In the future we will have at least three jobs: our paying job, the job of taking care of our families, and the job of doing activities that used to be done for us by others.
Today we see a glimmer of our future third jobs when we book our own travel plans, do our own banking online, or step up to a kiosk to pay for our groceries at a store that no longer employs checkers. In the future “prosumer” economy, where consumer and producer merge, we will become our own travel agents, bank tellers, store clerks, etc. -- and our own consumers of these services.
The migration to becoming a prosumer has been subtle. In most cases, we are willing to make the shift to prosumerism because the service we give ourselves tends to be more timely, flexible, better customized, and much friendlier.
There are other forces at work, too: Businesses study our consumer behaviors to identify opportunities to outsource their labor back to us while giving us the customized service we expect, appreciate, and demand. At the same time, as consumers we are asking businesses to cut time out, maximize flexibility, and customize our experiences.
In additional to our changing consumer demands, the growth of the Internet is driving an acceleration of products and systems that enable increased prosumerism. We are longer limited by the schedules of others, geographic separations, or access to data.
We must prepare ourselves for a future where our third job workload continues to accelerate and grow. We will not only book our own travel, but cater our own flights and do our own security checks. We will not only do our banking online, but we will also manage our “financial network” to maintain high credit ratings and customize flexible loans through individuals as well as institutions. We will manage our own health records and conduct many of our own medical procedures. We will plan and create our own entertainment experiences before ever entering into an amusement park to enjoy them. We will teach new skills to others in response to them teaching us.
No wonder our hours awake feel so occupied -- we are already spending more and more time on our third jobs.
How big could our third job get? In the future, we will not only produce services others used to do for us, but we will also move forward in the value chain to design and create the products we will eventually use. For example, Proctor & Gamble already enlists thousands of women to help specify product needs on the company's social networking site. Adobe has 500,000 professional photographers “moonlighting as software developers,” and LEGO’s Mindstorm encourages prosumption by making software codes available for downloading, holding contests and events, and organizing its Mindstorm system much like a wiki to harness the creative potential and collaborative efforts of their strong community of professionals and hobbyists.
We are only at the very beginning of the emerging prosumer economy. We will be doing more and more in our third job as we improve the products and services that we receive through our own initiative.
There is a bright side to this story, despite the extra work it entails. There is hope of getting paid for the work we do in our third job. Some of the prosumer market research sites are already paying. SurveySavvy pays $2-$20 for every survey taken, plus $2 for every survey your friends complete. There is even the chance for greater compensation: Goldcorp, a Canadian gold mining firm, published gigabytes of their geological data and challenged prosumer prospectors to identify potential targets where the next 6 million ounces of gold will be found. About 1,400 prosumers from 51 countries registered as participants; four of them shared a final $325,000 prize.
So, if we prosumers don’t get paid, maybe we should unionize.
— By Deb Westphal, Managing Partner at Toffler Associates