Book of the Week: Xavier Comtesse’s Direct Economy

Xavier Comtesse has released a report on what he calls the direct economy, and which I would consider the view of participatory economics from the point of view of the corporation seeking hyperproductivity.

His report contains insights, analysis, and interesting cases studies, as well as a model of levels of participation, which we are quoting in this first installment from an English summary and translation of the original French-language report.

Check out Xavier Comtesse here.


“The model was the result of observations from Swissquote Inc, where intermediaries had become agents of change within the company and had help transform it into a hyperproductive company.

The model has since then been refined, with the definition of the “transformActors” and “ConsumActors”, and the classification of knowledge (inspired from Mathematics) and interactivity along the 2 axis of a matrix. The model has also been validated against 3 real cases with 3 Swiss companies: Swissquote, and Cla-Val.

The Model

1. The problem:

low cost offshoring, baby boomers reaching retirement age, etc… create tension in the economy. And the answer is not in lowering costs, but rather in achieving high productivity.

2. The solution:

changing Consumers into ConsumActors. We have heard of crowdsourcing, but the real underlying change is that the customers are getting more involved into the value chain.

3. Technologies of Cooperation

While technology helps improve processes, the real value behind these technologies is the shift in the interactivity between the producers and the consumers: consumers are getting used to getting more and more involved into the process (self service, product configuration and customization, etc…)

4. Levels of interactivity

The level of interactivity that is possible with ConsumActors can be classified as follows:

4.1 Passive consumption:

The consumer is getting products or services with no real interaction and no real choice. He has to take whatever is available.

4.2 Self Service

The consumer is now given the ability to choose between various products or services. This first step is already a huge step forward, as the consumer can go around the vendor to pick and choose what he wants.

4.3 DIY: Do It Yourself

At this level, the consumer starts getting involved in the value chain. This is what IKEA offers, where you are not just buying a product, you are actually also delivering it to your home and building it yourself. This case is an example of the first disruption from the standard retail value chain.

4.4 Co-design

At this level, the consumer starts adding value by customizing the product and therefore defining his needs himself (as opposed to buying a product defined by the product management team). This is what Dell is asking from customers when they have to pick and choose options to build a computer.

4.5 Co-creation

This is the ultimate level of involvement, where the consumer is actually involved in the design of the product or service itself. This is what Open Source does for developers, and what Wikipedia does for knowledge consumers. Similarly Procter and Gamble has a “Connect and Develop” program that lets innovators define products.

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