If the onset of the collaborative economy is as disruptive as predicted, it makes sense to get a little ‘disaster preparedness’ in place for your business model. After all, accepting the likelihood of change or the possibility of failure doesn’t mean you have to do it blindly. As top-tier companies start to recognize that the collaborative economy model can facilitate better quality results while simultaneously boosting efficiency and reducing costs, best practices will start to emerge — but nobody has time to wait for that.

Prepare to share by gaining a more intimate understanding of what you’ll be up against, and how to develop flexible strategies and strengthen existing foundations.

Know Your Role

Amy L. Bishop, the voice behind Marketing Strategy, asks the necessary question: “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?”

It’s an important question, and one that perhaps speaks to the larger issue of organizations that attempt to build makeshift connections across the broken bits of their disrupted strategies, rather than develop new methods altogether. Typically, as messages are developed and projects assigned, decision-makers are focusing on how they can effectively explain a product’s attributes. How it can help customers. How it solves a specific market need. It’s much less often that companies ask why they do what they do, why they serve their users; it’s Bishop’s opinion, at least, that in this shifting economy, it’s the latter question that will pave the successful path towards leveraging what the collaborative economy has to offer.

“This sharing paradigm requires a new mindset to how and why your business serves people,” she says. “Businesses need internal collaborative economy catalysts who can harness the trends and lead the change inside large companies.” And that’s where a scientific approach to innovation plays a significant role.

Crowdsourcing is Key, Inside and Out

Crowdsourcing is one of those other tactics (like sharing) that’s not exactly new, but that’s being popularized both because of its clear, scalable benefits, and because we’re finally starting to understand it enough to standardize the practice. Whether using it as a platform for generating ideas, or pushing ideas through a crowd to catalyze innovation, it’s at minimum a way of engaging people, and at best, a clever method of expanding resources while cutting costs. Says Bishop, “Brands will achieve [resiliency] 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.”

What’s key here is to remember that adopting new tactics so that you can adapt to a changing market does not mean starting from scratch, or throwing your entire strategic history out the window. Think of it as making incremental innovations to your business model, like we see with cars, computers, social platforms — and what no one, apparently, has figured out how to do with toilet paper. It’s not all that different from what so many leaders talk about doing anyway — listening to the market, maintaining relevance, engaging customers on a granular level, flattening down hierarchies, building trust and transparency. But it is happening. The collaborative marketplace exists. It’s growing, and quickly.

Leaders, prepare your businesses. Embrace collaboration on every level, distribute knowledge openly, encourage innovation from every corner of the company, facilitate brainstorming with tools and time, allocate resources, focus on the roots of emerging issues instead of fighting the symptoms, and have a system in place that allows you to do this over and over again. Remember: those who simply act to stay afloat will be the first ones to drown.