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Book of the Day: towards an Economy of Experiences

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
12th June 2013


A book published by my dutch friend Alber Boswijk, an expert in the “experience economy”:

* Book: Economy of Experiences. By Albert Boswijk, Ed Peelen & Steven Olthof. The European Centre for the Experience and Transformation Economy, 2013

A summary of the contents, by Albert Boswijk:

“In chapters 1 and 2 we present a concise synopsis of the various forms of value creation. Subsequently we describe and delve deeper into the technological and societal shifts, as viewed both from a business context and by individuals in their socio-cultural context (chapters 3 and 4). Following that, we examine new forms of value creation (chapter 5) and new income models (chapter 6). In chapter 7 we deal with the design principles of meaningful experiences, while chapter 8 deals more comprehensively than before with the five phases of intangible value creation. We have also elected to probe more deeply into the experience economy in the health sector (chapter 9), the financial services sector (chapter 10) and the creative city (chapter 11). We concentrate particularly on the transformation that these sectors are undergoing. In these particular areas there is sufficient urgency and potential to facilitate the creation of intangible value and meaningful experiences.

The book has a broad approach: it does not adopt any particular economic, management, philosophical or psychological methodology. A proper understanding of society and its development requires an integrated approach. We are concerned with what we perceive to be genuinely meaningful and the question as to how we can create value in new ways amongst guests, visitors, citizens, clients and organisations in order to create a playing field in which the traditional lines between suppliers and clients gradually become blurred. Throughout the book practical examples are cited, many of them drawn from our own consulting practice, because – together with our clients – we too have struggled with the challenges and the problems of finding new strategies and new value propositions. We prefer to view ourselves as strategic architects and developers of new forms of value creation rather than as builders of experience concepts.

From a didactic viewpoint, each chapter concludes with a summary, some questions on the contents of the chapter and a case study with accompanying questions.”

Excerpt: From an economy of experiences to the economy of meaning

(From the Introduction:)

“At the time of writing our first book in 2005, all sorts of other literature was being published on experiences and we felt a need to clarify matters in terms of the experience economy. In our view, the experience economy is about more than just the embellishment of products and services. It is also more than simply setting the stage in which products and services play their roles, because in fact the décor and the story acted out by consumers or others represents the greatest value. Rather, the experience economy is about putting people in the leading role, partly as consumers or customers, in the particular world in which they live. It is about asking how we can be meaningful to people, and how we can help them add meaning to their lives. It is important to note that the role of material values – the goods and services themselves – is decreasing, while that of intangible values is gaining in importance. Those kinds of meaningful experiences are what this book is about. We are not so much interested in the experience economy, but rather in alternative ways of connecting up parties so that they can jointly facilitate and create meaningful experiences.

Trying to help people add meaning to their lives is rather like searching for the Holy Grail. Indeed, that explains the choice of illustration for the cover of this book. (In effortlessly removing the sword that the wizard Merlin had set in the stone, Prince Arthur proved he was the rightful heir to the throne of England. The most important mission of the twelve Knights of the Round Table was the quest for the Holy Grail.)

The quest for the essential connection with what people need, with what makes their lives more enjoyable, fuller or, if you will, ‘more meaningful’ – that is what this book is about. That is the Holy Grail for which organisations need to search. That is the art of making essential connections. And that is not as easy as it may seem.

These insights have evolved substantially in the six years since our first book was written. Societal changes are taking place so quickly that we have been able to observe them with, as it were, our boots in the mud, while we ourselves were immersed in those changes. The ‘democratisation of the future’, so eloquently described by Josephine Green, is upon us. Even television shows such as the X-Factor and The Voice of Holland carry within them elements of the democratisation of talent. It is the public who can identify and choose those whom they regard as talented, their social heroes. At this stage, programme-makers still have total directional control and our social heroes are being ‘exploited’, but that too is set to change in the next few years. The world in which we live is gradually evolving into a transparent society and, we must vehemently hope, a social context and an economy in which we will be able to trust one another.”

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