Remember when sharing ideas and media disrupted the traditional media landscape? Social media revolutionized the way people communicate with each other and with brands. And now, the disruption is happening in the physical world. Through the collaborative economy people are sharing goods, services, time, space and money. Are businesses ready for this level of disruption?

Collaborative Economy Disruption is Underway

During recent times of economic uncertainty, people began to depend on each other to be self-sufficient. The sharing economy empowers people to get what they need from each other — without the need to buy new from traditional businesses. Whether it’s cars, homes, fashion or money, people are relying on each other like never before. And, an entire generation of makers has cropped up who are actually creating their own goods and products. Digital marketplaces serve as platforms to those who make their own goods, and 3D printing will soon be a catalyst for this movement to grow immensely. With the sharing economy, maker movement, crowdfunding and digital marketplaces all converging on patterns of sharing, now is the time for brands to strategize for a future in the collaborative economy.

“The sharing economy empowers people to get what they need from each other — without the need to buy new from traditional businesses.”

Most brands have struggled to keep up with the rapid changes occurring in their markets due to the sharing economy. This kind of disruption is not new. For the last decade, businesses and the media industry have fought to gain relevance in an environment where people bypass traditional media and marketing to receive the information they need from each other.

Collaborative Economy Impact on Brands

People are becoming like companies on their own — bypassing traditional companies completely. There’s a variety of factors that drive one’s desire to bypass traditional companies including unethical business practices, personal budgetary constraints, lack of sustainable business operations, low perceived value and several other motivations that I’ll address in the coming weeks.

Major shifts in the collaborative economy are forcing business change as people begin to bypass companies that don’t provide them with a lasting exchange of value. Companies that deny this apparent disruption and are slow to evolve will be left vulnerable to a future where the crowd organizes outside of their company.

Businesses struggle to embrace the collaborative economy framework for several reasons. The sharing mindset challenges traditional values. The idea of sharing, recycling and reusing goods and services lies in stark contrast to the strongly held Western values that businesses and people have been guarding against for years.

As the crowd becomes empowered over institutions, traditional business models will undoubtedly be disrupted. What role do businesses play if people can receive what they need from each other?

Tapping a crowd means corporations can quickly change direction, as well as activate their own idle resources for returns.

If you work in social media, customer experience, marketing or IT, it’s likely that you have already dealt with significant disruptions from the ripple effect of the first phase of sharing. Businesses must use these sames tools and strategies once again to regain relevancy in this collaborative economy. Make no mistake, this will require significant business model change. It will not be as simple as using a new social media channel or testing out a new tactic. This sharing paradigm requires a new mindset to how and why your business serves people. Businesses need internal collaborative economy catalysts who can harness the trends and lead the change inside large companies.

“This sharing paradigm requires a new mindset to how and why your business serves people.” [Tweet this]

Global Brands Unite As Crowd Companies To Embrace the Collaborative Economy

New startups are using social data, mobile apps and smartphones to enable people to connect and share with each other. Some corporations are sponsoring collaborative economy startups. Through sponsorships and partnerships, brands can harness the sharing movement for marketing and recognition. Corporations can work with startups to enable the sharing of their products in new marketplaces. Some companies are even sponsoring their own communities as a platform for people to trade, rent and resell goods in a brand hosted community. Additionally, enterprise companies have already begun acquisitions of successful collaborative startups in order to integrate their focus and goals within the larger corporation.

Expect new business models to emerge where the crowd can augment traditional business processes. The crowd can co-fund, co-ideate, co-design, co-build, co-support, co-deliver and co-market for a growing variety of products and services. The crowd will become the company, making corporations resilient if they incorporate the crowd.

“Expect new business models to emerge where the crowd can augment traditional business processes.”

Brands will achieve resilency by partnering with the crowd for shared value. The crowd will will provide businesses with a constant source of innovation. A focus on the crowd will nurture businesses that are innovative, agile, empowering, built to last and profitable.

Today, Jeremiah Owyang publicly announced the formation of his newest endeavor, Crowd Companies. The primary focus of Crowd Companies is a brand council that provides peer to peer knowledge, expert education from third parties and access to an innovation network of startups. The council will focus on the collaborative economy movement, including the sharing economy, maker movement, crowdfunding, alternative currencies and more.

The mission of Crowd Companies is an equation; people and brands together. Jeremiah has hand-selected startups that empower people from the sharing economy, maker movement and co-innovation, all who want to work with big brands. They will meet, present to and connect with the brand council.

Crowd Companies launches today with 24 enterprise companies as founding members including GE, Home Depot, Whole Foods, Intel, Nestle, Cisco, Walmart and many others. Crowd Companies also launches with 22 innovative startups, investors, and thought leaders in the Innovation Network stemming from the sharing economy, maker movement and co-innovation space.

Crowd Companies has the opportunity to lead the nascent collaborative economy into a more mainstream movement. A new industry has sprung up, dictated entirely by people: the new solutions and perspectives provided by Crowd Companies can help large companies navigating their way through this new movement.

Brands Plan for a Successful Future in the Collaborative Economy

Brands Plan for a Future in the Collaborative Economy

Above images from

A Collaborative Business Strategy. A Collaborative Career Path.

Working together, businesses and startups will discover what role businesses play as people become empowered and get what they need from each other. This is serious business. Brands and startups are poised to join forces to tackle the collaborative economy together. With some of the largest enterprise businesses aligning their business models to the sharing movement, it’s only a matter of time before reluctant corporations and professionals are left in the dust.

“Brands and startups are poised to join forces to tackle the collaborative economy together.”

This kind of change often requires us to step out of our comfort zones and be prepared to adopt new paradigms.

Take what you’ve learned in social business and customer experience and apply it to the collaborative economy. Follow the same steps that led to success in the social business era by letting go of control, shifting to engagement with people and connecting with customers. Then consider how to engage with customers and develop programs where customers are empowered by your company.

Once the switch is flipped, the collaborative mindset with shake down throughout the entire business environment. From business models to marketing strategies, to collaborative leadership styles and even recruiting practices, take time to understand how the collaborative economy will affect your business and career.

Change in your business & in your career is in inevitable. Prepare for this next phase now. It is already well underway.

How can businesses harness the crowd or align with startups to embrace the collaborative economy movement? How can companies empower people and build resilient brands? What would you like to learn from other brands exploring the collaborative economy space?