Collaborative Production, Consumption, or Destruction?

by Dan Robles on 01/13/2011

Many important ideas are emerging related to collaborative consumption and the sharing of physical assets.   The primary idea is that communities can save money and conserve natural resources. The most powerful byproduct of collaborative consumption, in my opinion, is that communities can organize around physical assets to produce what they actually need, not what they are told to need.

The idea of collaborative production is generally referenced around a host of enterprise collaboration tools.  However, many of these tools are designed to benefit the for-profit enterprise allowing them to collect high value knowledge assets while eliminating high risk employment liabilities under the noble flag of “Crowd Sourcing”.

Collaborative Production

True collaborative production is related more to the idea that communities decide what to produce. In classical economics, the merchant class allocates land, labor, and capital and largely decides what will be brought to market but also what can be withheld from a market.  Collaborative Production starts with the idea that a community allocates it’s own knowledge resources to produce what they need and withhold what they don’t need.

This distinction is actually quite important.  Combining some sugar with fat and stirring in a lot of advertising to produce candy is much faster and easier to do than raise carrots, for example.  While the farming community may prefer to raise carrots, profit margins on carrots are driven by supply and demand for calories – as such, carrots compete directly with candy.

Have you ever seen a commercial advertisement for Carrots?

Ultimately what gets produced is that which is easiest and cheapest to produce, store, and transport – not necessarily what a community needs to be cheaply and easily produced.  Eventually the knowledge assets required to grow carrots begin to atrophy by the process of collaborative destruction.

Collaborative Destruction

Today, many communities are trapped behind closed doors.  People do not know their neighbors.  They are unable to reach an agreement about what they can build together.  When they lose their “Jobs” they lose their identity and direction and they attach to whatever idealism crosses their fear threshold.

The greatest challenge ahead of us – and the greatest opportunity as well, will be to interact with each other.  We need to know what the other people around us know and find a place for our own knowledge assets in our community.  Communities need to collaborate outside the construct of a corporation and produce the things that they need.  Social Media provides an astonishing tool for a new form of social organization if and only if it can be used to beat the effects of collaborative destruction.

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