If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them: 3 Steps To Creating A Sharing Economy In Your Own Business

April 25, 2016

By: Katie Hillier, Lead Digital Anthropologist and Erin Hersey, Culture & Capability Inventor and MS-SDM Faculty


These days, sharing is big business. With the ever-rising valuations of companies like Airbnb and Uber — and their influence on the freelance marketplace — large organizations are beginning to address the impact of the sharing economy on their business.

Already a disruptive force, these new business models will continue to lure away your customers and employees. Instead of giving up the fight, we believe existing corporations could and should embed a sharing model within their own organizations to simultaneously stave off disruptive competitors and win the hearts and minds of the next generation of consumers.

Before we can leverage the sharing economy, however, we need to define what it means. According to Eric Ho, founder of miLES, the sharing economy is “shared access through resources.”

Your company, regardless of size, likely has a plethora of assets that could be “shared” with others. But how do you identify these assets, connect with potential new consumers, and integrate this model in a way that makes good business sense?

Here are three easy steps to get you started.

Step 1: Expansively Map Your Assets

Think about your assets across these categories of capital: Physical, Human, and Intellectual.

For example: At ?What If!, we would list our assets as:

· Physical Capital: offices, furniture, books, hardware (computers, printers, etc.)

· Intellectual Capital: Innovation IP, global knowledge, 20+ years of experience

· Human Capital: 250 innovators around the world

*Hint: The most overlooked assets are often hidden in the things you are known for, such as great service, local knowledge, or an amazing space.

Your best assets are likely already being used to maintain the growth of your current organization — but are they being fully optimized? Think about what your assets do, and then imagine what value they might provide a new audience if you were to give them access.

Step 2: Identify Potential Needs

Once you have mapped your assets, think creatively about who might benefit from your assets. What are the greatest needs of this new audience? What would your assets allow them to do that they couldn’t do now? Once you have some exciting leads, make a short list of people to speak with to uncover deeper insights.

Step 3: Make the Value Connection

Once you understand the true needs of your audience, you will need to identify the right customers or partners to begin experimenting with. Help frame the value you are offering by providing access of your assets to a smaller group of people. Consider what value you are willing to share and what value you want to receive in return.

Marriott is already experimenting with this model. They noticed their lobbies were frequently used for business meetings and workspaces, while their meeting rooms were not always fully occupied. They saw an opportunity to share these unused spaces with a new audience that wasn’t necessarily staying at the hotel. They launched a pilot with LiquidSpace, a company that rents meeting rooms by the hour, to test their idea. Their program began with renting their unused meeting rooms and offering the space in their lobbies for free. With a new generation of remote workers looking for workspace, this experiment showcases their hotels to a new generation and taps into new sources of revenue.

Innovation is not always the creation of something new. The best innovations can come from simply rethinking what we already have and mapping it to a clear need that businesses or consumers have.

*This post was originally published on Medium.com*