependent, restricted and possible because of existing factors of the present environment.

Here is my interpretation of evolution as understand it: For there to be the living organisms, human beings included, billions  of years ago, atoms broke up, then collided, some connected as they collided and some didn’t, and those that connected formed into molecules; and the molecules collided and connected to form living organisms. It played and plays like that until new novelties formed, e.g. sunflowers, human beings, etc.

Human beings (homo sapiens) are also a living organism(s) – a formation and combination of organisms. Nature pushed forward to have a novelty that is us – like comedians push to write and test new jokes that they hope will work.

So human beings are an innovation – and maybe not a new-innovation since we’ve been around for a while (apparently plus-minus 200 000 years) in a homo-sapiens form. But and certainly, our biology is evolving. It adjusts to the ever-changing environment.

The Adjacent Possible theory has been adopted by other people to explain even manmade innovations:

Illustration of the Adjacent Possible Theory: Explaining new-innovation:

Above: Adjacent Possible illustration

  • The shaded circles are actual developments in existence, i.e. innovation in existence, or we can say old innovation.
  • The empty circles represent possible new possible innovations, i.e. The Adjacent Possible. If they work (are effective), they will be new-innovation (novelties).
  • It means new innovations can only stem from current innovations. The new innovation is possible because of a combination or collusion of existing innovations – just like humans are a collision of molecules and formed organisms.
  • g. A new music genre (an Adjacent Possible) can only come from connecting actual music tools: If blues music is new, it takes from – or combines – existing elements, i.e. an evolved singing style and the guitar.
  • Even jokes are a combination and or collusion, reflection and or juxtaposition of more than one thing. It could easily be saying a phrase and adding a wink to it.
  • Example of a joke:- ‘Q: Why are men’s feet on average longer than women’s? A: So they can stand further from responsibility.’ That’s a funny joke I made up. It mixes both genders, adds feet, and reflects a societal perception that men run away from parental responsibly.

Let’s apply the Adjacent Possible to YouTube

  • YouTube started out in 2005.
  • B. YouTube had few competitors when it started and wasn’t a necessarily innovation besides maybe for its business model. We can say it fell under a new group of innovation that was online video streaming. It became the alpha in that kicked all the others’ asses – the natural selection of the strongest.
  • (If interested, I wrote about the advantages that YouTube had: Learn the Best Way of Pre-Determining Whether A Business Venture or Product Will Be Successful or Not
  • So we will use YouTube as an example as it has nuances to explain the Adjacent Possible.
  • Before the creation of YouTube, it was only a possibility, i.e. an Adjacent Possible.
  • Founded in 2005, and in 16 months it had 30 million streams per day.
  • By 2005, internet use had grown to about a billion users worldwide – YouTube’s 30 million streams per day were within this.
  • YouTube operates on the World Wide Web. WWW is a platform for YouTube.
  • World Wide Web (WWW) (internet for the masses) was created in 1991 and, then, no country had more than 1 Internet user per 100 people.
  • Had YouTube been founded in 1991, it would have failed due to low internet usage. YouTube had to wait for a feasible adjacent possible in 2006 to reach 30 million streams per day.

Now, moving on to the innovation of YouTube, i.e. how and why it became effective and a success mechanically: combination/collusion of two properties

  • Earlier I mentioned that innovation mixes two or more things.
  • YouTube combines two things: video and the internet. They both have millions of users, even at that time.
  • YouTube receives success by mixing two demographics with mass audiences, i.e. internet + video (by 2005 video had millions of users – It gained millions of users through evolving from television, cameras, cassettes, DVD, and, to hard disks).
  • The fusing of video and internet turns video into an agile tool, i.e. availing video uploads and stream virtually, free, to anyone in the world with access to the internet.
  • A new innovation has a pattern of agility.
  • I call it STACKING FOR AGILITY, i.e. fusing two or more things, and either one has a sizeable following or usage. Otherwise, it fails, i.e. like YouTube would have failed had it came out in 1991 (in 1991 and no country had more than 1 Internet user per 100 people) because there weren’t a feasible number of people to have 30 million streams per day.
  • From this, we denote that new innovation has to sit on a platform, or at be derived from a particle with feasible users.  The other combination can be any size. Or else it fails. Steven Johnson (author of ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’) calls it an ‘ahead of its time’ product. I guess the WWW was ahead of its time in 1991 – but it gained traction. WWW is a platform. Platforms take time to gain mass users.

THE HUMAN GREED PYRAMID: An illustration of how innovation interrelates with humans’ consumption patterns, natural inclinations, their cognition and their culture, and how to plot innovation that will work on humans

  • Human beings (PEOPLE) are part of NATURE (first layer in the pyramid).
  • NATURAL INCLINATIONS is where consumption patterns shape. It is the evolutional biology and psychology of the choices we make.
  • Some of the INCLINATIONS: Lust, love, anger, joy happiness, need for community, etc.
  • How does nature relate with human/natural inclinations? Hunger is satisfied by eating food that nature
  • People’s natural inclinations push them to form cultures, e.g. tribes. Even animals organise themselves into what we choose to call packs, herds, or troops.
  • People use their cognition to innovate, i.e. create manmade Both hard (a chair) and soft innovations (software, marriage, jokes).
  • Innovation is that which works, is effective and thus successful. If it does not work, it is not innovative.
  • Successful innovations mirror people’s inclinations hence they are consumed massively. They feed inclinations. Or else they fail.
  • e. there is a psychobiological link between humanly inclinations and innovation.
  • People created and craze and crave Facebook, Mc Donald’s, YouTube, iPhone – to the next phone better than an iPhone, religion, marriage, a beautiful/sexy partner – and another bae on the side, porn, etc.
  • This is because these things satisfy people’s inclinations.
  • Inclinations manifest themselves in these innovations. E.g., human beings have evolved to have a sweet tooth – i.e. to love sugary foods. The juicier the fruit, the calorie filled it is, and that is how our ancestors adapted to consuming sugar – that piece of juicy steak, passing this to us genetically and epigenetically. Then commerce made processed sugar to capitalize further. Hence we love Coke and ice cream.
  • The innovations become part of cultures depending on the extent of their success and spread – new innovations can topple or divide old innovations.
  • Humans are greedy beings. We want more and more innovations. We push to beat current innovations. It is a biological inclination.
  • But also, there are those who want nostalgia.

Let’s plot the Human Greed Pyramid and the Adjacent Possible and apply it to YouTube


  • PEOPLE crave (NATURAL INCLINATIONS) ENTERTAINMENT. We’ve evolved to crave it.
  •  They then create ENTERTAINMENT MEMORABILIA through their COGNITION.
  • Our cognition can create objects that feed our inclinations.
  • People created VIDEO (with COGNITION) to store moments (MEMORABILIA)
  •  They created (with COGNITION) the INTERNET.
  • Innovation is achieved through achieving agility: Creating faster and faster and smarter cars.
  • It follows a route of mixing more than one property, or a thing – anything.
  • Combining VIDEO and INTERNET is INNOVATION as it creates AGILITY. Video and internet form an agile virtual tool. This is STACKING FOR AGILITY.
  • VIDEO and INTERNET are huge demographics with millions of users individually. YouTube combines these demographics hence it is successful.
  • Other FACTORS and CONDITIONS play a role, such as business model dynamics and location Specific Adjacent Possibilities. For such dynamics, see this link

Innovation is competitive. Everyone, inadvertently – or not, is using a Greed Pyramid to have a following that hopefully produces results favourable to them, i.e. religious institutions, entrepreneurs, soccer teams, politicians, mining companies, etc. The result could be money, political power, creative superiority, technology, etc.

Newness and the Human Greed Pyramid?

It can be argued whether YouTube was a new innovation or not. Nevertheless, as I said, it was maybe new in that it fell into the category of the new innovation that was online video streaming. Or even a new innovation in terms of its business model, marketing and location specific advantages (located in the USA). Businesses, on top of novelty, compete on business models.

Therefore, your cause or venture can be an old innovation but new and powerful in how it is marketed or modelled, or have an advantage because of its location. This post here goes through this thoroughly:

How can you use the Human Greed Pyramid?

  • You can use it to brainstorm or test a cause, product, idea or campaign – be it entrepreneurial or otherwise.
  • Check how an idea or product touches or mirrors, and devise how further to twist it to mirror/suit the inclinations.
  • Test the innovation of an idea and if it will affect culture – i.e. dominate and/or become part of culture. Are you stacking for agility? Does one of the properties or combinations stacked for agility have massive users already? Successful innovations become a culture as has video and later YouTube. With the help of this pyramid, you can think it through.
  • Is it an old innovation or a new one? I.e. is it effective? Is it stacking for agility?
  • Of course, all this is cognition at play. What you think (innovate), i.e. your cognitive Adjacent Possible, is because stacking up of your knowledge, experience and network.
  • Where are you getting the material (nature) for your product? Is it made already?
  • Happy thinking.
  • Understanding the Fourth Industrial Revolution

    The Fourth Industrial Revolution?

    The ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (abbreviated 4IR or also called Digital Revolution) is nothing but innovation moving forward in the manners detailed throughout this post. It applies to the all defined categories of the Industrial Revolutions: 1st Industrial Revolution (mechanisation, water power, steam power), 2nd Industrial Revolution (mass production, assembly line) and 3rd Industrial Revolution (computers and automation).

    It is the stacking of two or more properties to produce more agile tools or products. Like YouTube mixed video and the internet to produce virtual video, the 4th Industrial Revolution carries that forward, i.e. fusing today’s technology or innovations to produce other new innovations.

    Briefly let’s look at the standard definition of the 4IR (by Wikipedia): The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres, collectively referred to as cyber-physical systems. It is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), decentralized consensus, fifth-generation wireless technologies (5G), additive manufacturing/3D printing and fully autonomous vehicles.

    In a simple sense, it means there have been breakthroughs in different fields: e.g. biotechnology, 3D printing and nanotechnology.

    As we’ve established that ‘new innovation’ is mixing or stacking up innovations to get agility. New innovations have to more effective than previous ones to be marked ‘novel’ and agile.

    Before I give real examples, the following absurd illustration will serve as a great lead to understanding 4ID: Imagine a 3D printer than can produce X number of nano (very small – one billionth of a metre) biotechnology particles or equipment that can go into human bodies to kill off cancer cells – because human hands are too big to handle nano particles. N.B. This is very absurd and maybe not possible within this (Fourth) Industrial Revolution.

    Real time examples (also their novelty in stacking up current innovations):

    Smart refrigerators

    Source – Wikipedia: The LG Internet Digital DIOS. Provides information, such as inside temperature, the freshness of stored foods, nutrition information and recipes. Other features are a webcam that is used as a scanner and tracks what is inside the refrigerator. In addition, the electricity consumption is half the level of conventional refrigerators..

    Virtual assistants

    Source – Wikipedia:Amazon Alexa. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information, such as news. Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system.

    Blockchain currencies

    Source – Wikipedia: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a form of electronic cash. It is a decentralized digital currency without a central bank or single administrator that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries. Transactions are verified by network nodes through cryptography and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain.

    Genetic testing

    With just your saliva, predictions can be made of your vulnerabilities to inherited deceases. If it can be predicted it can be curbed.

    Source – Wikipedia: 23andMe offers DNA ancestry testing and other health diagnoses.

    In closing (of Fourth Industrial Revolution)

    All these innovations are a combination of existing innovations. Some new and some old. The whole point it to achieve novel products that add agility, new uses, effectiveness and efficiency.

    This is what the (Fourth or any upcoming) Industrial Revolution is.

    – – – –

    Attend the next ‘Human Greed Pyramid workshop – How To See Into The Future: Innovation, Success, Influence & 4IR

    Tiisetso Maloma in this regard is acting as principal at PsychHero, a consulting agency in Business Enterprise Development, Innovation Analysis, and Consumer Behaviour Influence from an evolutionary, Neuro-Linguistic, individual and social lens.