Recently I came across a fascinating Ted talk by Rachel Botsman on 'Collaborative Consumption' which I would like to share (click above to watch). While you may not be aware of the title, you almost certainly will have been an active part of the trend.
Botsman has a particular interest in website communities such as Airbnb, Taskrabbit, Spinlister & Skillshare which match one individual's excess with another individual's shortage. These communities are examples of a new commodity that is emerging where "the currency of the new economy is trust, and reputation is your most important asset."
The websites provide a peer-to-peer interface between a person who has a surplus of something and other consumers who require that 'something'. The online communities create markets that have never existed before by tapping into the latent value of peoples' skills, spaces and material assets.
The cornerstone that Collaborative Consumption is built upon? Technology which facilitates trust between strangers.
Each of the communities that Botsman studies leverages a system of peer review. After renting a spare room for the weekend in an apartment found on Airbnb, both the renter and the rentee post a review of the other's behaviours on their online profile. A similar process takes place on Taskrabbit between people posting tasks and chores and the people who perform them, and on Spinlister between people who have a bike to rent short term and people who need a bike.
Then the 'reputation as currency' concept starts to kick in. As an individual builds a positive reputation through reviews from their peers, they become more prominent on that website to people searching for services. This increases the level of trust and confidence the online community will place in them when selecting who to interact with, thus increasing the individual's potential to earn.
Botsman says that we are entering a new age where 'people powered market places' are going to play a very large part in our everyday lives. Virtual trust and digital reputation are about to become critically important to all of us. She goes further to claim that very soon our digital reputations will become transferrable and tradable amongst all online communities. And not only that, but also our online reputations will be valuable in the real world.
So how about we take the next leap and speculate how 'Collaborative Consumption' may affect collaboration and teamwork within the workplace?
It is interesting to hypothesize how a reputation aggregated from interactions in online communities may affect the individual in his or her workplace. Botsman's view is that CVs and resumes will become relics of a past era, with employers preferring the feedback of a peer-constructed reputation.
Personally, I wonder whether these e-reputations may have a role in the future to assist in the distribution of roles and responsibilities within the workplace? Will evaluations accumulated from the way we interact with our peers in online communities be able to portray our strengths and weaknesses to team mates, associates, colleagues and management?
Will our e-reputations give strong enough indications about how we prefer to interact and behave in team situations? If so, does that mean that our online reputations may have a role in combining with and/or re-shaping how we undertake 'profiling' processes such as Belbin Team Roles?
Extending this train of thought further than how our e-reputations may affect the individual in the real world, I am intrigued by the implications it may have for organisations?
Organisations are already mindful of the power of the online review in shaping public perception of their performance.
With the rise of Collaborative Consumption and the subsequent rise in importance of online trust and digital reputation, it is quite likely that websites will come to pass which amass aggregates of the e-reputations of all the individuals working within a team, department or organisation to create a work unit's own digital reputation. This could create a powerful incentive for companies to act responsibly and efficiently from the micro level (e.g. staff selection) to the macro level (e.g. product/service delivery to the end user).
Collaborative Consumption communities that facilitate trust between individuals, teams, and organisations in a global marketplace are an exciting prospect.
It is the aggregated power of trust garnered from peer reviews that Botsman says is the new horizon that we had best pay attention to. That horizon is fast approaching and new ways that individuals and organisations interact, collaborate and satisfy needs and wants are approaching with it.
Are you a user of any of the Collaborative Consumption communities mentioned in this blog or Rachel Botsman's TED talk? If so I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below about your experiences with them...
(Follow Rachel Botsman here on Twitter)
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