The term 'collaborative consumption' is frequently batted around the flexible workspace industry. So what is collaborative consumption - and how does it affect our industry?
Collaborative consumption is all about sharing. It means 'what's mine is yours' - for a fee.
The term was first coined in the 1970s but of course, the idea of hiring, swapping, trading or sharing possessions is nothing new. Now this old-market trend is getting a makeover with the advance of the internet and technology. What's key to the acceleration of this market is that people are the sellers, not businesses. It's C2C rather than B2C.
Collaborative consumption - sharing - means that people are hiring anything and everything. Rooms, cars, driveways, lawnmowers, tools, designer handbags, even knowledge and skills.
The most recognisable business brands are eBay, Gumtree, Amazon Marketplace and Craigslist. Now new niche sectors are taking the concept forward a step - and achieving a phenomenal mount of growth. The best known is Airbnb, a room-sharing website, along with social lending platform Zopa and crowdfunding site KickStarter. Thre are also car-sharing sites like Zipcar, and Landshare for allotments and outdoor spaces. Even knowledge is shared through sites like LocalGuiding.
It's a new economy based on trust, and it's not just growing - it's booming.
What's driving the trend?
Amid a rocky economy and tight spending budgets, ordinary people and families have little spare cash. A second car or a few nights away might have been unattainable. Now, collaborative consumption is turning goods and services that were once unfeasible luxuries into affordable necessities. Rather than buying a second car, people can now turn to car pooling. Instead of expensive hotel rooms, there's the promise of a warm welcome and a comfortable bed in someone else's house.
It means ordinary people can save money, make money, put things to good use, and even help the environment. This trend has always been there, but it's the internet, widespread access to information and mobile technology that is spurring it on.
It's not just about easy access to goods and services. It's about having information at your fingertips. For instance, if the idea of sleeping in a stranger's spare room puts you off, go online and in five minutes, you'll have all the information you need from social media and online reviews to make a decision. Reputation is key. For flexible workspace operators, building a solid reputation is essential because now, people have the power to make up their own minds through reviews and feedback, and have instant access to information that you can't control.
It's based on trust, and this trust is a new currency. It's driving new markets, and pushing collaborative consumption into our everyday lives. It's disrupting business and creating business. It's encouraging people - consumers - to make and save money together. It's a revolution - and a powerful combination of people and technology is making it happen.
How does it impact flexible workspace?
Look around. Collaborative consumption is about sharing space - and we're seeing the idea of collaborative working take off in a big way with coworking and alternative workspace concepts.
Businesses can cut costs without harming head count or productivity (and, can even boost productivity in the process) by reducing their space and moving to a more fluid, shared working environment. This might be a classic coworking environment like Club Workspace, where individuals of different businesses work together in a shared space. Or the same company might move to a more open-plan hot-desking style office to save square footage and money. Businesses with space to spare can also hire it out to freelancers or start-ups - both to save money, and to introduce new talents into their workplace.