Oct 11, 2010

Hot Studio Recommends “The Mesh”

Maria Giudice's picture
Maria Giudice
CEO & Founder

Last year, I had the privilege and honor of participating on a panel discussion at the Commonwealth Club titled “Four Executive Women Making a Difference in Business.” The panel included Blair Shane, CMO from California Academy of Sciences; Lisa Nash, CEO of Blue Planet Run; and Lisa Gansky, Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Dos Margaritas. Moderated by Christie Dames, the panel held a very lively discussion on methods and strategies for businesses on how to make a positive social impact in the world.

Lisa is the author of a fabulous, new, and insightful book, “The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing.” “Mesh” companies enable people to share products and services at the exact moment they need them without having to own them outright. The book is delightful to read and Lisa’s personality really shines through. I recently sat down with Lisa and asked her a few questions about her book:

What inspired you to write "The Mesh”?
The observation that our business and personal relationship to “stuff” is changing—sharing is becoming more common, more possible with new technology, and more profitable. I want to accelerate the adoption of Mesh models by making its big advantages visible to the greatest number of people. Many more wild and wonderful ideas will be put into action when people become aware of the platform and its possibilities.

Where does the term "mesh" come from?
A mesh is basically a network where every node is connected to all the others. This seemed like a nearly perfect metaphor to describe the intermingling, engagement, and intersections that sharing goods and services require. It’s open, interwoven and active. Also, I like that it can be used as a verb to say things like, “Let’s make a real mesh of things!”

What characterizes a Mesh business?
Large or small, Mesh businesses share four characteristics. First, their core offering is shared within a community or market, including products, services, and raw materials. They are good at collecting and using data to improve and grow their services. They focus on physical goods and materials, and they use social networks. Of course, not every business or organization discussed in my book contains every element. Like any large, rapidly growing advance, the Mesh expresses itself in a variety of ways along a continuum. Some businesses start in full Mesh mode. Many, many others are moving in the right direction.

Why is understanding the Mesh important for designers?
Ah, a terrific and huge question. Products and services that are shared will be thought about in very different ways from those built for one owner. Basically, they will be designed to last a long time, to be easily customized, to be repaired, and to be recycled or up-cycled at the end of its product life. That’s a big change from products designed to quickly become obsolete (so you have to buy a new one), and then thrown in the trash bin on its way to a landfill. Bikes, cars, and homes—three high-cost items—are good examples of products that will be designed to be more durable, flexible, reparable, and recoverable (plug-able components and non-toxic). As new, more openly shared tools, techniques and strategies evolve, designers will also raise the “expectation bar” for the whole design community—and for their customers!

How do you see the future of the Mesh unfolding?
We are just at the very beginning of a whole, exciting new wave of thinking, living, and working together. I think that the early attention and focus will go to Mesh “sweet spots”—areas where sharing will be most compelling and nearly frictionless.

First, cities come to mind. Density is a big friend of sharing. More people in a neighborhood with a desire for richer, enjoyable experiences are a recipe for Mesh-y solutions. Cities are the first places to tackle personal transportation, freight, energy, food production and distribution, and waste management issues creatively and with the help of a ready market and technologies. I expect that we will learn a lot as we dive into the design of new types of services for cities around the world. And I am very optimistic that people, who are in the midst of these projects, private and public, will share their failures and insights all along the way. (Early bike sharing services are a good example of just that.)

Second, the Mesh is a global shift rooted in local communities. People will create share-based programs, businesses and organizations driven from the surplus of “stuff” and the needs of each market or community. With an eye toward sharing insights and learning from others, I created a Mesh community directory at www.meshing.it. Today there are more than 2,500 listings, and growing. There, people around the world have added their programs and ideas. It’s a wonderful place to explore, be inspired, and to start making your own mesh of things! Enjoy.

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