Collaborate and Share — or Die!

by | 23 February 2015

You will achieve more by cooperating than working alone.

2015 will be the year of collaboration and sharing. Technological advances are opening up even more opportunities to leverage resources to reduce costs, maximize returns as well as share information and ideas with friends, colleagues and the wider community. Others may call this disruption, but I take the view that it is a return to the old-fashioned values of sharing (or bartering).

Nevertheless, can we expect to see emerging legal implications, security issues and/or privacy issues as a result of collaboration? If these trends do emerge, would we be better off as a “lone worker” or will these lone workers just get left behind?

To fuel this debate, I have listed several examples of how collaboration has assisted and benefited some business sectors while causing death to some traditional business models.

Cars — For infrequent car users, we are increasingly seeing lift-sharing, Uber cars, carpooling or clubs that are available in thousands of cities around the world. The benefit of collaborating in these forms is that customers can avoid the expense of buying and maintaining a car, which will lose 20 to 30 percent of its value as soon it is driven out of a showroom. Even manufacturers like BMW, Daimler and VW are introducing their own car sharing services. Other city dwellers also benefit from lower congestion and reduced pollution as every shared car replaces up to 13 owned cars.

Offices — Serviced/executive offices, such as those provided by Regus, have been around for more than two decades, and demand for these types of workspaces has increased during this time. This is likely to be because of the general workforce’s increasing desire for flexible employment with ever more part-time consultants or super-temps. I believe there will be a greater desire to collaborate when there is an even greater demand for flexible offices. We can expect to see massive growth both in “traditional” serviced office suites (which will also be available in shopping centers, railways and roadside service stations), as well as corporations that want to share their surplus of overflow space using companies such as LiquidSpace to market it.

Manufacturing — Who would have predicted even a few years ago that you could send a design for a spanner to a space station and then have a 3-D printer “print” if for you? The reality is that 3-D printers are now open to be used by anyone, as the cost of printing will be more affordable and may soon appear in your own home. The greatest limit today is the relatively slow speed, but in a few years 3-D printing will be the catalyst for the next industrial revolution as we move to an era of mass customization (as opposed to mass production).

Financing — Crowdfunding has been with us for a few years now and in 2013 grew to over $5 billion worldwide, but it is still new to the majority of people. Typically, it has been used to raise funds for new ideas or startup companies, but we are now beginning to see some companies trialing this for loans. It won’t be long before we see this platform being used for house and car purchases.

Data — Whether it be open sourcing or cloud computing, individuals as well as corporations are relying on shared facilities or software to maximize the power and economies of scale of networks that are often unavailable to the masses. Without a doubt, this has had the biggest impact with the growth of cloud vendors in excess of 50 percent per annum.

Hotels — Will we see a decline in hotels with more of us turning to companies such as Airbnb or Couchsurfing to rent out lodging when we are traveling?

Clearly the advantages of sharing are enormous, and the trend is expanding across every industry and walk of life at an exponential rate. However, potential risks are starting to emerge around privacy and security as we “trust” others with our information. We may wish it be kept private, but the owner of the shared platform may wish to exploit for his or her own benefit.

We are also seeing serious breaches in security of even the largest companies. We also often overlook the validity of legal contracts as we don’t bother to check whether the car or house owner we are “borrowing” from has the requisite insurance or legal rights to both protect our interests and allow them to sublet in the first place.

Governments around the world are beginning to see their legal systems being tested as disgruntled users take their grievances to the courts. No doubt the legal community will jump on to the opportunity to protect clients’ rights and make some money at the same time.

In summary, the way we work, live and play will continue to change with the emergence of more technologies to help as we collaborate and integrate more with one another. If a business doesn’t collaborate in the modern world, then it won’t survive.

For more insights and discussion, follow our Colliers Collaboration page on LinkedIn.

Based in London, Guy heads the EMEA Corporate Solutions team for Colliers International. He was one of the first surveyors to specialize in corporate solutions in the U.K. and has worked with clients from a wide spectrum of industries including industrial, IT, financial services and consumer goods.