Expanding our thinking on the sharing economy
Taking advantage of the pleasant summer weather, Mrs Simms and I wandered into town this week for an enjoyable evening out, deciding on a whim that it was the perfect day for a meal at our local Italian. Perusing the menu, the bottle of chilled white wine and the king prawns in garlic starter more or less selected themselves. The main course, though, needed more deliberation. After a few minutes and half a glass of white, the uncharacteristically indecisive Mrs Simms had still not firmed up her choice, although she had narrowed it down to two – the chicken in a cream and pesto sauce or the salmon in a cream and mushroom sauce. By pure chance, I was struggling with the exact same two menu options, and that’s when Mrs Simms and I cooked up a cunning plan. She ordered the chicken, I ordered the salmon, and half way through our respective mains, leaving our plates where they were on the table, we swapped seats.
Naturally, that led to an over-dinner discussion about the benefits of the sharing economy, with Mrs Simms quipping that we had just engaged in the epitome of collaborative consumption. As luck would have it, the two mains complemented each other perfectly. And it was like having two main courses for the price of one.
Typically when we talk about the sharing economy, we are thinking about things like ride sharing or places to stay, and research published by the University of Warwick this month highlights that sharing economy usage has risen by 60% in the last 18 months. Some 78% of 18-24 year olds use sharing economy services, while 23% of the UK population use sharing economy services more than once a month.
Much of this is B2C activity, but what about the potential of the sharing economy in the B2B environment? We already see this with some business services or in the partnerships between industry and academia, but we’re also seeing increasing numbers of companies sharing their knowledge and expertise by engaging in collaborative design, working together not just on common-platform products but also on tools that can drive the capability offering of both companies to mutual benefit.
Of course businesses have shared assets for many years; nothing new there. If sharing means you can make better use of your assets – machinery, people, systems, intellectual property, data – then it’s all for the better. Increasingly, businesses are realising that they can monetise their sharing activities, providing better products and services for their customers to the mutual benefit of all involved. More and more items are being recognised as sharable, and wherever there is trust there is potential for sharing.
As for me, I reckon I’m close to being ready to launch my own sharing economy innovation: the collaborative consumption restaurant app that scans a menu and offers complementary main course suggestions for indecisive diners. Just keep it under your hat for a little longer.
Mark Simms Editor