4.4 Economic growth & The Mesh


    The Interdependent Economy of Society30 has other growth regulators than we are used to:

    – It is all about what goes out, and not what comes in. So, you will not hear “Are we richer today than yesterday?” It’s all about people being better off. Why produce more products that nobody wants?
    – It is about connections, not transactions. Growing smart is about connecting and co-creating, and not just about trading goods with each other.
    – It is about people, not products.
    – It is about skills – the commitment and creativity of people.
    – It is about openness, fading boundaries, and originality or authenticity. Trusting the processes, trusting each other.

    From this point of view, growth can no longer be described with indexes such as GNP (the only reason to show growth in our GNP is to convince the banking dragons that we are able to repay our debts within the agreed upon term). After all, we are able to grow in the indirect tangible affairs mentioned above. This is called social capital.

    My question is whether you would want to exactly measure such growth…

    The new value networks, the place where the old and the new work together again, are characterized by clear communication and directly doing business, designing, producing, and assessing together.

    This is The Mesh, not just a network, but the basic foundation of connected and engaged people that forms the starting point of new value creating social networks. When I explained this “mesh” concept to the Dutch philosopher Jan Flameling, he immediately mentioned Gilles Deleuze’s model for society, a rhizome: a (botanical) organism that, in this case, allows for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation.

    A grown-up Mesh is an enormous cluster of value networks. Processes in this chaordic (chaotic and organized) playing field are simplified by the use of social media and technologies: the “easycracy,” as Dutch Management Thinker Martijn Aslander coined it, arises. Josephine Green, ex-trend-watcher at Philips, calls it the “pancake society.” Our society will become much flatter, and therefore simpler, because we are better connected with each other through knowledge and through transaction systems.

    So, a new economic playing field is arising. The alliance of prosumers with the new Organization 3.0 ensures that consumers are participants at an early stage, and in doing so, determine what and how things are being produced. By doing so, all stakeholders in The Mesh of an organization combine social capital and traditional capital, both of which are needed to co-create value. According to Lisa Gansky, author of the book The Mesh, "Mesh companies create, share and use social media, wireless networks, and data crunched from every available source to provide people with goods and services at the exact moment they need them, without the burden and expense of owning them outright".

    More and more products are being packaged as a service. Many people want to have access to something, but do not necessarily need to own it. In the book What’s Mine is Yours, the authors Botsman and Rodgers distinguish three systems of what is called “collaborative consumption” (although I prefer to call consumption collaborative “prosumption”):

    – Product-service systems
    – Redistribution markets
    – Cooperative lifestyles

    With product-service systems, the prosumer wants the pleasures of ownership, but not the burdens. In many large cities in the USA, there is Zipcar, for instance. If I want to rent a car, I can check where the nearest car is via the Internet and book it using an app on my cellular phone. With the help of Google Maps, I’ll have no problem finding the vehicle. The car recognizes my phone and enables me to start it. Before I drive off, I rate the cleanliness of the car in the review section. This way, a literal self-cleaning capability is built into the system, because if someone routinely leaves a car in a mess, he is simply ejected from the system and can’t use the services of Zipcar anymore. Once you check out, the account is settled through your cell phone and the car checks in from its new location. In 2009, Zipcar already reported revenue over $100 million. Their revenue in 2012 increased to over $280 million. Avis, a traditional car rental company, “moved in” to the market in spring 2013.

    Obviously, this model can be applied to other services and products. The American company Solarcity rents, installs, and maintains solar panels, and manages the sales contract for the excess of produced electricity with the power company. Why do garden owners have a lawnmower, a leaf blower, hedge-clippers, and other rarely used tools? At Zilok, you can rent garden tools, and much more, from other individuals in your neighborhood.

    In redistribution markets, objects that are no longer needed are passed on. At Swaptree.com, you can swap CDs, books, and games with other consumers. As is the case with children’s clothing, books, and much more, swapping is better than throwing things away! Google is also entering this market with Google Mine.

    Cooperative lifestyles offer products and services to social acquaintances. In the hospitality industry, we see opportunities to sleep over, free of charge, at “friends” houses, on the couch or in the spare room, via Couchsurfing. There are 16,000 hosts in the Amsterdam area alone. Globally, there are more than 7 million! Couchsurfing has become the largest hotel chain in the world, but it is not a chain at all. It is an Internet platform, connecting people and matching supply and demand of the abundance of a good or service. In this case, it is hotel beds. AirBNB offers apartments and guest rooms for a fee in over 34,000 cities around the world. Of course, the establishment tries to stop these initiatives, calling it “illegal hospitality.” To me, this resistance is already impossible, due to the large number of adopters. So, traditional hotels better adjust their business models!