Archive for January, 2014

Sharing Is Not New


Sharing is not new, we’ve been doing it since we assembled into primitive tribes.

A few months ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to an insurance company in Iowa. They were intrigued by my focus on the Collaborative Economy (sharing economy, maker movement, co-innovation). We had a lively conversation, and they shared with me, “Jeremiah, we love what you’re doing, but it’s not that new! In the Midwest we’ve been sharing for hundreds of years. People share their farms, their land, their time, their crops, and their equipment. You see, it’s just called being a good neighbor.”

They made an excellent point. Sharing isn’t new. It’s the earliest form of behavior necessary likely born out of safety and prosperity of the individual. The axiom is true that “No man is an island.” We may be able to survive for a short while alone, but we cannot prosper without the community available in families, tribes, towns and cities and other groups. Sharing enables us to minimize the individual risk while allowing the community to yield greater benefits than those available to an isolated few. So, what’s different now? Aha! Excellent question!

Technology has enabled sharing to happen at greater scale and speed than ever before.  (I’m paraphrasing my friend Deb Schultz). 

“How is that?” you may ask. Location-based sensors, for example, help us to identify and track idle resources. Some call this “the internet of things.” Mobile devices and location-enabled apps help us to find and identify where those resources may be. I’m talking about iPhones and Androids. Mobile payment systems enable us to leave our wallets in our back pocket as become accustomed to the benefits of pre-paying by using apps on our mobile devices. Social graphs from Facebook and Twitter, along with other ratings and reviews systems, help us to find people we know and trust, who are in a position to offer us goods that we need. More powerful computers have emerged that can see this giant “Mesh” and make sense of it in the blink of an eye.

Those Midwest executives at that insurance agency were right! Sharing isn’t new, it’s a natural, human behavior. But now, augmented by new technologies like sensors, mobile devices, payment systems, social networks and powerful computer systems, we can share at far greater scale and speed.

Sharing isn’t new. It’s natural. Which is why it works so well. It’s just about being a good neighbor.

Except that now, aided by technology, we can be a good neighbor to strangers.

Image used within Creative Commons license by Wlodi 

Community Managers Evolve in the Collaborative Economy #CMAD


Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 8.23.55 AM

Today marks the 5th Annual Community Manager Appreciation Day, or #CMAD for short. I’m thankful to the community for rallying behind this day when I initiated it in 2010. I had seen that some of our hardest working business folks were struggling to manage the onslaught of communications, maintain the balance of internal and external stakeholders, and deal with the emotional toll of responding to customers days, nights and weekends.

This year’s event is being spearheaded by Tim McDonald one of the community leads at the Huffington Post. He’s not alone. There are thousands of community professionals rallying behind the cause, and top social business software and services companies who’ve created content in recognition of it. Tim also created a website, Community Manager Appreciation Day, dedicated to this important need. While there’s already plenty being discussed about the virtues, skills and future of this role, I want to focus on its future, which is this year’s theme.

The social business space is maturing. We’re seeing social integrate into CRM, Marketing Automation and, for better or for worse, extend into multiple departments within companies. For the most part, social media has had its biggest impact in communications roles in Marketing, Corporate Communications and in Customer Care.

Now, in the next phase of sharing, we’re seeing people share cars, homes, products, time, space, and money. This is what we call the Collaborative Economy. Just as community managers honed their skills for online communications, they’ll now need to adjust their skills to the physical world. In this next phase, people are creating physical products (maker movement), then sharing them (sharing economy). This, yet again, shifts more power to the crowd, which means we’ll need new roles in order to meaningfully engage.

The theme for this year is the “Evolution of the Community Manager.” While the duties of the CM aren’t fully clear in this next phase, we should expect that they will play a key leading role as large companies gravitate toward the Collaborative Economy. Here are some potential roles they might have:

  • They may identify people who make and share goods through online collaborative websites and tap them as new influencers.
  • They may find the top sharing communities in their market, and become a participant.
  • They may help their own companies adopt sharing strategies by introducing internal leaders to the concept of turning products into services, like BMW has done with its Drive Now program.
  • They may help companies turn online communities into marketplaces where customers can resell, fix and improve existing products.
  • They may help companies tap crowd funding so the crowd could be more involved in the development of the next generation of products.

These are just some of the future skills and roles that Community Managers will evolve into as social moves into the physical world. In any case, please join me in celebrating some of the world’s top community professionals that are interacting with us on a daily basis.  Hats off to you, Community Professionals!


It’s Just the Economy


The long way home
“The Long Road” a photo by Kris Krug.
People often ask me, “which term should I use?  the sharing economy? collaborative economy? the trust economy? or some other term?” I give my answer, but often remind them if we’re successful, it’ll just be called the Economy.

New movements naturally experience a period of exploration, debate, and adoption of new terms. Over time, the use those terms tend to fade away as other new terms are introduced.

About a decade ago, I was intimately involved in exploring the first phase of sharing, social media, from a business context. Today, ten years later, as the physical world is being shared more efficiently through technology, I’m observing similar patterns of change.

When we saw new types of media-sharing tools that didn’t require technical know-how emerge, it changed the game. We considered and used terms like: Web 2.0, Citizen Media, User Generated Content, Social Computing, Business Blogging, People Media, Social Media, Pinko Marketing, Social Networking, Community Marketing, Social Enterprise, and Social Business. Some of those terms were adopted, and some, thankfully, were left behind.

As the first phase of sharing matured, it became referred to simply as “social media.” Even that identififaction is fading into the background as it has become nearly fully integrated into mainstream communications. One can hardly find a mainstream news source that doesn’t integrate social media tightly woven into communication, such as websites, email, news, TV, glasses and “whatever-Apple-wrist-watch-comes-next.”

In our current movement, there’s many-a-term being used to describe what’s happening. Here’s a list of examples, in alphabetical order:

  • Blue Economy
  • Caring Economy
  • Circular Economy
  • Collaborative Consumption
  • Collaboration Economy
  • Collaborative Economy
  • Consumer to Consumer
  • Connection Economy
  • Cooperative Economy
  • Crowd Economy
  • Freelance Economy
  • Frugal Economy
  • Gift Economy
  • Gig Economy
  • Green Economy
  • Human Economy
  • Local On Demand Economy
  • Maker Movement
  • MicroEntrepreneur Economy
  • Microtransaction Economy
  • New Economy
  • On Demand Economy
  • P2P Economy
  • Peer Economy
  • Purpose Economy
  • Rental Economy
  • Serf Economy
  • Servitude Economy
  • Shadow Economy
  • Shared Economy
  • Sharing Economy
  • Solidarity Economy
  • Subscription Economy
  • The Mesh
  • Trust Economy
  • Zero Waste Economy
  • 1099 Economy

Edit: Connection Economy, and Solidarity Economy added March 26, 2014, Collaboration Economy added March 28. Added Purpose Economy on April 1, 2014, Caring Economy added Jan 2015, thanks Mila and 1099 Economy, On Demand Economy, ht Angus Nelson, Rental Economy by John Rogers and Fred Wilson added Jan 2015. June 2015 added “consumer to consumer” and “local on demand economy.” Added Human Economy courtesy of Bryan Kramer July 2015. I added Serf, Servant, and Microtransaction Economy, after this long post from Olivier.

As new terms are being coined by multiple entities, there’s clearly growing confusion in the market. Rachel Botsman has taken a swing at clearly articulating the differences in this FastCompany article. She rightfully points out that the terms have different shades of meaning, intent and perspective to the parties that use them.

Sure, I’ve invested a lot on the term Collaborative Economy, as it works well for what we’re trying to accomplish. But a few years from now, we’ll all look back and laugh at all the terms we used, as the prefix of the “X Economy” fades away and it returns to just being the economy. That’ll be proof that we’ve succeeded.

By nature, new movements can be massive, but they impact each person in a unique way. As a result, movements jostle over the terms to be used until they are refined into a common market language. Ultimately, however, when movements are successful, the descriptors become irrelevant, as what was once a disruption becomes the way of life.

Each term will resonate more with certain groups, but in the end, if we’re successful, it’s just the Economy.

Edit: There’s an additional discussion on Facebook.

Four Traits of Effective Leaders


Photo “Sailing Ship” by Gideonc, used under creative commons license.

These traits certainly don’t comprise a complete list of what makes leaders effective, but, just as certainly, they are common – perhaps uncommonly common – among effective leaders. I’ve observed these traits while working with CEOs, market leaders and executives, not to mention learning many of them the hard way – on my own. There are four things I’ve found to be common among effective leaders:

A clear, shared vision.
An effective leader has a singular, unshakable vision. They are able to clearly communicate that vision as the driving passion for all those who choose to follow. They inspires the entire company to join in his vision and make it their own. They are not the ones steering the ship, nor are they the ones setting the sails. They are the ones standing at the bow, pointing the way and urging the team onward.  Where there is no vision, the people go in different directions. 

The commitment to see it through.
The leader is committed to completing the mission and achieving the vision. There is nothing that can distract them, detain them or deter them from reaching their goal. Their focus is on the goal and he is determined to reach it. They understands that the art of focus includes the art of saying no. Every opinion, idea or suggestion placed before him rises and falls, not on their own merit, but on their ability to contribute to reaching the goal. They must be able to say “No” to some otherwise good ideas, because they will only serve to become a diversion to the task at hand.   Where there is no commitment, the ship often wastes resources as they constantly shift.

Enablement to get the task done.
Leaders can’t get the job done alone. They must enable others by equipping and empowering them to get it done. While leaders should be with the team in front, they can’t get the job done alone and must enable others around them to get it done. The most savvy may become a servant or ask their staff to think of them as their internal clients –rather than a monarch.  Those who can’t look like micro-managers which destroy spirit, innovation, and scale. Where there is no enablement, people don’t feel motivated to be proactive.

Accountability put in place.
You cannot measure success without accountability. Every distance that is traveled must be measured and marked. Are we heading in the right direction? Are we getting closer to the goal? Are we on time? What do we need to adjust? Everyone must accountable to someone. The leader is accountable to customers to deliver the goods, to stakeholders to deliver the profits, and to employees to deliver direction, purpose, enablement, inspiration and reward. Each member of the crew is accountable to the others to be as strong a link in the chain as the rest. Failure and success must be consistently rewarded in appropriate proportion to ensure that the ship stays on course.  Where there is no accountability, the people do whatever is right in their own eyes.

This list isn’t complete, and career growth is a journey, and just the observations of my very limited experience.  With that in mind, I very much welcome your contributions to add additional traits in the comments below.

There’s an vibrant discussion on my FB feed on this topic.

The Power of Collaboration


Today is the start of a long journey, as businesses can also be part of this new economy.

I’m excited! Today is a milestone, it’s the first Crowd Companies council session –we’re kicking off!

The above video was played in our session, to set the tone of the council, we worked with Visually, a collaborative marketplace to get it created. Crowd Companies now has 26 companies in the council, and 22 startups from the collaborative movement.

Together, we’re exploring, discussing, learning, engaging, connecting, and activating within the Collaborative Economy. All within a program focused on the business models and trends we see emerging.

Our speakers are authors, startup CEOs, the members themselves, and even folks who are living a sharing lifestyle day to day. Everyone brought together to think along the lines of innovation – The goal is that brands win and startups too.

This month, we’re setting the foundation for the council, and I’ll present our vision, along with the key business models we see emerging. In Feb, we’ll focus deep on the Sharing Economy and have author of The Mesh, Lisa Gansky present, followed by Neal Gorenflo the founder of Shareable magazine and then council member discussions.

In March, we’ll focus on the Maker movement with the CEO of Techshop, Mark Hatch who authored the book the Maker Manifesto, along with startups from our Innovation Network sharing how they want to work with large companies. In future months, the council will help to share the topics in which we’ll explore.

In addition, we’re trying our best to live this movement too. So far, we’ve used: Crowdspring, Zirtual, Visually, co-working at the Impact Hub, Uber, Airbnb, Visually, TaskRabbit, and many other services. We’re learning into this new economy, as it makes business sense and the best way to learn is by doing.

Professionally, launching this company has been the most challenging and rewarding endeavor ever. And I’m deeply thankful for all of the support and encouragement from people like you.

Since I have you, I’d like to do a little crowdsourcing of our own and get YOU involved. We put up a FAQ on our website and I’d really appreciate you visiting and letting me know if there should be additional questions answered on this page. We want to be as transparent as possible and look forward to your questions.

Today is the start of a long journey, as businesses can also be part of this new economy.

The Crowd Companies Kickoff Event


Last night, at a San Francisco Airbnb location, we kicked off Crowd Companies, by hosting a physical face-to-face meet- up of council members, leaders from the Innovation Network, and key industry experts., Photos of this ground-breaking event follow belowto bring it to life, I’ve included some photos below.

Exactly one month ago today, on Dec 10th, we announced Crowd Companies at the LeWeb conference in Paris, with 24 Fortune 500 companies as founding members, with more in the process of joining. We had several goals for last night’s event. I wanted to build physical-world relationships between council members, make personal introductions with the Innovation Network members, introduce teammates Angus and Miranda, enjoy amazing food and drink, and engage in dialog about the Collaborative Economy.

One of the goals of Crowd Companies is to connect the market to the council and the council to the market by providing opportunities to bring them together. We rented an Airbnb location in the Mission district. The food was provided by Feastly, where home kitchens operate like restaurants. Getaround provided a Tesla S, and a SmartCar from their P2P network. CustomMade, a community of makers, surprised me with an original artwork created especially for the event, complete with the Crowd Companies logo. Shapeways brought samples of some of their 3D printed goods. ScootNetworks brought an electric scooter. Many of the other startups from the Innovation Network were there, which we’ll talk about in future events. All of this evidence of the growing reality of the Collaborative Economy, the Maker Movement, and its leaders was totally amazing.

While last night was like an experiential taste test in the context of a meet and greet, next week we kick off the formal council calls for the members and outline the program and schedule for this group focused on the Collaborative Economy. If you work at a large company that should be part of this (or know someone who does), please contact us on our website,, and we’ll get right back in touch with you.

Select pictures below as we phsyically infused the Crowd and Companies together as one:

(Edit: There are more discussions on Facebook)

Thank you CustomMade, a marketplace of artisans and makers, for surprising this amazing art, a unique piece of art from their community, complete with our logo. The artists are Sarah and Brad Matthews, see their portfolio on CustomMade.

Crowd Companies team and council members: Jeremiah from Crowd Companies, Mason from Verizon, Ursula from Swisscom, Bill from Autodesk, Angus from Crowd Companies.

We kicked off a discussion, asking: “Can surge pricing sustain” and “Can you live a great life (primarily) in the sharing economy?”, sparking some interesting discussions.

Books are provided to each council brand related to professional Millennials Promote Yourself, Maker Movement Manifesto, The Mesh, and Share or Die, and each of these authors will present at the council. Photo by Karen O’Brien

Mason (Verizon), Jeremiah and Lori (Adobe) check out Scoot Networks, electric scooters on demand.

Salon style discussion on the Collaborative Economy compared to the “traditional” economy, what’s new, and what’s not?

Angela Baldwin from DesksNearMe, Padden from Getaround, Noah from Feastly.

Jeremiah and Karen O’Brien, Western Union, and a friend for many years. Photo by Karen O’Brien

Getaround shared how even Teslas are available for rent in their P2P marketplace

We opened the space in the afternoon, for co-working and discussions over snacks and coffee.

Food provided by a Chef from Feastly, who normally hosts dinners at her own house and unique locations. Homes are becoming restaurants.  This is a hip Airbnb rental in Mission.

Eric Toczko from CustomMade, Jeff Nelder, Richard Brewer-Hay

Peer to peer car rental demo by Getaround, a Smart car.

Crowd Companies Team: Angus, Miranda, Jeremiah