The Support Economy

It is amusing to witness the headlong flight to social-this, social-that. Talk about jumping on the bandwagon – wow! People that don’t know eigenvector centrality from a scale-free network are now social network media mavens.

The wholesale social reorientation of business, organizations, institutions and civil society by individuals, networks and whole ecosystems was forecast and begun in earnest years ago.


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Shoshana Zuboff, best-selling author, sociologist, Harvard b-school professor and friend of your Action Research Clusters, delivered the foundations of today’s social media and network revolution in The Support Economy.

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Written with James Maxmin, and published in 2002, the highly perspicacious authors led fundamental advancements in the understanding of the comprehensive social reorientation of business. They lay the groundwork for how new business and economies are propelled by social networks, media and entirely new, deep support ecologies.

Here are eleven key points of the highly germane and recommended Support Economy manifesto.      

  1. All value resides in individuals: Individuals are recognized as the source of all value and all cash flow. Distributed capitalism thus entails a shift in commercial logic from consumer to individual as momentous as the 18th-century shift in political logic from subject to citizen.
  2. Distributed value necessitates distributed structures among all aspects of the enterprise: As value moves to the individual via the federations and advocates, production, ownership and control also become distributed, devolving power.
  3. Relationship economics is the framework for wealth creation:  Enterprises and federations invest in commitment and trust to maximize realized relationship value. Wealth is created in the realization of relationship value and depends on the quality of ‘deep support’ (see principle #5).
  4. Markets are self-authoring. Markets for ‘deep support’ are formed as individuals opt into fluid constituencies that hold the possibility of community. 
  5. Deep support is the new metaproduct: Relationship value is realized as the enterprise assumes total accountability and responsibility for every aspect of the consumption experience. 

  6. Federated support networks are the new competitors: They achieve economies and differentiation through their configuration, quality and deep support, providing unique aggregations of products and services.
  7. All commercial practices are aligned with the individual: No cash is released into the federation (and the underlying enterprises) until the individual pays. Cash flow is thus the essential measurement of value realization.

  8. Infrastructure convergence redefines costs and frees resources: By eliminating the replication of administrative activities that exist in today’s organizations, convergence dramatically lowers operating costs and working capital, putting ‘deep support’ within the reach of individuals at all income levels.
  9. Federations are infinitely configurable: Each individual or constituency determines the right configuration for ‘deep support’ he needs, and each configuration is an endlessly renewable resource for competitive advantage.

  10. New valuation methods reflect the primacy of the individual: Competitiveness depends on ability to nurture and leverage new intellectual, emotional, behavioral and digital assets defined by individual needs.

  11. New consumption means new employment: A new employment relationship including new career rights, and a managerial canon of collaborative coordination are necessary consequences of relationship economics.



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