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When stories become currency in a collaborative economy

Rachel Botsman's cool TED video: Getting rid of our addiction to things

Steve Denning, the Leadership guru enjoyed this cool talk by an Australian, Rachel Botsman, about collaborative consumption as a powerful economic force, reinventing both what we consume and how we consume. Her main point is that in the 20th Century, we became fixated on owning things, when what we really want is not the thing, but the experience that the thing generates. Once we have made this insight, life becomes a lot simpler and cheaper.

Thus the books and CDs that we all have lying around the house but we can’t bring ourselves to throw away, have latent value to someone else. Now we can easily exchange those for stuff that we want, through swap trading sites like www.swap.com. Even a few years ago, it would have seemed impossible to trust a total stranger. But Botsman’s research shows how sites like these generate the trust that can enable exchanges between total strangers. Ultimately we (usually) don’t want the physical CD (although we may be sentimentally attached to some physical CDs). What we want is the musical experience that the CD will generate... or the electric drill, or an extra bedroom in our house, a car or......

We are interested in the role that stories play in a collaborative economy. Here are two examples where stories become currency:

1. There are some collaborative sharing platforms where people offer objects they want to get rid of or volunteer a service and receive many offers for them... in such a case, interested buyers introduce themselves and share some information about them with the 'sellers'... how do 'sellers' then make a choice as to who they give these objects/services to? Our question: how do supply and demand work in a world where the rules of engagement have changed and stories can make a difference in whether you win the object/service you want?

2. There are some collaborative platforms where what is traded are... stories. Families caring for disabled people share stories of how they have overcome obstacles to create a better life for the disabled family member. People share their story on the platform and thereafter listen to the stories that their peers have also shared. The viewership of the tinyurl.com/Virtual-Peer-Support Youtube channel grew to over 30,000 with no planned promotion - only people spontaneously sharing URLs of stories via social media. 

When stories become currency....