It is More Like Commerce


Shutterstock_SharingEconomy
Digital technologies have given us the opportunity to get the term commerce back into every day language. And that is without the “e” in front of it.

As we get back to concepts like trade, and combining assets creatively to deliver on promises, we should become more comfortable with a bigger idea of value — one that includes, yet does not equal just cash.

Therefore the right question to ask is: what kind of value are the re-emerging commercial activities grouped under the umbrella term “sharing economy” creating? And how is this trade meaningful for the future of work?

We are used to the vocabulary of jobs and economy, the current frame of reference in measurement and valuation. However, that takes into consideration just cash value and likes rolled up (big) numbers. The Atlantic Cities calls it The Invisible Work. The argument for counting cash value:

Exactly what is this entire industry doing to the economy? When people
share and rent things instead of buying them, does that mean we need to
produce less stuff, requiring fewer jobs, ultimately creating less
economic growth?

The system is rigged that way at the moment, including how it handles risk — managing it instead of making it to create value. 

I remember a similar puzzlement over the rising of a free agent group that was not even getting counted — see Dan Pink's Free Agent Nation, a book that helped reframe the conversation about work life.

Similarly, it would be helpful to reframe the traditional idea of work in discussions about commercial enterprise facilitated among individuals now referred to with the catch-all term sharing economy.

Just as free agents were becoming a large and growing share of the work force due to contributing economic reasons as well as more personal and psychological
reasons for leaving the corporate world — like the
desire for freedom, authenticity, accountability, and a more flexible concept
of success — so are people getting crative about value exchange for similar reasons today.

In Free Agent Nation Pink illustrates the unique perspective and problem solving of free agents, including solutions for issues like security,
work relationships, career progressions, and work-life balance.

For example, he describes how peer networks create the
support mechanism that used to be provided in large
corporations. While that kind of support is going by the wayside in corporations, it is growing stronger in peer networks, like within the community participating to the World Domination Summit. [I will be at #WDS2014]

New trade groups, the makers movement#, even the startup community were evolved from the ideals of free agents. See if this sounds familiar [page 11, hard cover]:

They are becoming self-employed knowledge workers, proprietors of home-based businesses, temps and permatemps, freelancers and e-lancers, independent contractors and independent professionals, micropreneurs and infopreneurs, part-time consultants, interim executives, on-call troubleshooters, and full-time soloists.

And many others who hold what are still nominally "jobs" are doing so in terms closer in spirit to free agency that to traditional employment. They're telecommuting. They're hopping from company to company.

They're forming ventures that are legally their employers, but whose prospects depend largely on their own individual efforts. And they are swapping, or being forced to swap, steady salaries for pay-for-performance agreements that compensate them in commissions, stock options, and bonuses.

Beneath the radar of the political and media establishment, tens of millions of Americans have become free agents.

We have economic reasons galore today. One only need to take a look at the headlines: Saleforce has good quarter, buys company, lays off workers# (surely a more appropriate term than synergies exists!); Target layoffs impact corporate employees#; GE layoffs help increase profits# (cutting your way to growth); BlackBerry announces major layoffs# (as a consequence of poor product/market alignment); Merck laying off thousands amid R&D revamp# (hey, it's a good thing).

[PS: it is tempting to see some of the numbers as small, unless you are one of them.]

Back to the invisible economy — in algorithmic thinking terms, it is more like commerce. We just need to reframe how we assign value. How do you go about calculating the lifetime value in the sharing economy?

The rise of individual trade is not mutually exclusive with the need to help the corporation keep better promises. In fact, it is a symptom and not a cause.

 

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Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover
the value of promises and its effects on relationships and
culture
. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.


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