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How to bring the collaboration and sharing economy to the boardroom

Posting in Technology

The collaborative (or "sharing") economy is a force that is already changing the business landscape, even for the most conservative, established corporations. 

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 Think collaborative, and sites such as Airbnb, Kickstarter or Craigslist come to mind. But collaboration is entering the corporate arena in many ways. Think about information technology. The trend even the largest enterprises are stampeding to is cloud, in which IT assets are stored and managed in some shared environment that is also used by other organizations. Just a few years ago, it was a point of pride for a company to have its own massive data center. Many corporations have even chucked their internal intranets in favor of social networking sites, and rely on the likes of Google for their email.

In a recent post at the Harvard Business Review blogsite, Alexandra Samuel reports that here are now 113 million "sharers" in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada: or 40% of the adult population. Samuel recently conducted a survey of 90,112 people for a report titled "Sharing is the New Buying," co-authored with Jeremiah Owyang and Andrew Grenville. Online collaboration and sharing has become a big business.

Samuel makes the following recommendations for enterprises seeking deeper engagement with the collaborative economy:

Less buying, more sharing: "Big brands need to stop measuring success in terms of units sold, and think in terms of units used," she writes. 

Pursue partnerships that will open up collaboration: If you have a corporate culture and compensation structure that resists the idea of collaboration, look to partner with organizations that are more seasoned in sharing. "Companies that have traditionally relied on selling goods need to think about offering those goods on an access model, too," says Samuel. For example, she writes, "Daimler AG now provides by-the-minute car sharing through Car2Go."

Less consuming, more producing: The production economy is roaring back. Samuel cites the burgeoning maker movement, which enables greater production on both small and large scales. "Our data suggests that attracting small-scale producers and sellers is one area where any player could still find a competitive edge."

Less working, more freelancing: The collaborative economy is increasing self-employment in place of full-time employment, Samuel observes. "This means that companies will have new ways to source labor." This means organizations will be competing with both other employers for skills, as well as "competing with the increasingly viable option of web-enabled self-employment."

(Photo: Joe McKendrick.)

— By on March 10, 2014, 4:55 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure