live|work: Access Over Ownership


Last week I was presenting at the Sustainable Innovation 06 conference at IIT in Chicago and to my delight the service paradigm and approach to innovation (ie beyond the product or techonocentric approach) was heartedly represented. It's great to hear what we at live|work espouse coming back at ya from the conference stage and amongst the chattering delegates. I heard about 'servicing consumer behaviours', 'emotion and sentiment in product service systems', 'innovation communities and the role of different actors in a system', 'networks', 'co-creation', 'sharing' and 'the shift from ownership to borrowing'. And I'm hearing it in other places too. We at live|work have been harping on about 'use over ownership' of things for five years now ie, putting service models in place that enable us to 'do' and 'be' without having to own (Streetcar, our client, being a great example of this). And I add 'be' in there because we believe that what you do should express something about who you are as powerfully as what you own. We call this Service Envy - designing services that have the same functional, emotional and expressive power we look for in products. So, how great to hear others discussing this and putting models in place that do this.

The New York Times "Cars" special section has recently been covering articles on car sharing and fractional ownership. "At Your Disposal" published last Wednesday cites John Caron, the president of the Otto Club, saying: "Ownership is not the privilege. Access is the privilege. Ownership is the burden." Apparently the access to our luxury fantasies (like cars and vacation homes) is a growing market.

At the si06 conference, David Douglas Vice President, Eco-Responsibility, Sun Microsystems, UK, spoke about network computing (admitting the current network computing infrastructure is unsustainable) and the 'participation age'. He gave two examples to illustrate the power of shared models and 'access over ownership' — both delivering considerable value. The first, Thin Clients, is an enterprise workgroup server. That means that instead of everyone having a PC in the office and running processing off each individual machine (as per standard and apparently highly wasteful), up to 20 people can process their computing needs off one server. It means the PC can be taken out of the office and upgrades can be done without replacing machines (like software upgrades). It saves on space, consumption of hardware and energy consumed.

Access not ownership.

Next David spoke about Sun's very own flexible work programme Flex Work — obviously enabled by their superior network infrastructure. Sun have got 46% of their workforce to give up their permanent office space and work from wherever makes sense. This programme, which is highly popular amongst the workforce, has delivered $63m savings thus far and massive eco savings (less buildings required and much greater use of their stock), plus productivity has soared.

Access not ownership.

Sun describe this type of programme and their suite of network technologies to support 'access' under the banner Virtualisation on their website.

Lest me not forget to mention Jeremy Rifkin when I mention 'access' as he is the Daddy of this trend having pulled the plug on it in 2001 in The Age of Access: The New Culture of Hypercapitalism Where All of Life Is a Paid-For Experience. Ahead of the curve yes he is. I've been re-reading it recently and it reads like a manifesto for live|work. Thank you Rifkin.

More on access to come over the coming weeks. We've been debating 'participation' in the role of services and how this sits alongside access.

Written by Tamara Giltsoff