After recently updating some visuals to my Flickr collection, it occurred to me how much of my precious time has gone into producing these artifacts only to "give" them away (specifically for use of blogging and presentations—I ask for attribution, a link is always appreciated). I've had hundreds of people come up to me and tell me they've used my content to further their business more or less. People have benefited off me. But I've benefited off them as well, as I've enjoyed stimulating career opportunities and even received some help when we needed it.
This is a value exchange—a sort of currency that fuels an ever increasing networked economy.
It's not a perfect system by any means. I often wonder if I did the right thing by sharing so much or if I "monitized" my efforts properly. I don't know the answer to this (yet). But here's something I do know. The concept of providing value to your customers or any constituent is a tough pill to swallow. It takes a lot of effort and there's no short cut. So for a company that wants to convert consumers to customer advocates, you have to give. For the Fortune 500 corporation that wants their employees to collaborate more effectively, or perhaps retain their best talent—you have to give. For the brand that wants to leverage a social system to better market their products and services—you have to give.
And giving is hard. But you have to be prepared to do it if you want to thrive in the network economy. Think about it.