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Posted: February 14, 2014

Eight big opportunities ahead

We need a just-in-time mindset

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the last of three parts. Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

In looking at all the inroads the sharing economy has made so far, you may think that the big opportunities have already been exploited. In reality, this is a movement that’s just getting started.

Here are just a few that come to mind:

1.) Commercial Real Estate – Traditional real estate thinking demands long-term leases and huge commitments, something that no longer makes sense in a fluid, rapidly-changing economy. Think in terms of coworking for musicians, artists, makers, and small retailers to fill the growing number of empty big box retail stores. 

2.) Alternative Health care – In healthcare, the providers are far more organized than the consumers and those in need. It only makes sense that pooling, organizing, and developing communities of need will open the door to many unexploited opportunities.

3.) Tiny Home Pads – A growing number of people have adopted a nomadic lifestyle will small little homes on wheels, all under 200 sq ft. Similar to an upscale campground for longer-term residents, the tiny home movement is in need of support communities with pads and hookups for water and power.

4.) Experience Sharing – Every experience can be optimized around the right group size, personalities, ages, backgrounds, and interests. As an example, specialty tours could be developed for niche groups like Australian sailors wanting to learn French cooking and pottery making while traveling through Brazil.

5.) Travel Sharing – When enough people want to go to Cleveland, a bus, airplane, or boat can instantly be scheduled and everyone leaves. Travel no longer has to be restricted to scheduled times, places, or destinations.

6.) Capacity Sharing – Most concerts, theaters, and sporting events have unfilled seats. With the right kinds of online brokerages and exchanges unfilled capacity becomes an instant asset.

7.) Sharing Executives – Bored with the same old job and responsibilities, let’s try a new management team this week and shake things up a bit.

8.) Future Libraries – It seems somewhat ironic that the originators of the sharing economy have been disrupted by the modern sharing economy, but that’s exactly what’s happening. 

When books were an expensive luxury that only the wealthy elite could afford, it made sense to pool these valuable resources in a public place. But while libraries were all about sharing, they somehow became more focused on books and less focused on sharing.

However, libraries have been adapting quickly. Over the years, they have added the sharing of art, videos, and even tested such unusual things as pet sharing, seed sharing, and lending such things as hand tools, baking pans, fishing poles, telescopes, and knitting needles.

In Canada, some libraries serve as sites for sharing emergency equipment such as backup generators, heaters, rescue equipment, lights, and more.

With a little ingenuity, your local library could easily become the community-sharing hub for virtually anything. 

Final Thoughts

Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, summed it all up well when he said, “There are 80 million power drills in America that are used an average of 13 minutes… Does everyone really need their own drill?”

So is the sharing economy only for those with a charity mindset? Hardly. Some are estimating the value of Airbnb to be over $2.5 billion. Zipcar recently sold for $500 million, and some estimates place the value of Uber at well over $1 billion. The sharing economy is indeed big business and getting bigger.

The universal cure for our just-in-case disease is a just-in-time mindset.

With our sharing of goods and services in ways that drive transaction costs to a fraction of what they would be otherwise, “just-in-time” is about to become the universal mantra of tomorrow’s business elite.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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