Over the last three years I have been an avid user of bike and, more recently, car sharing schemes. In the same period, the number of other sharing schemes has seen a phenomenal growth: in what is called the Sharing Economy, people can share not only vehicles or other objects such as DIY tools, but also find accommodation or a place to have dinner, learn a new skill or access services. Anyone who has an asset or a talent can offer it online and find takers. When you consider that assets such as cars or DIY tools spend most of their lives idle, the Sharing Economy enables a smarter and more sustainable mode of consumption also referred to as Collaborative Consumption.
Coupled with a an online reservation system that provides reliable data about the quality of the product or service to be shared and the trustworthiness of both parties, the Sharing Economy has a transformational potential equivalent to that of the industrial revolution in the 19th century or the avent of mass consumption in the 20th. In the 21st century, Lynda Gratton envisages three major shifts in the way people work and enjoy the fruits of their labour:
- From Generalist (Jack of all trades) to Master (of a specific trade)
- From Competing Isolated Individuals to Innovative Connected Crowd
- From High Standards of Living to High Quality of Life.
The Sharing Economy enables those three shifts. It is because I am mastering a particular talent (eg a good driver or a good cook) that I can offer to share it (and the assets that go with it). I find takers because I am part of a Connected Crowd, which by virtue of the talent sharing becomes more innovative than each individual could ever be. And since I can now enjoy usership without the need for ownership, I increase my quality of life (eg go from A to B or enjoy a good dinner) without necessarily having to raise first my standards of living (to buy a car or go to the restaurant).
At the macro level, the consequences of this revolution in the making are difficult to fathom: what will be the impact on the manufacturing sector in particular and the growth of the economy in general? What will be the impact on public finances of something which is essentially a sharing at cost, hence cannot be taxed? How will this transform society? Will it recreate a village spirit in anonymous mega cities?
At the individual level though, it is cheap and easy to try: it only takes a few clicks and literally a few dollars or equivalent. So why not give it a go?
Welcome to the sharing economy.
Yann Cramer is an innovation learner, practitioner, sharer, teacher. He’s lived in France, Belgium and the UK, he’s travelled six continents to create development opportunities with customers or suppliers, and run workshops on R&D and Marketing. He writes on www.innovToday.com and on twitter @innovToday.