Imagine a world where everyone is involved in creating and not only using solutions. A world where the value chain is flexible. An employee is an employer; a customer is a consultant and where every background, status, and resource plays an invaluable part in the process of value creation. Where transparency and trust are the founding blocks of every policy or governance structure.
We believe, mapping a direction would require us to ask uncomfortable questions; – who develops the platforms we use? And whose values are expressed in these platforms? Do we have consent from the ones whom stories, experiences, and pains are used as inspiration for these platforms? These questions are being emphasized because platforms we use shape social behaviours but so are problems of the people that inspire them. And it’s about time we stop seeing consumers as mere recipients of solutions or even case studies but as inspiration to solutions and start proactively involving them in the value chain.
There’s a fascinating legend that brings forth valuable insights that we can draw on in further building on and implementing on inclusive winning. The legend is one that connects to the origin of the Kula exchange. Centuries ago a story is told of a hero named Tava, who sometimes appeared as both human and an ancient animal. He would pass between the Trobriand Islands in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea, and when present, he brought good fortune and when he left, he left behind trade but for only those who were grateful for his presence. This trade could be a surplus of livestock and yams or fine pottery made in the Amphlett. In other regions, he left gifts of fruits and betel nuts. This legend became the inspiration behind the origin of the Kula Ring and how the gift economy of the Kula Ring was born.
Sharing, Specializing and Co-investing creates a “Gift Economy”
Kula is a system of symbolic exchange in which objects and skills are traded for social prestige, Malinowski (1922). Possession of Kula items not only bring status to the owner but also shows the importance and glory of citizens in their state. As it is human nature to have an urge to “owning” and “hogging” objects for self-gain. The Trobriand Islands attached ownership with certain stigmas surrounding possessing the object for too long, with one year being the socially accepted maximum- and where a gift cannot be returned too quickly, nor can it be exchanged too slowly.
And as we move swiftly towards the digital economy, we need to understand the opportunity the digital economy presents. The digital economy is defined by many as a sharing, collaborative, and knowledge economy. We and a few other like-minded people simply call it the ‘gift economy’. Because like the Kula Ring, the gift economy uses a system of symbolic exchange for social and economic prestige. It is for those who possess the longing of sharing their skills, knowledge, resources and consequently- their lives. Those who inform the process of creation. For those who understand that collaboration is a form of investment if they know their “what”. Their “what am I grateful for”; the “what is my value” and the “what do I do it for”. Unlike the previous economy where there’s a winner-take-all market. The ‘gift economy’ is a socio-economic ecosystem where everybody has a part to play. Where we all win; nobody is a generalist and a jack-of-all-trades. At Skill Exchange Makerspace we call this- ‘purposeful winning’-the idea that even competitors can collaborate to form new markets. The notion that there must be a winner and a loser is an ancient phenomenon. The ‘gift economy’ is a new economy where there are no monopolies, attached to exclusive partnerships with manufacturers and suppliers. It’s a natural balance; where our fundamental human impulse to display, to share and bestow honour, bravery and risk ties us together. It is an economy that understands that our differences establish social links that drive us to connect- sharing, collaborating, specializing and co-investing. This new economy is where giving is viewed as the cornerstone of a new social system that our world yearns for, which affects the economic, legal, political and religious spheres of society. An economy that drives the human race forward through our integrated experiences.
Platforms need to broaden the value chain
World-renowned digital experts worry that the platform economy yields a possible threat of dis-intermediation; once consumers and providers find each other and fully understand their superpowers. Are they likely to cut-out the middleman and transact directly with each other? This possible threat brings forth awareness for organisations to build authentic trust within the network. Organisations must build authentic trust to foster collaboration within the network of suppliers and customers, and everyone knows that collaborations can’t be forced. Collaboration requires an expansion of culture’s, processes, policies, products, empathy circle’s, perspective, environments and yes, an expansion of the value chain.
A trusted network effect for example; in societies with a gift economy, is an act of gift-giving, reciprocation, mutuality. These societies are tied together through ceremonious acts of offering support through goods, time, perspective, etc. and this affects every aspect of the lives of citizens. In a gift economy, altruism becomes the highest social good and fulfils the same psychological and social need for order that money and government would play in the so-called capitalist society. It, therefore, means that digital age organisations must embody a humanistic persona. That the new age digital organisation must be more ‘human’ by building products and services that improve the human experience; where human contact and impact is the indicator of success. Imagine if product success was measured by its positive influences on human behaviour. If a review was based on “how has the product affected my life?” We will then know, that we have created an inclusive value chain. A chain where everything and everyone counts.