Monday, October 12, 2009

The Participation Economy, Pt. 1

I was recently contacted by a journalist to talk about the Attraction Economy. What bad timing. I’ve moved on. From our experience with the T-Mobile “Life’s for Sharing” campaign, a new shift is taking place. We are entering the age of the Participation Economy.

When watching or approving anything we make, my rule of thumb used to be: Do I want to see it again? But increasingly that’s given way to: Do I want to share this? I’ve written about the dynamics of sharing before. It may sound like a lesson from Kindergarten, but sharing is powerful stuff.

The transformation of business and society is always seen through a collection of shifts. Power and energy changes direction and new dynamics rule the day.

The Participation Economy is an aspiration as much as it is a reality. The global recession dealt a blow to its development, perhaps. But a number of contributing factors lead to the Participation Economy, chief among them the web. Our real-time digital infrastructure is an empowering, entrepreneurial platform that lets you showcase your creativity like never before. We’ve seen this introduce a self-generating energy that we’re just beginning to understand and harness.

All of this is an evolution. We’re not totally there yet, so Attraction still plays a huge role. And the term is not my invention, as the Participation Economy has been around a while for the design of products. But it’s much larger than that.

Participation is also about the health of society. The past decade witnessed rapid change in society. America doubled its consumption of antidepressants. 1% of the population is in jail. 48% of Manhattan lives alone. Social dislocation creates new channels for interaction and our need to participate and join together is going to grow in this regard.

Like the Lance Armstrong Flash Mobs I blogged on, the Participation Economy is more about sharing ideas than making purchases. It’s about connecting us with ideas. When we participate, we join a larger community around an idea. That social dynamic is fluid and natural and it’s a hotbed of innovation. More and more, we will see that the best ideas create an opportunity for participation. It channels the energy of a community. After all, Steve Jobs said: “Innovation is just connecting stuff.”