Tom Atlee: Corporations and the Sharing Economy

Collective Intelligence, Commercial Intelligence, Cultural Intelligence
Tom Atlee
Tom Atlee

Corporations meeting the challenge of the sharing economy…?

Corporate business plans and market control are being challenged by the expansion of the sharing economy and its “collaborative consumption”. Some corporations are ignoring the challenge. Some are fighting it. Some are creatively joining it. All these responses add up to a complex and rapidly evolving economic landscape that’s not well recognized by the general population.

Co-Intelligence Institute board member Heather Tischbein sent me a remarkable article, “Corporations must join the collaborative economy” by Jeremiah Owyang.  It claims that the growth of what it calls the collaborative economy – the peer-to-peer dynamics increasingly known as “the sharing economy” in my circles – is an inevitable challenge that corporations will have to respond to whether they want to or not.


The article describes a number of societal, economic, and technical developments that are driving the emergence of the collaborative economy. These include supports for connectivity – including increasing population density and people’s desire for community accompanied by the rise of social networking and multi-function mobile devices. Also people’s attitude are shifting: More of them are more altruistic and motivated by a desire for sustainability and for more flexible livelihoods. They feel less need to own things as long as they have access to the services those things provide. Finally, both corporations and citizens are trying to monetize their idle resources, an effort that becomes easier as new payment systems are developed.

I was surprised that this list of forces driving the development of the sharing economy does not include “reduced purchasing power caused by economic downturns, inequity, and unemployment”. It seems obvious to me that when people don’t have enough money, many of them start sharing and working creatively to survive together. The article also does not particularly note that more people are satisfying their needs through doing things themselves – building, fixing, gardening, and so on – both individually and together. Nevertheless, the article’s analysis is quite interesting for the factors it does cover.

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