This video aired a while back but we thought it was so great that we decided to type up a transcript. It's a TEDx talk given by Rachel Botsman, co-author of a new book entitled What's Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. The book and talk are about the re-emergence of redistribution markets, collaborative lifestyles, and product-service systems that are enabled by web and mobile technology.
What does all of this have to do with design? Well, that's what we'd like to ask you. If consumers are truly engaging more and more in sharing products and services, then how do we designers address that behavior with our work? As with any rising social change, we as designers have to ask - is this a threat or an opportunity? Have a look at the video and gives us your thoughts in the comments. How do you see Collaborative Consumption influencing the future of the way products and services are designed? How can design play a critical role in making the ideas of Collaborative Consumption appealing and scalable?
If you'd like to read a more in depth analysis of the collaborative consumption phenomenon, then pick up the book which is filled to the brim with real word examples of collaborative consumption systems and many that were founded, not surprisingly, by product designers.
Rachel Botsman: So today I'm going to talk to you about the rise of collaborative consumption. I'm going to explain to you and try and convince you, in just fifteen minutes, that this isn't a flimsy idea or a short term trend but a powerful cultural and economic force reinventing not just what we consume but how we consume.
Now I'm going to star with a deceptively simple example. Hands up, how many of you have books, CDs, DVDs, or videos lying around your house that you probably won't use again but you can't quite bring yourself to throw away. Can't see all of the hands but it looks like all of you, right?
On our shelves at home, we have a box set of the DVD series "24" ... season six to be precise. I think it was bought for us around three years ago for a Christmas present. Now my husband Chris and I love this show. But let's face it, when you've watched it once, maybe twice, you don't really want to watch it again because you know how Jack Bauer is going to defeat the terrorists. So there it sits on our shelves obsolete to us but with immediate latent value to someone else.
Now before we go on, I have a confession to make. I lived in New York for ten years, and I am a big fan of "Sex and the City." Now I'd love to watch the first movie again as sort of a warm up to the sequel coming out next week. Now, how easily can our unwanted copy of "24" for a wanted copy of "Sex and the City"?
Now you may have noticed there's a new sector emerging called "Swap Trading." Now, the easiest analogy for swap trading is like an online dating service for all of your unwanted media. What it does is use the internet to create an infinite marketplace person A's haves with person C's wants - whatever they may be.
The other week I went on one of these sites appropriately called "Swap Tree" and there were over 59,300 items that I could instantly swap for my copy of "24." Low and behold, there is Reseda, California was "romderon" who wanted to swap his or her "like new" copy of "Sex and the City" for my copy of "24."
So in other words, what's happening here is that Swap Tree solved my carrying company's sugar rush problem, a problem the economists call "a coincidence of once" in approximately sixty seconds. What's even more amazing is that it will print out a postage label on the spot because it knows the weight of the item.
Now there are layers of technical wonder behind sites such as Swap Tree, but that's not my interest and nor is swap-trading per se. My passion, and what I've dedicated the past few years to researching are the collaborative behaviors and trust mechanics inherent in these systems. When you think about it, it would have seemed like a crazy idea, even a few years ago, that I would swap my stuff with a total stranger whose real name I didn't know and without any money changing hands. Yet 99% of trades on Swap Tree happen successfully. And the 1% that receive a negative rating is for relatively minor reasons like the item didn't arrive on time.
So what's happening here? An extremely powerful dynamic that has huge cultural and economic implications is at play. Namely, technology is enabling trust between strangers. We now live in a global village where we can mimic the ties that used to happen face to face but on a scale, and in ways, that have never been possible before. So what's actually happening is that social networks and real time technologies are taking us back - we're bartering, trading, swapping, sharing but they're being reinvented in to dynamic and appealing forms.
What I find fascinating is that we've actually wired our world to share. Whether that's our neighborhood, our office, or our facebook network and that's creating an economy of "What's Mine is Yours." From the mighty eBay, the grandfather of exchange marketplaces, to car-sharing companies such as GoGet where you pay a monthly fee to rent cars by the hour, to social lending platforms such as Zopa that will take any one in the audience with a hundred dollars to lend and match them with a borrower any where in the world, we're sharing and collaborating again in ways that, I believe, are more hip than hippie.
I call this groundswell "Collaborative Consumption." Now, before I dig in to the different systems of collaborative consumption, I'd like to try and answer the question that every author rightfully gets asked which is, 'Where did this idea come from?" Now, I'd like to say I woke up one morning and said "I'm going to write about collaborative consumption," but actually it was a complicated web of seemingly disconnected idea.
Over the next minute you are going to see a bit like a conceptual fireworks display of all the thoughts that went on in my head. The first thing that I began to notice, a few years ago, was how many big concepts were emerging from the wisdom of crowds to smart mobs and how ridiculously easy it is to form groups for a purpose. A link to this crowd mania were examples all around the world from the election of a president to the infamous wikipedia and everything in between on what the power of numbers could achieve.
Now, you know when you learn a new word ant then you start to see that word every where - that's what happened to me when I noticed that we are moving from passive consumers to creators to highly enabled collaborators. What's happening is the internet is removing the middle man so that anyone from a t-shirt designer to a knitter can make a living selling peer to peer. A ubiquitous force of this peer to peer revolution means that sharing is happening at phenomenal rates. I mean, it's amazing to think that in every single minute of this speech twenty five hours of youtube video will be loaded.
Now what I find fascinating about these examples is how they're actually tapping in to our primate instincts. I mean, we're monkeys and we're born and bred to share and cooperate. And we were doing so for thousands of years whether it's when we hunted in packs or farmed in cooperatives before this big system called hyper-consumption came along and we built these fences and created our own little fiefdoms.
But things are changing and one of the reasons why are the digital natives or Gen Y. They're growing up sharing: files, video games, knowledge. It's second nature to them. So we, the millennials (I am just a millennial) are like foot soldiers moving us from a culture of "me" to a culture of "we." Now all of this is flying through my head around the end of 2008 - the reason why it's happening so fast is because of mobile collaboration - we now live in a connected age where we can locate any one at any time in real time from a small device in our hands. All of this was going through my head towards the end of 2008 when fo course the great financial crash happened.
Thomas Friedman is one of my favorite New York Times columnists and he poignantly commented that 2008 was when we hit a wall - when mother nature and the market both said, 'No more." Now we rationally know that an economy built on hyper-consumption is a ponzi scheme, is a house of cards yet it's hard for us to individually know what to do. So all of this is a lot of twittering, right, it's a lot of noise and complexity in my head until actually I realize it was happening because of four key drivers:
1. A renewed belief in the importance of community, and a redefinition of what "friend" and "neighbor" means
2. A torrent of peer to peer and real time social technologies fundamentally changing the way we behave
3. Pressing unresolved environmental concerns
4. A global recession that has fundamentally shocked consumer behaviors
These four drivers are fusing together and creating the big shift away from the 20th century defined by hyper-consumption towards the 21st century defined by collaborative consumption. I generally believe we're at an inflection point where the sharing behaviors through sites such as flickr and twitter becoming second nature online are being applied to offline areas of our every day lives. The morning commutes, the way fashion is designed, the way we grow food we are consuming and collaborating once again.
So, my co-author Roo Rogers and I have actually gathered thousands of examples from all around the world of collaborative consumption. And although they vary enormously in scale, maturity, and purpose when we dived in to them we realized that they can actually be organized in to three clear systems: the first is redistribution markets. Redistribution markets, just like Swap Tree, is when you take a used or pre-owned item and move it from where it's not need to somewhere or some one where it is. They are increasingly thought of as the "fifth R" r
The second id collaborative lifestyles. This is the sharing of things and resources like money, skills, and time. I bet in a couple of years that phrases like "co-working" and "couch surfing" and "time banks" are going to become a part of every day vernacular. One of my favorite examples of collaborative lifestyles is called "land share." It's a scheme in the UK that matches Mr. Jones with some spare space in his back garden with Mrs. Smith, a would-be grower, together they grow their own food. It's one of those ideas that's so simple yet brilliant you wonder why it's never been done before.
Now, the third system is product-service systems. This is where you pay for the benefit of a product, what it does for you, without needing to own the product outright. This idea is particularly powerful for things that have high idling capacity and that can be anything from baby goods to fashions to - how many of you have a power drill? Own a power drill? Right. That power drill will be around 12 to 13 minutes in it's entire life time. (laughter). It's kind of ridiculous, right? Because what you need is the hole, not the drill (more laughter). So, why don't you rent the drill? Or even better, rent out your own drill to other people and make some money from it.
These three systems are coming together and allowing people to share resources without sacrificing their life styles or their cherished personal freedoms. I'm not asking people to share nicely in the sand pit. So, I want to just give you an example of how powerful collaborative consumption can be to change behaviors. The average car costs $eight thousand dollars a year to run. Yet that car sits idle for twenty three hours a day. S when you consider these two facts it starts to make a little less sense that we have to own one out right. So this is where car-sharing companies such as zipCar and goGet come in.
In 2009 zipCar took 250 participants form across 13 cities and they were all self-confessed and car-sharing rookies and got them to surrender their keys for a month. Instead these people had to walk, bike, take the train or other forms of public transport. They could only use their zipCar membership when absolutely necessary. The results of this challenge for just one month were staggering. It's amazing that 413 pounds were lost just from the extra exercise. But my favorite statistic is that 100 out of the 250 participants did not want their keys back.
In other words, the car addicts had lost their urge to own. Now, product-service systems have been around for years. Just think of libraries and laundrettes but I think they're entering a new age because technology makes sharing frictionless and fun. There's a great quote that was written in the New York Times that said, "Sharing is to ownership what the iPod is to the 8 track what solar power is to the coal mine." I believe also, our generation our relation ship to satisfying what we want is far less tangible than any other previous generation. I don't want the DVD, I want the movie it carries. I don't want a clunky answering machine, I want the messages it saves. I don't want a CD, I want the music it plays. In other words I don't want stuff, I want the needs or experiences it fulfills.
This is fueling a massive shift from where usage trumps possessions or as Kevin Kelly, the editor of WIRED magazine puts it "Where access is better than ownership." Now, as our possessions dematerialize in to the cloud, a blurry line is appearing between what's mine and what's yours and what's ours. I want to give you one example of how fast this evolution is happening.
This represents and eight year time span. We've gone from traditional car ownership to car sharing companies such as ZipCar and GoGet to ride sharing platforms that match rides to the newest century which is peer to peer car rental where you can actually make money out of that car that sits idol for 23 hours a day to your neighbor. Now all of these systems require a degree of trust and the cornerstone to this working is reputation. Now in the old consumer system our reputation didn't matter so much because our credit history was far more important than any of our peer to peer review. But now with the web, we leave a trail. With every spammer we flag. With every idea we post, comment we share we're actually signaling how well we collaborate and whether we can or can't be trusted.
Let's go back to my first example, SwapTree. I can see that "ronderon" has completed 553 trades with 100% success rate. In other words, I can trust him or her. Now, mark my words, it's only a matter of time before we're going to be able to perform a google like search and see a cumulative picture of our reputation capital. And this reputation capital will determine our access to collaborative consumption. It's a new social currency so to speak that could become as important as our credit rating.
Now as a closing thought, I believe we're in a period where we're waking up from this humongous hangover of emptiness and waste and we're taking a leap to create a more sustainable system built to serve our innate needs for community and individual identity. I believe it will be referred to as a revolution so to speak. When society faced with great challenges made a seismic shift from individual getting and spending towards a rediscovery of collective good.
Now I know I've thrown a lot at you so I've made a quick two minute recap video that's going to summarize everything I've just condensed and I'll be back for one short sentence.
(video plays with musical accompaniment)
So, thank you. I know I've got to get off the stage. I'm on a mission. I'm on a mission t make sharing cool. I'm on a mission to make sharing hip because I really believe it can disrupt outdated modes of business, help us leap frog over wasteful forms of hyper consumption, and teach us when enough really is enough. Thank you very much.