What is really at the heart of a shared economy? I find myself reflecting on this quite a bit after my friend, an advocate of the shared economy movement stayed with me for four days. For me, the visit fell short of being a shared experience and exchange for one clear reason; as shared economy interest becomes shared economy lifestyle clear distinctions need to be communicated in order for both parties to have a favorable experience.
Here is a brief summary of what shared economy is although it is hard to find a true consensus on the terms used to describe the space.
Sharing economy, also known as collaborative consumption, is a trending business concept where individuals are able to rent or borrow goods rather than buy and own them. At the start of the movement were companies like airbnb where two types of consumers are able to enter into an agreement for lodging leveraging one of the consumer's personal space or home. Now people are trading all kind of service via mobile and web applications. The space has broadened with discussions of how companies can work together to exchanges services and/or to give back non-profit and special interest projects. Consumers have also been brought into the mix of co-creation as they too can be involved with how a product, service and company is created by tapping into shared economy platforms. Other terms associated with shared economy are collaborative economy, peer economy, crowdsourcing, maker movement and co-innovation. I add my own when I talk about social workflow which is the shared creation of culture between employees and employers within an organization. Rachel Botsman, one of the founders of the movement will be the first to admit the use of terms to describe the space has gotten a little out of hand. She does a great job of expanding on this in article called "The Sharing Economy Lacks a Shared Definition."
My take on shared economy is it is not a new concept. Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you they have been participating in shared economies for years. At the heart of a good shared economy is a healthy relationship with care and consideration for all parties involved to be able to thrive. Shared economies are systems of interdependence. This does not change based on size or scope of participants. It is the same between two people as it is between two global companies. The only thing new about shared economies of today is the technology in between the relationships. Case in point: the crowdsourcing model. If I had a dollar for every person who has talked to me about their new crowdsourcing campaign and/or technical model I would be a very rich woman. Yet the limited few that are able to do well in this seductive field of dreams all have one thing in common. They did not rely on the model alone they invested a considerable amount of time and energy cultivating strong relationships. Most technical offerings are reliant on mass human users to be successful. It does not matter how spectacular the technical aspects are if you don't know the values and beliefs of the people you are trying to motivate to use your product, service, website and/or mobile application.
As we enter into any model of shared economy, success is dependent on making clear distinctions between what is understood and what participants agree to. I am going to use my recent house guest experience to illustrate this point.
When two or more people are living together they are sharing elements of space, energy and time.
There are several components to each of these elements:
Space: Aesthetics, Sound, Smell, Cleanliness
Energy - Spiritual, Emotional, Physical, Intellectual, Nutritional, Financial
Time - Quality of Time, Quantity of Time, Quite Time, Rate of change and movement
Much like the five love languages of: acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, and physical touch; we put different values on the components in this SET based on who we are and our experiences. When we make exchanges based on our values without an awareness of the other person's value, the rate of exchange is not sustainable.
Sidebar: If you don't know your love language, I encourage you to take the love language challenge. The value in this is received when you use results to have conversations with loved ones that are focused on how you can grow and support each other.
The only way to create favorable shared economy is by knowing the value participants put on SET components first. Once these values are known, agreements should be created based on those values.
In the case of my house-guest, the things that I valued the most were compromised. Shared Economy becomes "Take Economy" rather quickly if values are not aligned. I did not thrive in my own environment during the company of my house-guest. Whether or not we will be able to participate in a shared economy of the future will require a relational check-in and a frank conversation about our personal values. From that conversation we will need to create an agreement between us based on what we value and a commitment to making sure we both thrive when we are in the company of the other. In the case of shared economy as a valid business concept of the future, the requirements for success are the same.