The main characteristic of the We-economy is that value creation takes place in an ongoing interaction with a much broader set of stakeholders than what companies and organizations usually consider.
It’s a different way of collaborating and organizing value creation, and it requires all involved to reconsider their roles in the process.
Consumers are usually thought of as passive and free of responsibility. As a consumer, you can choose from the menu, pay what’s required, use what you bought and discard it afterwards.
In the We-economy, the people formerly known as consumers become co-creators. Co-creators can actively participate in defining the product, configuring it, and contributing ideas, data and labor to the process.
A co-creator operates with a different mindset than a consumer. Consumers are the classic homo economicus. Consumers think short-term and personal. They want the best deal for themselves, and they don’t care about the consequences of their choices for others.
In contrast, co-creators see they will get better value by engaging with others, and they understand that thriving in the long-term requires that others will also thrive. They realize that their choices have positive and negative consequences in a far-reaching system, and that they have responsibilities beyond simply paying for the right to ”consume”.
Manufacturers usually create finished products that are sold to consumers in transactions, which rarely extend beyond the sale and a bit of follow-up for repair and warranty issues.
In the We-economy, the finished physical product is less important relative to the process, which allows users to make the most of the product. An increasing part of overall value is created through interactions on a platform, that allows many stakeholders – including other companies and end-users – to contribute to a solution, which fits the user’s needs and demands in the specific, current context.
This requires that manufacturers open up to input from other companies and users, and this in turns means that they lose some of their control of the finished product.
Public services are usually provided to taxpayers, who are seen as clients that are entitled to a service. In the We-economy, public institutions see themselves as enablers, that create systems and platforms, which allow citizens, civil servants and private companies to co-create common goods such as health, security, mobility or education.
Citizens are given opportunities and responsibilities to improve the value of the services by co-creating.