The collaborative economy and the access over ownership lifestyle

by Mara Tolja


As a Community Manager that appreciated the creation of #CMAD way back when Community Manager was still a role not many had heard of and we could actually list people with the role in a single blogpost, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to catch up with Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies and creator of #CMAD, at the AirNZ Inspiring Voices event in Auckland, New Zealand.


Four Phases of Digital Era

The event kicked off with Jeremiah Owyang introducing the four phases of digital eras, before delving deeper into our current age, the Collaborative Economy Age.

The Collaborative Economy is a new lifestyle of access over ownership.

“In the Collaborative Economy, people often access what they need from each other, rather than buying products for ownership. By gaining access to products and services through on-demand business models, customers reduce the need for ownership.” — Jeremiah Owyang

Collaborative Economy for Companies

What does the Collaborative Economy era mean for companies?

For traditional companies, this is accepting that new business models and product development are winning over their customers. Customers want convenience and availability and they are willing to trade their privacy and data for the experience.

For startups, this is embracing new business models. Products don’t have to be sold, they can be rented or shared in a marketplace. Customers can be directly involved in the idea generation process, they can cocreate and even, via crowdfunding, become equity partners.

“Crowdfunding is the highest form of loyalty” — Jeremiah Owyang

This does not mean that traditional companies cannot keep up, nor that newer companies can rest and stop innovating.

Examples of larger companies entering the collaborative economy were @BMW and Ford Motor Company offering car sharing services.

“Disrupt yourself before someone else does” — Jeremiah Owyang

These companies often held their innovation teams seperate from the product group, so as not to take the focus off their “bread and butter” and to not have existing processes and structure interupt or stifle new ideas. There is an increase in the number of companies co-innovating and forming partnerships so as to remain competitive. But the culture of failure was still not encouraged, instead when a large company failed “it just goes quiet”.

Newer companies, such as Facebook embraced new ways of thinking and in particular failure. Keep breaking and move on.

Companies such as Uber and @Airbnb were continously looking at new ways to serve their customers. Uber, for example see themselves not as a taxi company, but a mobility company with mobility as a utility. The company employes data analysts and technologists to look at how to utilise their network and data in as many ways as possible to serve their clients. Branching out into food delivery and even kittens.

Collaborative Economy for Cities

What does the Collaborative Economy era mean for cities?

With less emphasis on ownership and digital technology enabling a more location agnostic lifestyle, how will our cities change? Aside from coastal property prices rising and an increase in coworking spaces at beaches, cities themselves would see a change in the way they operate.

The reduction in ownership of cars and the reduced need to house these cars in already congested spaces, could open up many opportunites and solve real issues that we face in most modern cities today. But on the flip side, if things such as transportation become privatised and accessed only in trusted networks, is there a danger that we exclude sectors of people and end up with those that have access and those that do not?

Collaborative Economy for people

What does the Collaborative Economy era mean for people?

Jeremiah acknowledged that there needed to be more thought put into what impact these changes had on people. The technology companies should not only hire technologists, but consider hiring humanists too.

“The humanist side to technology needs to be addressed.” — Jeremiah Owyang

Speaking about what the future may hold for his young daughter, Jeremiah admitted that it was not all optimistic. People missing out on real life social experiences due to being on their devices all the time and possibly losing life purpose as jobs being less relevant to a persons standing.

Most people today will have 5 jobs in their career and when Jeremiah’s daughter hits the the workforce, it may be normal to have 5 jobs all the same time. What impacts does this have to the way we live, the way we work, the way we interact?

Final Takeaways

Five final takeaways:

  1. Common digital technologies empower people to get what they need from each other.
  2. The crowd is becoming like a company — bypassing inefficient corporations.
  3. Like the internet and social, corporations must use these same digital strategies to regain relevancy.
  4. This requires business model change: product > services> marketplace > repeat.
  5. Continue to be digitally Resilient: connected, empowering others, built to last, and profitable.