This week I am participating in Crowdsourcing Week Europe 2015 in Brussels. The conference has an amazing range of speakers from both the public and private sector sharing their ideas about, and experiences from, the Crowd Economy.
My session focused on the critical role of Communities in the Crowd / Collaborative Economy, and covered:
- Why 20th century businesses aren’t adapting to 21st century realities;
- Why we need a fundamentally new and more expansive approach to building online communities in our evolving global economy;
- Emerging opportunities for businesses to create and exchange new forms of value with their communities and in the process, become more sustainable.
Key points detailed below:
- Networked Companies Thrive
- Connected Customers Create More Value
- A Lens on the Collaborative (Crowd) Economy
- Crowd, Communities & Collaborative Organization
- An Example of a Market Network
1. Networked Companies Thrive
In a recent article from Harvard Business Review, a study between Deloitte and a team of independent researchers examined 40 years of S&P 500 data to examine how business models have evolved with emerging technologies. The study had 3 key findings, including the emergence of a distinct new business model of “Network Orchestrator”. As defined by the study:
Network Orchestrators. These companies create a network of peers in which the participants interact and share in the value creation. They may sell products or services, build relationships, share advice, give reviews, collaborate, co-create and more. Examples include eBay, Red Hat, and Visa, Uber, Tripadvisor, and Alibaba.
Network Orchestrators outperform their peers on revenue and profitability.
2. Connected Customers Create More Value
The 1:1 relationship between a company and a customer is increasingly perishable. The customer is blessed by an abundance of choice in the market, and increasingly (especially for technology) the lifespan of a relationship can last only days, weeks or months — not years. As an example: most software companies are moving from a perpetual license to term-based licensing that can be as short as 24 hours. Creating a great customer experience and minimizing churn are key. One key strategy is to develop customer communities where customers connect to people in the business (as hosts) as well as other customers and prospects (as peers). This creates a network of many to many connections, where bonds strengthen over time and value is exchanged in the form of knowledge, content, advice and help. These communities translate into real value for the customer and for the host business. When I led communities at Autodesk, we found that community members were more loyal and more likely to recommend than non-members. We also were able to quantify cost savings from our support community to be several million dollars. When I led communities at Dell, we discovered our IdeaStorm community members spent 50% more than non-members, and members’ purchase frequency was 33% higher than non-members. Community member ideas from IdeaStorm created $100’s of millions of dollars in revenue in the period between 2007–2011.
3. A Lens on the Collaborative (Crowd) Economy
My POV on the Collaborative Economy is that it is a set of trends, movements and technologies reshaping how we make, market, discover and use products and services. It was born out of the global financial crisis of 2008, enabled by global communications networks and digital technologies, and powered by people. I would also assert that Collaborative Economy initiatives should be focused on sustainable methods and equitable outcomes for all stakeholders.
The purpose of defining, identifying and studying the collaborative economy is to understand how business models need to evolve to thrive in this new economic context. Based on my experience building online communities and collaborative experiences, as well as research I’ve conducted, I’m convinced that a new and comprehensive approach to online communities is the way forward.
An approach where:
- What we thought of as “social” is really the networked marketplace
- Your market is synonymous with your crowd
- Online communities build lasting relationships amongst your customers, prospects, employees and partners and
- Collaboration looks like a partnership with customers, not an internal social network no one really uses.
There are two great resources I would recommend to see the range of sectors and technologies that make up the Collaborative Economy:
Collaborative Economy Honeycomb – via Jeremiah Owyang / Crowd Companies
The 14 Parts of The Crowd Economy– via Sean Moffitt / CSW2
4. Crowd, Communities & Collaborative Organization
In order to begin exploring business opportunities in the collaborative economy, businesses need to shift their mindset to think about markets as networks. Their total addressable market(s), connected via platforms & social networks.
There are three important contexts to think about in the Network Marketplace:
- Crowd: A group within a Market Network that has:
- A shared interest or goal
- The ability and assets to participate in a shared marketplace, task or activity via common platforms
- Community A connected & hosted group within a Market Network that has:
- 1 or more shared interests or goals, leading to shared identity & purpose
- The ability, motivation and assets to work towards a common purpose over time
- A host with intention to support & manage community over time
- Collaborative Organization Collaboration amongst organizations, partners and customers essentially functioning as one organization:
- Shared IP & Common resources
- Shared vision of activities and outcomes
- Shared risks and equitable outcomes
These contexts are not mutually exclusive, meaning, a Collaborative Economy initiative could engage a crowd, community and a collaborative organization context.
The three key opportunities I see for Levi’s:
1. Hosting a peer to peer marketplace where customers can sell / trade used and custom goods, possibly partnering or including listings from external marketplaces.
2. Extending their innovation function online (think a more modern IdeaStorm for apparel), as well as partnering with other communities to develop specific crowdsourcing and challenge initiatives. An example would be partnering with Hackster.io on a smart apparel.
3. Hosting their global fan and denim connoisseur community, while continuing to develop great content on their Unzipped blog. The community feeds all digital activity.
My slide deck from my Crowdsourcing Week session:
Networked companies are more valuable and resilient. Connected customers are more valuable to companies. To create long-term growth in a sustainable way, companies need to evolve their business models to address the “networked marketplace”. A new approach to online communities can provide a path for business model transformation.
Next Steps: I have developed a worksheet, based on my business model innovation workshop, to help businesses begin to explore new Crowd / Collaborative Economy initiatives. Please email me for the worksheet or to discuss participating in a facilitated workshop.
Jeremiah Owyang of Crowd Companies and Vision Critical have released a follow up report to their 2014 Sharing is the new Buying. In the 2015 report, The New Rules of the Collaborative Economy, over 50,000 people across the US and Canada were surveyed on their attitude towards, and use of, the collaborative economy. There are many clear signals in the report that the Collaborative Economy has shifted from early adopters and is now entering the mainstream. The report indicates that by 2017, 80% of americans will be participate in the Collaborative Economy in some way.
Three key levers were identified that established companies can use to engage in the market that is beginning to be dominated with rising sharing sites: price, brand and convenience.
Key Stats from the Report:
- The report estimates that by 2017 eight in 10 Americans will participate in the collaborative economy.
- Financial savings is one of the top drivers of the collaborative economy with 82% of sharing transactions partially motivated by price.
- 70% of people in the overall population who initially choose the sharing option would consider buying instead, if the buying option were less expensive. A 25% savings would make traditional purchasers consider moving their business to the collaborative economy.
- The opportunity for big brands is to use price as a lever to retain or win customers in the collaborative economy by creating peer-to-peer marketplaces, allowing customers to purchase and sell pre-owned goods from established brands, or developing offerings that help people maximize the financial benefits of sharing, such as rental models.
- Established brands are well-positioned to offer greater value to providers in the collaborative economy, of whom barely 60% were “very” or “extremely” happy with their latest transaction. Established brands can thereby attract more providers – and use their brand power to attract more buyers, too.
- More than a third of traditional buyers will consider home sharing or pre-owned home furnishings if it comes with certification from a reputable brand.
- The role of brand in the collaborative economy presents an opportunity for large brands to take advantage by marketing on trust or partnering with sharing services to leverage their brand.
- 78% of sharers indicated that convenience is the most popular reason for using shared services.
- Across all age groups, about a third of would-be buyers are swayed to consider sharing services if they offer conveniences like next-day delivery or a concierge to provide advice.
- Convenience is a factor that established brands can compete on, with value-added services that create efficiencies, on-demand access to products and services, mobile apps, and even the sale of locally-sourced and crafted products.
- Technologies that underpin the collaborative economy decouple convenience from location to an unprecedented degree, yet we found that the desire for local goods was more powerful in driving sharers to buy than in driving buyers to share. As sharing services grow, they will become disassociated with local communities and traditional businesses may be in a better position to provide the convenience of local goods that appeal to community-minded sharers.
The infographic below shares other highlights from the report.
This is a critical read for anyone doing, or planning to do business in the Collaborative Economy. My only criticism (and hopefully an area of coverage in the next wave) is that the report really doesn’t touch on the emerging role of Customer as Creator (Maker) and the value creation that is happening between customers and companies when customers help create the product vs. just sharing goods and assets.
You can download the full report here:
If you are interested in more information about how brands are evolving to engage in the Collaborative Economy, I would also suggest:
Brands & The Collaborative Economy Report Preview (Structure3C)
Last week my friends and colleagues at The Community Roundtable released their annual “State of Community Management” report. This is the fifth year for the report, and the Roundtable team surveyed over 200 global organizations.
Key Points & Findings include:
- An overview of the excellent Community Maturity model, as well as case studies on ho Microsoft and Johnson Controls have extended the model for internal use.
- Organizations are still struggling to show ROI (less than 50% in Best In Class organizations).
- Community Management, as a role and discipline, needs more internal investment and support.
- Advocacy program need to mature beyond the “MVP Model”.
- Findings on programming to boost community engagement.
You can view the executive summary here:
I recommend taking the time to download and read the full report.
While at Forum One, I published a similar report in 2008. It’s interesting to note the places where the understanding of the practices and discipline of Community Management have advanced, and where progress seems slower (ROI, Organizational Structure).
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments! What is your take on the State of Community Management?
In March I embarked on a series of qualitative research projects to help organizations prepare for the disruption and opportunity emerging from the Collaborative Economy, and understand what resources they need to be successful. Wave 1 responses are in and the analysis is almost finished. I wanted to share a preview of the results to date. The full set of results will be published in June.
The pool of organizations that completed the survey ranged from Fortune 500 software, media and retail companies to small startups in the sharing economy space. A handful of non-profits also participated.
- A shared understanding of the Collaborative Economy is still forming.
- The Collaborative Economy is relevant to organizations, but the level of urgency isn’t high (yet).
- The most interesting sectors are Learning, Services and Corporate (“Sectors” as described by Crowd Companies Honeycomb model).
- Many organizations see online communities, social networks and collaboration platforms as “enablers” and areas to begin experimentation.
Getting to a crisp definition and shared understanding of the Collaborative Economy is challenging because the concept describes the interplay of a number of other large trends and movements, including (but not limited to) the Sharing Economy, Sustainable Development, Digital Transformation, the Maker Movement, Internet of Things, Future of Making Things and more. In the context of this research project, when asked to describe their understanding of the Collaborative Economy, respondents mainly spoke to 3 key themes of the Collaborative Economy as:An economic model…
“A model in which the creation and exchange of value (of goods, services, knowledge, etc) occurs through human interactions versus (solely) financial transactions. Asset allocation is optimized such that resources are jointly consumed and assets rarely stand idle.”
A social movement…
“Where brands and people start thinking more cooperatively for the greater good…instead of competitively & businesses go back to being more sociable and people-focused.”
A technical platform…
“Coordination of mobile devices, cashless payment systems, reliable rating mechanisms to get value from each other as opposed to centralized corporation of assets.”
- Don’t understand how to formulate a strategy
- Don’t have the necessary vision, leadership and resources to engage
- Don’t see a burning platform of missed opportunity or competitive threat
- Aren’t willing (yet) to make the investments in platforms, partnerships, open collaboration and the making corporate assets available.
The respondents who did indicate a high level of urgency, and had active pilots, were engaging in activities ranging from: investment in or partnership with complimentary startups, development of platforms and marketplaces, evolving existing social business programs, and re-developing the value exchanges of their online communities. These pilot programs will be covered in more detail in the final report.
3. Emerging Sectors
Research participants were asked to rank certain sectors of the Collaborative Economy by level of interest. The sector categories were sourced from the Crowd Companies Honeycomb model.
Survey participants were asked to rank the following systems, technologies and engagements based upon their perceived value in enabling an organization to engage in the Collaborative Economy.
The full Brands and the Collaborative Economy report will be released in June, going in to further detail on the topics above, as well as:
- An overview of current pilot programs being conducted by the respondents;
- Key sources of information and data about the Collaborative Economy;
- An overview of missing or underdeveloped resources and services needed by organizations for their Collaborative Economy initiatives.
Wave 2 Research begins June 1st.
Wave 2 research will begin the week of June 1st, and will cover:
- Lessons learned from early successes and failures
- Organizational resources needed to develop and sustain pilot programs
- Development of a simple framework for Collaborative Economy pilot programs
If you are interested in participating in the research (via survey), being interviewed or profiled for the report, or sponsoring a future report, please send me an note.
Private Briefings & Advisory Sessions
I am also doing a limited number of private briefings on the Collaborative Economy research and how a modern approach to online communities can support innovation, customer acquisition and retention.
I’m available for online session booking via Popexpert, or feel free to drop me a note.
Community has been part of the fabric of Autodesk since the beginning, and as early as 1986 the company was engaging customers in the nascent virtual communities forming around BBS, Compuserve and the like. I came on at the beginning of 2001 to help with a new online community initiative called Point A,one of the first online communities that was also contextually embedded in the product. After the bust of 2001 Point A was retired, but out of the ashes came a thriving online discussion forum community, a robust blogging community, and vertical online communities like AREA, a community for 3D artists and designers. I left Autodesk in 2007, and came back in 2011 to help restart Autodesk’s business community and community-based service initiatives.
As with many corporate initiatives and functions, attention and focus ebbs and flows – at Autodesk, the fabric of the customer community tended to tear and mend over time. But with every mend, the fabric grew bigger and stronger – and at this point, the community continues to grow stronger every day thanks to a solid strategy, strong community leadership and executive support.
Some highlights of the Community strategy are called out in the Groundswell submission post on the Lithium blog:
I’m currently building a select list of clients to work with to build amazing communities. If you would like to schedule some time to talk about how I can help, please drop me a note.
You’ve probably been hearing a lot about the Collaborative Economy lately. The key question many brands are asking: How do I get started?
The good news? You may already have. Most organizations have an existing online customer community (or communties). Most are as simple as technical support forums, but many organizations have explored community engagement that touch most parts of their businesses, from product, to marketing, even recruiting and talent development. Organizations as diverse as Lego, Autodesk, Patagonia, Starbucks, BMW and GE have all shown leadership in this area. Like the previously mentioned organizations, if you have been engaged in building the social business muscle in your organization, you have been building a solid foundation for engagement in the Collaborative Economy.
Big Challenges / Early Days
If you consider the evolution required for most organizations to embrace the Collaborative Economy, the task can seem overwhelming and the path perilous. Unfreezing corporate assets, opening up IP portfolios, bringing customers in to every stage of product development, even bringing customers inside the organization for extended periods – these are all huge issues to wrestle with, there is no doubt. But just like customer voices drove the social media revolution and customer’s preferences drove the customer experience and mobile revolutions, customer choice with experiences like AirBNB, Uber, Kickstarter and taskrabbit will increasingly fuel demand for radical change in products and experiences from established organizations.
So again we are back to the question: How do I get started? To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite professors in my Sustainable Development program: “Start where you are, do what you can.” It is important to note that we are in the early days of this revolution, and as such, there are few hard and fast rules. Being crisp on business goals and measures of success, while being open to unexpected learnings and sources of value are all key. Specifically, my guidance is to start with your Community and Social Business programs and extend from there.
Places to Start
The list below is meant to give a few examples to start your own internal conversations about the Collaborative Economy – feedback and ideas are welcome in the comments.
1. Explore “Community” with a capital “C”
Move beyond break-fix support forums, and explore ways to engage your customers in product design, product development, content creation and local meetups. The state of online community development has been stalled in recent years by a fixation on customer acquisition via social media. The opportunity is ripe to invest in building your on-domain community and crowd-engagement experiences.
Autodesk’s Fusion 360 Community
2. Open Products,IP, and Assets
Is there an opportunity to open up some, or all, of your product or IP assets to encourage co-creation with your customers or spur market development? These could be in the form Digital Assets (design files, specs, branding, instructions), Product Assets (Digital or physical kits, tooling, specs) or other
Telsa Opens Patents
Toyota Opens Fuel Cell Patents
3. Open Space:
Organizations generally have a large physical footprint. Many have experimented with opening up unused office space for rent or as on-demand meeting or co-working space. Other companies have tapped their unused manufacturing or production capacity. Retailers are beginning to bring in outside brands and individual makers to sell wares in their retail spaces. Some of the most innovative or actually creating labs and makerspaces and inviting the public in to co-create.
Office Space Yield Management
Maker’s Row helps match factories with designers
Shop’s at Target (First version of this failed, expect to see more)
GE’s FirstBuild MakerSpace
Autodesk Artist in Residence
4. Share Digital Platforms
Just as many organizations have underutilized physical space, they also have underutilized digital capacity & platforms. What are the possible initiatives for opening up your existing platforms and sharing other forms of digital capacity and data?
Amazon opens store on Alibaba (example of one retailer opening to competitor)
Can I trust you really? The Reputation Currency
Why Online Reputation Needs to be Portable
5. Allow Access to Talent
One of the most interesting and largely unexplored areas of opportunity is the talent & cognitive surplus present in most organizations. What if that talent and expertise could be could be made available outside the organization? There are a number of challenges here, including an equitable vs exploitative approach, but the results of unleashing creatives and knowledge workers to explore problems beyond their “corporate” boundaries could be amazing. What if you could buy 2 hours of an Apple product designer’s time? Or get feedback from engineer at Boeing on product idea? Or hire a staff writer from Hallmark to write your Mother’s Day Card?
6. Open Access to the Community & Crowd
I mentioned the opportunity to create “Community with a Capital C” earlier in the post. One key challenge with any brand community, no matter how engaging or interesting the brand might be, is that it will likely only be relevant to a specific dimension of a customer’s work or life. Not understanding and accepting this simple fact has been the demise of many online community strategies. To get full value and engagement from online communities in the Collaborative Economy, brands are going to have to get more… well, collaborative. Radically so. Partnering with, and engaging independent communities, existing partners, and increasingly, competitors will be key. One example I would point to is the ongoing series of events that Hackster.io (a community for hardware hackers) is putting on with support from a range of incubators, hardware and software companies. All parties involved are prioritizing community engagement above competitive differences – as a result, everyone wins.
Hackster.io Hardware Weekend
7. Explore Incubation & Innovation
There are essentially three approaches here: 1) Outpost: Open an innovation or research center in a market hotspot like silicon valley; 2) Scout: Send Innovation scouts out into key markets to identify trends, find partners and start pilots or 3) Incubate: Create labs or workshops inside existing corporate locations. All serve similar approaches as they try to equalize the innovation equilibrium inside and outside the corporate membrane.
Ford Silicon Valley Research Center
Swisscom Open Innovation
Autodesk’s Pier 9 Workshop
Net: Brands have an amazing opportunity for growth and value-creation in the Collaborative Economy. Those with existing social business and innovation programs are well positioned to navigate the transformation and be the early market leaders. Expect innovative brands to do a lot of experimentation in 2015.
Today I’m taking a big (and scary) step in my professional practice – I’m going out on my own to launch a new venture: Structure3C.
It is becoming clear that a new wave of activity, the Collaborative Economy, is poised to have a large impact on global markets. Many organizations are not prepared for the coming shift, and given my experience with and passion for online community, crowdsourcing and collaboration, I see a huge opportunity to help.
Through the lens of the “3C”s – Crowd, Online Community & Collaboration – we develop strategies, programs and experiences that connect brands and customers in meaningful, valuable and equitable ways.
In the next 3 weeks I will be:
- Kicking off a research project to get an initial baseline of Brand’s understanding of, interest in, and readiness for the impact of the Collaborative Economy.
- Announcing a strategy development workshop in SF in early March.
- Chairing the Collaborative Economy Conference in SF on Feb 25-26.
Please wish me luck. If I can be of help to you or your organization, please reach to me at email@example.com or 415.299.9638.