This is an excerpt from Empower: How to Co-Create the Future. The full 200+ page book is available by donation!
“It is more convenient, more economical, and more…rational…to access something rather than own it full time”
excerpt from book
David Passiak: ZipCar changed behavior and also inspired new types of entrepreneurship. You not only pioneered the trust-based transactions, but the ease and accessibility of ZipCars at scale made it the possible for people to not need to own a car. ZipCar in turn inspired other entrepreneurs to found similar companies, because if you don’t need to own a car, maybe you don’t need to own other things.
Robin Chase: Start with the basic question: why do we own things? A large part of the reason is to make sure that it’s always going to be there when I need it. We used to think that I can’t lend out my car or I can’t have it part-time because it won’t be there when I need it. In economic terms, we call this a rivalrous good. Zipcar showed that by creating pools of cars, this rivalrous thing suddenly became non-rivalrous. I could share it and still have it at the same time.
It’s not on-demand in the sense that I clap my hands and it’s there. The shift is because it is more convenient and cheaper. In the case of Zipcar, I think people always would have liked to pay for a car when they needed it instead of having to own it and maintain it. We demonstrated, “Huh. You know what? I can have it only when I need it.” That’s a different sentiment than saying, “When I say so, I’ve got to have it.” I never felt that sense of privilege and entitlement from customers. It was more convenient, more obvious, more economical.
David Passiak: That’s interesting. It makes you wonder what other hidden assumptions we have about ownership and attachments to things that are breaking down. Access in some contexts has the same connotations that you associate with ownership, this entitlement and sense that this is mine. I wonder how we get away from this binary thinking of mine/not mine.