Emerson Csorba is a co-founder and director of Gen Y Inc. and a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.
In The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, one of the most important books on technological change of the past year, the authors write that 21st-century innovation is exponential, digital and combinatorial.
Summarized neatly by Entrepreneur First co-founder Matt Clifford, one of Britain's tech leaders: "The good news is that innovation is increasingly distributed; there is no central authority whose ability to assess innovation is the bottleneck." Indeed, what for long seemed impossible is fast becoming commonplace.
The sharing economy is part of the technological revolution that is changing how individuals, companies and governments operate. Canada is no exception, and so the recent report Harnessing The Power Of The Sharing Economy: Next Steps For Ontario, produced in partnership between the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and PwC Canada, serves as a step forward for Canadian business and innovation. Canada needs more of this kind of leadership in rethinking our economy, convening experts from across the globe.
In my workplace culture consultancy, which helps companies attract and retain the next generation of talent, we've seen the idea of the sharing economy rise on many public and private sector organizations' agendas. The reasons are technological, economic and philosophical.
Because of online peer-to-peer platforms, individuals can now trade goods and services more easily than they have in the past, with quality assessed based on the reviews of other users. Economically, it is possible for young and old alike to supplement their incomes by selling their specialized services and goods to niche markets, as well as for individuals working on more stable, corporate settings to become "micro-entrepreneurs" when time permits.
In workplaces, the sharing economy will shape how companies attract and retain their talent. Although many young employees express interest in starting companies, the risk to start something from scratch can be overwhelming. An analysis of 2013 Federal Reserve data by The Wall Street Journal, for instance, showed that only 3.6 per cent of households headed by adults younger than 30 owned stakes in private companies – a 24-year low. With this has come a growing interest in "intrapreneurship," in which public and private sector organizations provide opportunities to take risks and experiment through projects internally. Shared jobs, as well as increasing public-private partnership, appeal to the new generation of workers.
The rise of the non-traditional work force serves as a challenge for Ontario, the report notes: "Many people engaged in professional or semi-professional 'employment' via sharing economy platforms participate as independent contractors, self-employed or freelancers." But what is promising is the focus on action, both in convening a cross-jurisdictional task force in order to analyze the impacts and opportunities of the sector, as well as proactively address changes in how we think about work.
Canada is often criticized for its lacklustre innovation results, but as a country, we have opportunities to lead the pack in areas such as wearable tech, health, energy and forestry. We can also be a leader in the sharing economy – Canadians' openness to new peoples and ideas lends itself to innovation in this space. The OCC and PwC report is a first step in leading this change, and should be commended for its forward-thinking approach to driving economic growth in the future.