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.”


Vandy Massey said...

This post reminds me of a piece I read recently which made the point that the 'old' online model of 'Content is king' has already been superceded by the new version: It's no longer sufficient to have great content online - to connect with your market now, you have to generate and sustain great conversations online. People want two-way communication.
That can't happen without some sort of community.

We've come full circle in some respects - the old fashioned way of doing business was about building relationships face to face, one at a time. Now it's about building relationships without being face to face - but instead, the internet gives us reach so we can have those interactions globally or locally (or both at the same time).

It comes down to the drive to be part of something bigger - to participate in something greater than ourselves. Those who are choose to (or are able to) use technology to build those communities globally have the potential to build a bigger community - but the human elements are the same. We all want to identify with something, to connect, and to make a contribution.

Really enjoyed reading this post. Good food for thought.

We network Ltd said...

We enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kevin.

Matthew said...


Your ability to distill zeitgeist is inspiring. You're a poet! Thank You for your willingness to share.

- Matthew Ryan

Gretchen said...

Ideas are our lifeblood, indeed. Bono's op-ed piece in the NYT talks about how powerful ideas are in rebranding America, and more importantly, inspiring global society. He ends, Kevin, saying we just need love. Hmmm...I've heard that somewhere before.

Scott W said...

Some good thoughts here, I think this kind of economy has massive potential in its links to things such as open sourcing business models. There are a few companies around the world that use ideas based in a participation economy to develop beyond their physical means. I recently heard of a Chinese online gaming firm that supported millions of users at once with only 500 odd staff as they had created a product in which users created a large portion of content for them. The social dynamics of the participant economy will have interesting implications on both social interaction and business in the next few years.


Thank you Kevin!

Erin R. Brewer said...

It's always my pleasure to read this type of stuff.I am very much interested in these types of topics from childhood and it's my habit to read this.
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