The Technium

From Mass to Mesh


We are no longer living in a mass culture, built around mass production, mass education, mass entertainment, and weapons of mass destruction. Rather we are now living in a mesh world built around the mesh of networks, the mesh of relationships, the mesh of entertainment and education webs.

51OytZSZ29L SL500 AA300Of course we need new mesh skills, and mesh organizations to thrive in them. Lisa Gansky has a great start envisioning what meshiness means to businesses in her new book The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing.

Sharing is the new vital verb in society. Not that sharing itself is new, but that the ways, dimensions, amplitude, volume, geography, frequency, span, diversity, and colors of sharing have expanded greatly.

Gansky’s framing helped me unify many of the current fashionable strands of change at work in consumerism: social media, the shift away from ownership, the attraction of open-source, viral marketing, and others. I found it helpful. She also supplies a super-duper annotated reference and source list that is itself a book, and worth your while.
Here are some of my highlights:

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We can increasingly gain convenient access to those goods, greatly reducing the need to own them. Why buy, maintain, and store a table saw or a lawn mower or a car when they are easily and less expensively available to use when we want them?

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Mesh businesses share four characteristics: sharing, advanced use of Web and mobile information networks, a focus on physical goods and materials, and engagement with customers through social networks.

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One trend is “tryvertising,” where, instead of advertising, companies place products in people’s daily lives. In some cases, people pay a small fee to get samples of new products, and then give feedback to the manufacturer. For only five euros, a Barcelona-based outfit, esloúltimo, allows customers to try out five products for two weeks, including a variety of food, household, and tech products. Tryvertising might be used to listen to a potential market and hone the offer, or simply to determine the market’s preference for owning, as opposed to just using, new tools and services.

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All the Mesh businesses rely on a basic premise: when information about goods is shared, the value of those goods increases, for the business, for individuals, and for the community.

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Zipcar is a near perfect example of a successful Mesh business. It doesn’t make, sell, or repair cars. It shares them. Zipcar is primarily an information business that happens to share cars.

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A recent study by McKinsey concluded that a recommendation from a “trusted source” like a friend or family member was fifty times more likely to persuade someone to buy a product or try a new brand.

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The writer Po Bronson notes that a “crisis can actually take people from thinking about what’s next to thinking about what is first.”

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Cisco estimates traffic over the Internet will exceed 667 exabytes by 2013. That’s roughly 667 billion gigabytes and equates to a quintupling of traffic from 2009 to 2013. Cisco predicts that one trillion devices will be connected to the Internet by that time.

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In a matter of months, Curtis Kimball’s popular Crème Brûlée Cart in San Francisco attracted more than 11,000 followers on Twitter.

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There are seven keys to building trust in the Mesh: 1. Say what you do–manage expectations and revisit them frequently. 2. Use trials. 3. Do what you say. 4. Perpetually delight customers. 5. Embrace social networks and go deep. 6. Value transparency, but protect privacy.




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