It's not easy to determine which trends and movements are worth paying attention to. We live in an age where technology seems to move at pace that's impossible to keep up with. I spend a lot of my time dealing with global brands who are looking to scale and integrate social as part of their core marketing—and in some cases business strategies, and I can tell you first hand that these organizations have their work cut out for them as we are now in the trenches of operationalizing the disruptions caused by digital's latest iteration.
When my friend Jeremiah Owyang first briefed me on what he was doing around what he likes to call "The Collaborative Economy" (some call it the share economy), I was pressed to see the immediate impact on my day to day responsibilities as I work with these organizations. Gradually, I began to see the importance of the movement. I'm sure many of you reading this now use Uber to get around your area or when you travel—it's a new-ish model which relies partially on individuals and their personal vehicles which become part of the Uber system (and it's a fantastic customer experience) and of course there's the Air BnB's of the world and anything with the word "crowd" in it.
But the lights really went on for me when I watched this video of a boy born without a hand and his father who was determined to help him. The video which I highly recommend watching calls out a few specific factors which are signature attributes of the collaborative economy. Individuals who have never met in real life (makers), collaborating over the Web to create a simple but effective prosthetic which can grasp items—a father who finds them and then obtains the directions (for free) and buys a 3D printer to "print" the pieces which he then assembles.
This example hits me on two levels. As a father, I can relate to searching for and finding an unconventional solution to help his kid out. And from a business perspective, I can't help but marvel at how disruptive this is. The solution detailed above cost but a fraction of what a traditional prosthetic would have and it allows the family to "print" upgraded designs as they are made available. This is good news for dads and sons (and anyone in a similar situation) and perhaps less good news for companies who make very expensive prosthetics. This is one of the many stories that signal the emergence of the collaborative economy.
Jeremiah Owyang is announcing the official launch of his new venture "Crowd Companies" at LeWeb in Paris. I'd encourage keeping a close eye on what he's covering and following related developments like the one in this story. When you work for a large organization that's been very successful for a long time, it's natural to feel like you only have to worry about your direct competitors. But the Collaborative Economy competes in a different way, inventing entirely new models and disrupting rather than competing directly. It's worth paying attention to both as a consumer and business leader.