How To Design For The Sharing Economy

How do you create the next Zipcar, Netflix, or Airbnb?
The definition of ownership is changing. We are becoming less interested in owning products and accumulating wealth through long-term purchases. Instead, we crave experiences, seeking out things without much of a financial or time investment, and have a newfound appreciation of bargains and second-hand possessions (a about thrifting is leading the Billboard charts as I am writing this). We increasingly consume products and services through renting, sharing, and purchasing subscriptions. Being “socially connected” is no longer just about having a lot of people to share your news with; these days, it’s about having a lot of people to share your stuff with–either for free or at a fraction of the market fee. It’s about collaborative consumption.

Last month, The Economist proclaimed that while “on-demand” consumption is still being defined, the fact that it is attracting the “big boys” like manufacturers, regulators, and insurance providers in search of a model that works for them means that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Collaborative consumption is growing from a trend for the young and urban to a viable alternative for everyone. From renting a movie online (e.g., Netflix) to renting a stranger’s couch (e.g., Couchsurfing), the economy of sharing changes the way we behave, consume, seek new options, and commit to decisions. The phenomenon is not just about getting access to new cars and the latest movies; it’s also about creating a new type of peer-to-peer commerce, making meaningful connections, and establishing a sense of trust among those involved.

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