The last decade has placed much talk on shareconomy and its ambitious goals of reducing overconsumption, giving people access to things they wouldn’t be able to afford, saving the environment, and building community. But what exactly is shareconomy? How does it work, or rather, how was it supposed to work?
Allow me to put this into a relatable analogy for you.
When I was a little girl, I inherited hand-me-downs from my elder cousin. They came in a variety of clothes, toys, books - basically anything which had outgrown my cousin that will fit me. By accepting these fairly new items, it gave me access to some really cool toys that my parents would have otherwise been reluctant to spend money on. And because we were reusing those items, I guess you can say we played a part in saving the environment. In fact, we passed some of these hand-me-downs to neighbours - usually households with more than one child.
Sharing is a social exchange amongst people to use, occupy, or enjoy (something) with others, without any market intervention. And in those hand-me-down days, sharing pre-owned items created a supportive camaraderie amongst the mom community in the neighbourhood.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, when sharing involves an intermediary between a provider and a receiver - it is no longer considered as sharing. It becomes an ‘access economy’ where consumers pay to access goods or services provided by someone else for a duration of time. It becomes an economic exchange rather than a social exchange, with little or no community building. Case in point: When AirBnB started, their idea was to encourage a community of local hosts to share their homes with foreign guests. The value that Airbnb provides is that visitors get to immerse in a local culture, hosted by a native home-owner who serves up insider travel tips, hidden finds and food recommendations. There will be shared living and interaction between owner and guests. But the reality is that visitors simply retrieve keys from a letter box and their accommodation experience isn’t all that much different from checking into a hotel.
The sharing economy came with good intentions and with a communal ring to its name. It was meant to transform how we live, travel, collaborate and interact.
But today, no one really wants to share. Battled by an invisible Covid-19 virus that lurks on every possible surface; the thought of sharing rides, accommodation and working spaces in the midst of an invisible virus appears unnerving. Isolation seems safer and carries less risks. What implications hold then for businesses and communities as we enter into an era of isolation?
This is where it gets more interesting.
When consumers are home-bound most of the time, businesses need to rethink their business models. The rockstars of this new economy will be those of technology, delivery, home entertainment and remote services that support flexibility and convenience at a tap of a button. Simply put, your product or service needs to be tailor-made, modular, agile and arrive right at the doorstep of your consumers. Companies that serve this value to their customers will have a competitive edge.
In the new Flexconomy, everything has to be flexible. You use what you want, when you need it, for however long you need to. It still involves sharing to some extent, but it's about ‘smart sharing’.
For businesses, this will mean a radically different approach to hiring. Instead of departmental headcount, companies need to look at ‘talent count’. Mind you, these talents aren’t owned by anyone, they are remote experts in their own fields who can be hired to start work almost instantaneously on a new project. These talents are shared across companies and industries and thus come with varied experiences that are very much sought after.
A company can hire a UX researcher for 2 weeks, a UXUI designer for 2 months, and subsequently a team of developers to test and work on the project for another 3 months. Thus for a project that typically takes half a year to complete, there is no need for a company to hire an entire team for a full 6 months duration. It basically uses the talent expertise for the duration that is needed. And that is true efficiency.
Don’t get me wrong. Shareconomy isn’t dead, yet. But it needs a quick makeover. The sharing economy didn’t transform our lives. Covid-19 did. What we need now is an enabler environment to help us deal with the situation. And unlike shareconomy which didn’t really deliver on its promise of true sharing, Flexconomy takes sharing to another level, allowing one to stack and build modules for a stronger foundation.
There’s a better way to grow. And it’s not the traditional way.
It’s about rethinking traditional employment archetypes. Can we progress from an economy built on full time employment habitually enslaved by unemployment fears, to one where individuals have greater autonomy and are self motivated to do work that inspires them? And as a result, benefit the economy as a whole?
You can’t own full time employees. But you can build a winning team with talent management companies. As businesses demand more, external talents are emerging as the sure forerunners of an agile workforce. At Chance Upon, we partner businesses to get a head start over competition by creating collaborative work between companies and the right talents.
Giana M, Eckhardt andFleura Bardhi, The sharing economy isn’t about sharing at all, Harvard Business Review (28 Jan 2015)
Kenneth Cheng, The Big Read: Sharing economy - the next big thing that never was? Channel News Asia (7 Jan 2019)
Kumar Mehta, Welcome to the Isolation Economy (Goodbye Sharing Economy), Forbes, (23 Mar 2020)
Shveta Arora, Why the Shared Economy is Really the Access Economy, Infosys