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Idealog’s innovation playlist: a musical journey from the consumption economy to the connection economy

Everyone knows the world has changed. Back in 1995, your cell phone could make calls for a pretty hefty fee. Only 0.4 percent of people had access to the internet. The decision to buy something was generally made in your local store after driving out there and parking your car. And 91 percent of the money in the world’s top ten companies came from the consumption economy. 

Today, over three billion people have a supercomputer in their pocket. You can instantly make connections at superfast speeds. You can browse in the world’s biggest library, muse through the world’s biggest music store and just about anyone can buy just about anything from just about anywhere.

Here’s what that shift might sound like. 

Chain Gang  /// Sam Cooke: 

The world used to be simple. Rich people owned the land, poor people worked it and everyone believed in something higher. The Industrial Revolution switched the focus from farming and survival to production and consumption. By 1955, six of the world’s biggest companies were trading oil. Most of the rest made cars. Power was concentrated with the people who owned the commodities. It was somewhere between hard and impossible to break into those monopolies, much less take over. The world was alive with the sound of the men working on the chain gang.

Changes  /// David Bowie

Everyone knows how video killed the radio star. As technology changed, business models were forced to change with it. Year by year, the rules were rewritten by (and on) new technologies. But the biggest change of all was the power of connectivity. Links were removed from the supply chain. Technology democratised information. And anyone with an idea could start a business. The old-guard didn’t quite know what to make of it and the new-guard started taking over. And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.

Dreams  /// Fleetwood Mac

How do a bunch of kids at university imagine a future that no-one else can see? They have the freedom to dream, that’s how. If you’re shovelling coal into a steam train going a hundred miles an hour it’s incredibly hard to think about electric lines. But kids at university (or in their Mum’s garage) have the freedom to waste time. Dreaming, scheming, learning and playing are the tools of creativity. In the move from push (powered by ownership, scale and trade) to pull (powered by people, creativity and problem-solving), you need to build a garden that people want to play in. Have you any dreams you’d like to sell?

People are Strange  /// The Doors

If creativity is core, the beating heart of the connection economy is people. Most digital business models understand that people are the product. Google isn’t about free search, it’s about connecting buyers with sellers to make money. Facebook launched as a platform for connecting friends, now it’s also platform for connecting advertisers. And that’s worth $US300 billion. The challenge is, people are strange. They like what they like, do what they do and club together to chase new ideas faster than big business can move. That’s why creativity is so important. Creative people understand other people better than anyone. 

Money   /// The Flying Lizards

The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees. People want money. And everyone loves a gold rush. From the explorers and adventurers of the 18th century, to South Island settlers 100 years later, if someone smells gold, the rush is on. And that’s what happened 1995-2001 with the dot-com bubble. It’s a story of boom, bubble, bust. A confusion between price and value. Some got it very right, others got it very wrong – and even while many lost millions, the gold rush is still rushing. There’s now a global multi-billion-dollar industry of angels chasing unicorns. That’s right, angels are chasing unicorns – and it’s a very serious business.

Unicorn Wizard  /// Ninja Sex Party

A unicorn, in the world of business, is a private company that may not have an established performance record, but somehow manages a valuation of more than $1 billion. Like their mythical namesakes, they’re very rare, but there are more of them than ever. Snapchat went from zero to $10 billion faster than any company in history. This is the holy grail of startup investment (and, because lunches can be cut so quickly these days, the thing that keeps incumbent businesses up at night). Everyone wants a piece of tomorrow’s Snapchat. What would [your business] be like if [you] turned that shit up to eleven, out of a possible five?

Easy  /// Faith No More

The internet simplifies supply chains and makes life easier. No more overworked call centres sending taxis to the wrong address. Uber fixed it. Same thing with hiring movies and listening to music. No need to run to the store. No need for fire-sales of last year’s latest releases. The connection economy drives efficiency by seamlessly matching buyers and sellers. And the money is made by the middle-men who make the best platforms. TradeMe, Facebook, Airbnb etc. They’re the platforms of connection that make life easy, easy like Sunday morning.

Diamonds From Sierra Leone  /// Kanye West

Another change in the journey from commodity to connection is the rise of the personal brand. It’s obviously also something that Kanye intuitively understands. This growth of the person as a brand fuels social media. But it will also contribute to a massive change in the nature of work. The chain gang mentality is dead. The gig economy is taking over. Every link in that chain is a separate entrepreneurial business of one, and as automation continues to take established human jobs, navigating that brave new world will require new skills and increased adaptability. Or as Jay-Z raps on ‘Diamonds’, I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.

The Gambler  /// Kenny Rogers

Even as the world has changed, people haven’t. They never really do. People are motivated by fear and love, to look after themselves, protect their own and strive for a better life. Success in tomorrow’s world will ultimately come down to understanding people. The secret is making a life out of readin’ people’s faces, knowin’ what the cards [are] by the way they hold their eyes. And once you get people, it’s about finding a problem that needs solving and solving it. All you need is hard work, a belligerent belief that you’re changing the world and a bit of luck. Because let’s be honest, every business is a gamble.  So if you’re gonna play the game, you gotta learn to play it right.

Michael Goldthorpe is managing partner of an agency called Hunch. He’s also working on a great new app that’s like Uber for … something. Isn’t everyone?
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