As most keynote speakers can tell you, traditionally in business, we’ve been focused on building and maintaining competitive advantage—finding ways to outsmart, outmaneuver, and outperform the competition. But what if I told you that in today’s always-on, always-connected, globalized world, as we saw in the games industry, competition was quickly approaching a level you might describe as infinite? And that, for customers, that rival solutions were increasingly just a single click or call away?
And for that matter, what if I said that according to researchers at IBM there aren’t even any more static or predictable patterns in business, and continuous change was the new normal on a day-to-day basis? Sounds kind of scary right?
But as keynote speakers can also tell you, as we’ve seen in countless industries from lodging to transportation, this is the new operating reality that most organizations must labor under. From Uber to AirBNB, countless scrappy young start-ups and homebrew apps and services are suddenly competing with even decades-old market leaders—and upending entire fields as they go.
What’s more, most businesses can now go to market with new concepts and solutions in as little as 90 days— even 30 days is more common than not. In fact, we’ve got multibillion-dollar, multinational corporations we work with now who are launching new apps every six weeks for $20,000 apiece—and they’re doing this not once or twice, but 12 months year round, the entire year running.
As an individual organization, competing in this kind of fast-changing, hugely competitive environment can be increasingly challenging. But when you embrace the idea of THE SHARING ECONOMY—or the shared creation, production, and distribution of business ventures in partnership with other private or public entities—it becomes far easier to stay ahead of the competition, and the curve. In fact, more and more enterprises are waking up and realizing… Innovating and staying ahead of the game becomes far easier when you’re willing to partner with stakeholders throughout your organization, and in fact stakeholders throughout the industry, to radically multiply the number of insights, opportunities, and resources available to you.
As keynote speakers can tell you, when you’re willing to embrace the idea of THE SHARING ECONOMY and team up with allies to explore new ventures, not only do the resources that become available to you suddenly increase by several orders of magnitude, your ability to capitalize on emerging trends and solve problems more effectively will also grow by leaps and bounds as a result.
Here are a few quick examples of this principle in motion:
- MasterCard has created laundromats where you can pay to do your laundry right from your mobile device. Compatible washing machines and driers can even tell you right on your phone when they’ve finished cleaning your clothing. Guess how long it took them when they invited Maytag in to help? Just 4 ½ days – less than one week to make smartphones and home appliances seamlessly interact.
- For 65 years, Elmer’s Glue products have been creating adhesive sealants under the direction of individual business leaders, but three years ago, marketing was changing so fast that new ideas were needed. The company created a website where employees could suggest innovative new concepts and built a team charged with getting them to share more ideas and source concepts from outside vendors. Hundreds of submissions later, Elmer’s is cranking out more successful concepts faster than ever. In fact, its School Glue Naturals line is one of the first and most successful natural products of its kind to appear in classrooms across North America.
- Starbucks is the world’s largest chain of coffeehouses. It famously describes itself as “in the people biz serving coffee, not the coffee biz serving people.” But just like any bold, forward-thinking new venture, this is a firm that’s routinely rolling out new marketing strategies and programs such as new store concepts, products, and payment options, even before most are finished and error-free. Why? Because it knows competitors are constantly nipping at its heels—and it would rather make mistakes than miss an opportunity to reinvent itself and find new ways to stay at the top of shoppers’ minds. Starbucks isn’t just more courageous about taking action than competitors, tho. Like any good innovator, it’s also much craftier too. Sometimes, the company creates innovative new product and store concepts and takes them out to customers to see how they’re received. But just as often, Starbucks finds crafty ways to get customers to come to it with business ideas ready in hand that are just waiting to be jumped on too. From an executive standpoint, how would anyone know that customers desperately wanted the company to do things like let them order oatmeal using online apps? Meet MYSTARBUCKSIDEA.COM—a website where customers can submit new ideas for products, services, and solutions—and Starbucks can sit back and watch new ideas to consider, and insights into emerging trends come right to it instead.
As a business leader operating under heavy scrutiny and increasing regulatory pressure, let alone within a growingly demanding business environment, the idea of teaming up with outside firms, or everyday individuals, to launch new ventures may seem daunting.
But moving forward, you’ll increasingly have to think about these kinds of scenarios and your disposition toward such joint ventures. THE SHARING ECONOMY will only become even more prevalent in the future. So looking ahead to tomorrow, it’s also going to be vital to think about encouraging greater diversity in terms of partnerships, networks, and collaborative efforts as well. No one has to go it alone anymore—we’re all in this together.
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