I’ve been running the my experiment in the sharing economy for 24 days already. Tried 9 companies. Met 26 new people, spent US$173 and gained US$50 - transacted via 4 different payment methods (PayPal, Visa credit card, cash and Google Wallet). However, the greatest part of this experiment is not in the numbers. It’s in the people. More precisely, in people’s behavior.
Read this post to learn how behaviors can be a deal maker or a deal braker in the sharing economy.
Sharing economy = New economic rules = New behaviors
Right on the second day of my experiment, I learned the hard side of adopting new ideas. In the day following Amanda’s dinner, my first experience with the sharing economy, I needed to go to the south bay area, for two meetings. At the dinner, one of the attendees mentioned the car pooling app “Carma”. I immediately signed up for the service and soon found that a guy named Andrew was interested in sharing the ride with me. I told him I could offer the ride down there, but not the roundtrip because my meetings were in separate cities – one in Palo Alto, one in Redwood City. We exchanged some more messages that night and early in the following morning, but could not come up with a good solution for both of us, so decided to try another time. I was so frustrated.
That was the moment I learned that adopting new ideas requires adopting new behaviors. And that is hard! New behaviors remove you from the comfort zone, take you out of the auto-pilot and put you in alert mode. You gotta watch you actions. You gotta think before you do.
So, after experimenting Feastly, Carma, Yerdel, Nextdoor, Craigslist, Snapgoods, NeighborGoods, Uber, Lyft, here are some behavioral aspects that I’ve learned, so far, to be crucial to the sharing economy.
1 – Openness and willingness
I’ve been comparing embracing the sharing economy as embracing being a vegetarian (I’m not, but my Dad is, for the past 25 years) or any other important modification of behavior. You have to learn what to eat, where to eat, how to it, who to eat with…all this can influence in either strengthening or weakening your will to change.
If it weren’t for my experiment with the sharing economy, of my intent to pursue understanding of a movement changing our world, I would probably have not gone through all that trouble. It would be so much easier to just climb behind the weel and drive my way, in the same old manner most of us do in a daily basis. Instead, I tried my best to share a ride. To embrace a new culture, a new way of doing things. I was open. I failed in that attempt. I rode almost a 100 miles, back-and-forth, felling guilty in my big underused car. Not good karma for me that day, but my will persisted. As with all changes, adopting the sharing economy requires practice, discipline and time.
2 – Tools, technology and affirmative actions
Will is a key word; but the environment (how, where, when you exercise you new behavior) is also deeply relevant.
If if weren’t for the tools, technology and private & public affirmative actions (websites, apps, groups, emails, notifications, special parking spaces) available to exercise my will to share, and all the people involved in this new movement, in the world and culture in which we live today, I believe my will would not suffice to sustain an effective behavioral change.
3 – The why
A constant question in my mind since I started this experiment is “why“. Why are people getting out of their way to share information (Yelp, Tripadvisor), food (Feastly), car (Carma, Uber, Lyft, Zipcar), house (Couchsurfing, Airbnb), time (TaskRabbit), office (RocketSpace) with others. Some people are making a living out of this, like this TaskRabbit, who earns up to US$ 1,500 a week, but that’s the exception. The rule is people sharing not because they are making money of it. But because they are making something else.
This “something else” is what I’ve been calling “meaning“. Based in what I’ve been personally experiencing during the last 24 days, the interections promoted via the sharing economy carry some different, closer, more humane, more primal meaning. From the way people greet you (kudos to Lyft for adopting the “fist bump“) to the conversations that naturally start and flow, to the fun/colored/practical tech that a support all this… everything is more meaningful. It is like the humanity is brought back to business.
I don’t want to sound naive here… after all, many of those companies as becoming big businesses and are being ruled my the good & old money. But there is something different there. Maybe because they are fresh new businesses, or because most of people enrolled are independent contractors and found in the sharing economy the means to work… something is there. And I have 76 more days to figure it out.
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What do you think are other behaviors related to the sharing economy?