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Mikael Eriksson Björling

Things that matters! About digital transformation, design, culture and lifestyle in the Networked Society

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Transformation

Life in 2025: The Resourceful

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My previous blog post was about the model you can use to understand movements in lifestyles in the Networked Society. If you missed that post you can find it here.  In this post, let’s look closer at the Resourceful.the-resourceful-588x300

The Resourceful employ the most attractive positions in society and are made up of business owners, entrepreneurs, investors, innovators, managers, leaders, information and knowledge workers, artists and creative workers, highly skilled specialists, and high-level politicians and government officials. The Resourceful have either economic, cultural, or social capital – and in many cases they have plenty of all three. They also have the ability to trade in cultural and social capital for economic capital and are, therefore, not always dependent on a traditional paycheck to carry them in their life as consumers. The Resourceful are, per capita, the strongest consumption class in the Networked Society, but as they are also the smallest group, they are primarily a force in terms of opinion leadership related to consumption.

The group spends a lot of their economic capital on consumption, but also uses their cultural and social capital to access and acquire the products, services, and consumption experiences they want. Many brands in all sorts of categories will allow them to use their products and services for free in order to reach out to other consumers through the networks of the Resourceful.

In short, the Resourceful:

  • have economic, cultural and/or social capital
  • belong to influential networks
  • seek extraordinary experiences
  • prioritize health and wellbeing
  • make conscious statements about global sustainability.

Explore more about The Resourceful here.

Life in 2025: A new model for emerging roles

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We are now sixteen years into the new millennium and we have had internet and a global standard for mobile telephony for a quarter of a century. The new millennium marks in many ways the transition from the age of industrialization to a new paradigm, which we call The Networked Society.

Now, with some distance, we are able to see the age of industrialization for what it really was. To generalize, it was an era of escalating capitalism, mass-manufacturing, mass-consumption, and a highly modernistic organization of life into clear cut categories, invented by the great institutions of the 20th century: governments and large enterprises.

During the age of industrialization the individual left her rural and collective societies, moved into cities and urban areas, separated work life from private life, made more money than ever before, increased her standard of living, and started to consume the fruits of the free markets. But how are these structures being challenged? What is happening with life and lifestyles right now? In what direction are we moving? How are values and attitudes changing? And what clusters of different lifestyles do we see emerging? These are some of the questions we explore in the Life in 2025 work. This work is based on multiple sources from the research we done the last five years (which you are welcome to explore at The Networked Society site)

On an overall level we’d argue that it’s possible to understand the new structure of society along two dimensions: inside the system vs. outside the system; that is, those that are part of established institutions, networks, and employment and those who are not. The next dimension is if you are empowered or dependent; that is, those who are active in society and strive to control their own situation and those who are dependent on other groups in society and with less control of their own situation. This gives us four macro level groups to consider: The Resourceful, The Social, The Players, and The Anchored. Into this model we also want to plot a fifth group we expect to emerge in the Networked Society, The Mobile, which gives us the following model.life-in-2025-588x300

All these groups have different life conditions, their lifestyles, values and attitudes are different. So this model is a framework for thinking and analyzing, rather than a quantified picture of the world. The size of the quadrants and how many people that will be empowered vs. dependent is very much a political and ideological question and this will be different in different countries. I hope you’ll join me over the course of my next five blogposts, as I describe the different lifestyles one by one.

Read more the the Networked Society blog >>>

Tales of transforming cities

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The fifth report in our Future of Commerce and Consumption report series, The Tale of Two Transforming Cities, depicts two cities that are redefining themselves through ICT and entrepreneurship. In the research for these reports, we visited two iconic American cities, Detroit and San Francisco: Detroit once famous for its motor industry, now more known for all its abandoned buildings and a budding entrepreneur scene; San Francisco known (apart from the classic tourist spots) for the tech companies in the Silicon Valley. Both these cities are redefining themselves through a number of grassroots initiatives and startups trying to solve a number of challenges.

Detroit is particularly interesting because it involves the failure of two of capitalism’s most important institutions: big corporations and government. When traditional institutions like those are no longer around to provide people with a place to be and a sense of meaning in everyday life, it becomes an increasingly individual project to make sense of the world and society. In Detroit, a new scene of small-scale businesses and social entrepreneurs is rising to fill the gap the institutions left and building a new identity. This movement includes the return of local craftsmanship, changed consumption patterns – such as buying local and avoiding big international brands – and community activism. One example of the new type of social businesses that are stepping in where society has failed is Rebell Nell. Rebell Nell is a graffiti jewelry workshop that employs disadvantaged women in Detroit and educates them in financial management to give them the platform to successfully change to an independent life.

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Rebel Nell encourages the rise of local craft businesses

If you find a lot of space and affordable properties in Detroit, San Francisco is the opposite. In San Francisco people are aware that the big corporations and the government are not going to fix the challenges we face. The “creative elite” is taking the visionary lead, both commercially and socially, and expectation is placed on digital technology’s ability to conquer the social and environmental problems of today. Yerdle, for example, is an San Francisco business with a higher purpose – an ambition to reduce the number of new things we all have to buy by 25 percent by swapping things we don’t use.

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Yerdle modernizes swapping and barter to reduce consumption

These types of developments are, of course, something that you can discover all over the world in different cities, with different starting points and different shapes. The New York Times recently published an article about Pittsburgh once known for its steel mills, but is now changing through a new food and tech boom that attracts people to the city. Which is the next American city in transformation we will read about?

The new world of consumers

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I recently read a review in the Guardian about Frank Trentmann’s 1.5 kg book “How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First”, that is spot on a subject we are working hard on right now. I’ve bought an e-book version already, but – like an old-fashioned consumer – I feel a need to get a paper version just to feel the weight.

Trentmann writes that “In the early seventeenth century, for example, men and women in Bondorf and Gebersheim, two villages in Württemberg, Germany, owned 3 and 12 articles of clothing respectively. A century later, the number had shot up to 16 and 27 pieces. By 1800, it had doubled again.”  This development has continued through the centuries, and we continue to own more and more things. But is there an end?

We are in the midst of a major transformation of all areas of society and there is a lot of talk about transforming industries and the emergence of the industrial internet and so on. But in fact, what we’ve always seen throughout history is that when industries change, they do so in conjunction with the customer side. And customer demands for change can be motivated by either lifestyle or work-life factors. In other words, industrial and societal changes are two sides of the same coin.twosidedcoin-600x240

he accumulation of these changes becomes clearly visible when you line up how we have consumed throughout history, from the early days of hunting and gathering to the industrialized society, where the modern consumer was born and which is now a stage of major transformation.

To zoom back in to a personal level, I’ve been thinking about how my own patterns have changed these past years. My money is now completely digital – with few exceptions, I have not used Swedish cash for years. My mobile transactions are also starting to pick up – a lot of thing that I used to buy as physical products are now online services (such as music and software). And a lot of the things I need, I order online (while on the other hand, I am also very involved in, for example, buying locally and organically produced food). And these are just a handful of personal changes.

To illustrate the big shift, we have created an infographic about the changing consumer across history. This is a companion to our new report series on shape-shifting consumers and the new forms of commerce and consumption in the Networked Society. In these, we track both production and consumption evolving constantly throughout history and accelerating in the Networked Society.

Returning to Trentmann example above, it’s not so much that we are seeing an end to the growth in consumption, but rather a rapid expansion in the forms of both consumption and production and, with that, a far more complex and fluid understanding of what it now means to be a consumer.

Related links

The consumer is dead. Long live the user!

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The essence of industrialization was to automate the production of things, which in turn brought about the industrialization of people, changing work and workplaces. People went from producing their own food at the countryside to producing stuff in the factories, for the stores in the cities. And so the modern consumer was born. But times are changing again!

As we move further into the Networked Society, the traditional consumer is challenged, even though the economists want consumption to keep spinning the wheel. New transformative businesses go to market with new business models at the same time as people’s behaviors are starting to change.

“Why own a car when you can just have one when you need it?” is what you can hear from young urban dwellers today.

Putting it simply, there are two major trends ahead for commercial life: (1) the big project for businesses is to automate the consumption or usage processes, and (2) traditional business models and the logic of the capitalistic economic system are challenged by “involved consumption” and the “sharing economy”.

This week, we release five reports about the future of commerce and consumption. This is the quick guide to these reports:

  1. Disruption of the old consumption logic: This report is about how we moved from an age of industrialization to the Networked Society and how the consumer logic once again will change.
  2. Emerging consumer values: This report reviews the expectations people will have on businesses as well as a set of emerging consumption dichotomies.
  3. The sharing economy: This report analyses the different parts of the sharing economy, such as barter trade, local currencies and cooperatives.
  4. The consumer in the Networked Society: This report outlines the characteristics of the future consumer.
  5. A tale of two transforming cities: Case studies highlighting urban transformation in Detroit and San Francisco and how progressive businesses and individuals organize consumption.
  6. The evolution of the consumer: infographic.

Platforms in the Networked Society – economics and scale

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oday most business offerings consist of a product or service that a company creates and then delivers to customers. This is the traditional way – produce and deliver. The platform model is fundamentally different, serving as the technological base upon which customers, developers, businesses and their partners can build added value through increased participation.

Wherever a platform emerges as a business-critical infrastructure for a wide range of other businesses, it not only reduces transaction costs for various business and peer-to-peer functions to nearly zero but becomes an economic force with a logic of its own. Alex Taub from the payments network Dwolla put it like this in our Digital Disruptors report: “We already have companies building on top of us. Alliance Data Systems did it just yesterday [with the launch of Dwolla Credit]. They launched a credit card on top of our network. They’re a billion dollar company. The more people that depend on us, the more people are in the network and the stronger the network effect gets. That makes it a fundamental market.”

The logic of a platform business is to create technology that can serve as a basis for other services and products. The more businesses that are built on the platform, the more people use the platform and the more the platform becomes a complete market ecosystem. Check out the rest of the post at the Networked Society blog >>

Digitalization – when the most valuable assets become digital

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Digitalization is happening in all areas of life and business; I guess most of you have noticed that. Physical products are either becoming digital services or are significantly enhanced with new digital service capabilities. What’s also happening right now is that business practices are becoming digitized to become faster, more relevant and more cost-efficient.

An organization’s digital assets are quickly rising in importance, becoming primary sources of business value as physical processes become real-time data flows. It used to be the physical assets that were the most important – such as machines and raw material (as I wrote about in the first post in this series) – but now it is increasingly the digital assets that are taking center stage. Check out the rest of the post at the Networked Society blog >>

Capabilities of the Networked Society – available and on-demand

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This is my fifth post in a series about mastering the six new assets in the Networked Society. I started with a review of the assets that played a central role when the industrialization started a few hundred years ago, such as capital, factories, and raw material – investment intense, concreate and very physical assets with high barriers access. For most industries at that time, capabilities required heavy investment and took a long time to build and scale. That was the era of mass production.

Looking forward, the focus will shift to flexibility and responsiveness to a constantly changing market.

Last year we did an interview with Bobby Beaver, Co-founder of Zazzle for our Digital Disruptor report, and he explained how the on-demand model is the natural successor to mass production:

For example, every year half of all shoes end up on the sales rack at the end of the season because it’s impossible to predict the style, size, color, etc. That amount of inefficiency has implications. It has implications for the cost of goods; you’re paying far too much for shoes on the whole if half of them are going on sale at the end of the season, because you’re obviously paying for that inefficiency.

It has a big taxing effect on the environment, because of all the excess it creates. And ultimately consumers aren’t getting what they want. They’re only getting what’s available and what’s close to what they want.

Check out the rest of the post at the Networked Society blog >>

Things in the Networked Society – connected and intelligent

Anything that can benefit from a connection will have one in the Networked Society.

About seven years ago, our former CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg stated that there would be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. That was mind-blowing at that time. What would all these devices do?

Since then, a lot has happened, and we have seen many other companies start to talk about the same thing. We have also seen tremendous smartphone growth from about 500 million smartphone subscriptions in 2010 to about 3.5 billion subscriptions today. Now we have started to see many different things getting connected. The Internet of Things (IoT), as it’s often called, even has its own day now, and every business looking for opportunity based on mobility and connectivity should be connecting both their products and processes.

Maersk_shipWe already have many examples of things getting connected and intelligent. Maersk’s entire shipping fleet has been connected for several years, both the ship and the containers. This has allowed Maersk to improve…

Read the rest of this post at the Networked Society blog.

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