Lisa Gansky on Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing

Lisa Gansky, entrepreneur and author of Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing spoke about how the Mesh is a “fundamental shift with the relationships we have with the stuff in our lives.” She’s advocating for better things, more easily shared. She acknowledged that we do have a history of some of shared things: parks, transportation, and what she calls the Mother Of All Shared Products, Earth.

Lisa Gansky

As a an entrepreneur, Gansky has trained herself to take a higher perspective: rethink materials, product, service and clients. She notes that there are big opportunities out there and defines our current culture as a “perfect storm of Meshiness” in that it contains three crucial elements: 1) Mobile devices, 2) Social networks, and 3) Physical goods that allow us to locate each other in time or place, for instance Google Maps. These tools, she says, take the friction out of sharing.

Gansky uses shared-car company Zipcar as an example of the Mesh in action. The company has branded and scaled so it’s currently the largest car share company in the world. The cars have been carefully selected and branded in order to provide more of an experience rather than a service. But ultimately, “It’s about information, not transport.” The company uses collected data to better understand its user base, which is something companies need to do a better job of. Zansky also referenced “Pop-up stores” — temporary shops set up to utilize empty commercial spaces in order to create a finite experience for the consumer, which increases its value. Another example is Planeshop, an airport-based store in the UK that frequently changes what product they sell in each store. This gives customers a wider variety of products, but also a more memorable experience with the brand.

The ability to separate useful data from noise is something that resonated with Gansky on a personal level. She recently declared herself “full” and recognized that, as a creator of companies and products, she was actually part of the problem she was seeking to solve. But, as Gansky points out, changing habits is hard and usually happens as “a function of your pants being on fire.” She wondered, how can we make sharing feel irresistible? What’s required to do that? She mentions how a new generation is growing up without this idea of owning “things” and instead uses Netflix and Pandora shifting the relationship with music and movies from product to experience.

Gansky also identified the need to embrace the reverse value chain: that is, creating a balanced system that generates no waste. Historically, metrics have stopped after product creation, but increasingly consumers will want to know what companies are doing with waste. She mentioned Coca-Cola’s involvement with both the 111 Navy Chairs project and San Francisco-based Rickshaw bags, both of which use recycled plastic bottles to create their products.

Gansky notes that brand equity and profit will begin to be tied to this concept of the reverse value chain, and that advertising is simply not convincing anyone. What is convincing people is their friends and friends of friends. Experiences can be spread very rapidly throughout the world, messages can no longer be controlled. Companies and the people they hire need to be authentic, responsive, human.

Like nature, markets abhor a vacuum. Companies, Gansky predicts, will grow to fill these needs. Gansky invites attendees and interested parties to check out and contribute to a database she’s built that highlights some of these companies at meshing.it. She concludes “Welcome to the Mesh, I think we’re all on the ride together.”

(Photo credit: Kris Krüg)

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