Community protection in product-service platforms

Service Innovation is a big buzzwords in business and management circles right now, because in this participatory and connected age, simple physical produces are making way more and more for product-service platforms that bring together the supply of the product, and the user community, which is allowed various degrees of participation.

Alex Steffen writes:

“PSS offer enormous potential sustainability benefits. Indeed, I’d argue that it will be impossible to deliver sustainable prosperity without the widespread adoption of shared/sharing systems. But they can also have a real downside, for PSS rely on a more intimate connection with their users, and where that intimacy is not backed by protected relationships, real disaster can result.”

And he gives an example (regarding car-sharing) of what can go wrong, when the proprietary owners disregards the wishes and needs of the user community:

Consider ZipCar’s takeover of FlexCar, for example. Many FlexCar users made serious life decisions — about whether to own a car and where to live, for instance — based in some large part on the availability of FlexCars in their lives. When ZipCar began making arbitrary changes to the means and extent of that availability (removing cars, raising rates, changing policies) without any warning or discussion whatsoever, former FlexCar customers (who had treated FlexCar as much as a community as a business) realized that they in fact were not community members in any meaningful way, and that their involvement with car-sharing was unprotected by any meaningful ownership or rights.”

He is reacting to a very impressive presentation by Matt Jones and Tom Coates about such services, in which they outline, 3 conditions for their successfull design, the 3 P’s.

They are:

Politeness, in this context, means not only aware of the social niceties, but a radical bias towards openness, or as Adam Greenfield says, “Ubiquitous systems must contain provisions for immediate and transparent querying of their ownership, use, capabilities, etc.”

Pertinence essentially contains the expectation that the user gets the truth, the useful truth and the truth in time to matter: that the choices we make are informed by the best possible understanding of the situation, and that the evolution of that understanding ought to be up to us to shape. [I’m wildly extrapolating on their argument here.]

Prettiness is not only about the aesthetics of the user experience (though I’d argue those are not in any way trivial, and that Bucky was right about beauty), but even more so, about the crafting of user experiences that allow people to meaningfully engage with masses of data and complex systems in ways that are simple and compelling.”

Given the example above, it is clear that one more P is missing: Protection. It’s a part of peer governance that can never be forgotten!!

Alex Steffen concludes:

If we are going to interact with companies in intimate ways — in ways that impact our deepest life choices — those interactions ought not only to be held to a higher standard of transparency and public accountability; they ought to be safe-guarded in formal ways as well by having corporate decision-making structures that protect the user rights of the people involved.

Some of these protections might involve legislation and regulation; legally protecting users’ privacy and data ownership, for instance. Some might involve business ethics, codes of practice and certification systems enforced by NGOs. Some might involve new forms of corporate chartering and governance. Some might involve actual ownership by and participation of the users themselves.

Because all commerce involves power and money, creating a marketplace expectation of protection will not be painless. It’ll take a consumer rights movement to make this happen. PSS companies which refuse to do business in an appropriate manner ought to be not just avoided, but identified and penalized. As much energy ought to go into weeding out bad PSS as rewarding good ones, especially now, when the concept is just taking root, and the market could easily adjust to an expectation of privacy abuse and exploitation.”

In the discussion area of the article, one reader wonders whether such protection is possible in a business environment, and suggests that cooperatives may be an answer:

If what you want is a respectful relationship between the citizen/customer and the companies that they do business with, I think you’d be better off advocating for cooperatives. Victoria and Vancouver, BC both have co-op car shares (see and respectively).”

1 Comment Community protection in product-service platforms

  1. AvatarPatrick Anderson

    The real “missing p” is Property.

    When users OWN the means of production none of these problems occur.

    Do you think users cannot afford to own the means of production? They already pay for it when they buy products. The only difference is that they pay *after* production instead of *before*. That can be solved by encouraging users that can afford to buy early to pre-purchase the product. But they won’t just be buying the product, they will become part-owners in the company. The return on their investment is ‘product’ instead of ‘profit’. Any late-comers who pay full price (both costs and profit) become part-owners in the amount they paid above cost. In other words, profit must be treated as an investment from the user who paid it to insure such disasters as described do not happen because the current user base will always be in control.

    How strange is our stance that all production must be AGAINST the very people it pretends to be FOR.

    Production should be for USE value, not for the work it takes to accomplish it. Work is a cost we want to minimize, don’t we?

    What are our goals? Does peer production require user price remain above owner costs just as in Capitalism?

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