Search Results For "What is the Relationship Economy"

The Consumer (Mass-Market) Economy peaked in the 1970s and 80s, when a small number of companies and media channels controlled the narrative of the “good life” by sending streams of messages to consumers – messages the senders didn’t expect many replies to.

Retail goods weren’t the only things that got consumerized. Every sector of human activity did, worldwide: Politicians, sports teams, hospitals, pharmaceuticals and even academic degrees and religions are marketed to us with the same methods used to sell us Rice Krispies and Tide.

As the Consumer Economy cusped, increases in material goods owned strangely coincided with an increased sense of social disconnection and a drop in personal responsibility. Capitalism had its hiccups, too.

Two-Way-Traffic-SignThankfully, we’re not in the 80s anymore. The old one-way media highway is now two-way, and crowded. Barriers are falling everywhere, including those that used to make it hard to publish to the world, sharing information. People are collaborating. Ideas are having sex.

The Consumer Economy is in its death throes. It’s making way for the Relationship Economy, which has different “physics.”

Markets have fragmented. The media has exploded into countless channels that are two-way, not just one-way. People are buying less. They’re also making and sharing more, driven not only because of recent dips in the economy, but also by a desire to reconnect, to find again that sense of community.

Smart companies are building authentic relationships with their customers, no longer treating them as consumers. Smart governments are figuring out how to trust their citizens by opening their data and their budgeting processes, among other ways.

Less enlightened incumbent companies, trying to keep their hold on markets and consumers, are using the old methods with greater force and accuracy. They’re exploiting the world of big data to surveil and manipulate. The problem is that such behavior isn’t trustworthy. In the Relationship Economy trust is paramount.

The new physics can be confusing to incumbents. For example, the surge in openness and connectivity has created a world of abundance. Want to learn a bit about logistics? Use the free Wikipedia; Britannica or Encarta won’t even come to mind. Need to find a specialist in logistics? Most of their resumes are on LinkedIn. Nobody had to cajole them to enter their info, either.

Generalizing from the Wikipedia example, many things that we thought required corporations to build are now being created collectively, at very low cost. The world is awash in open lecture series, instructions for bootstrapping a village, cute cat videos, not-so-cute videos, fan-created movies, digital maps (used for rescues), people offering to teach, software and more.

Abundance changes the basic assumptions of business, violating that old conventional wisdom that scarcity equals value. Abundance makes hoarding and secrecy much less interesting than generosity and transparency. SA in Schools snapIt also makes finding the right thread in the tangle much more valuable.

We’re so deep into this assumption of scarcity that we don’t even notice how much it has changed our world. (Here’s an example in education.)

In this new world, whom you trust and who trusts you are primary assets. You’ll choose the product (or vote for the candidate) that people you trust recommend, from among the abundant choices.

Welcome to the Relationship Economy.

Scarcity and abundance are just the beginning of this journey. The Relationship Economy is a broad umbrella, under which many other concepts fit comfortably, from Theory U/Presencing to the Sharing Economy, True Wealth, Open Source, Open Source Ecology, Open Everything, Occupy Wall Street, Creating Shared Value, Creative Commons and many more.

Here are nine different perspectives on what the Relationship Economy is and what it means.

Relationship Economy Tasting Menu

Thriving in the Relationship Economy
What If We Trusted You?
Old Conventional Wisdoms Being Proven False
That Troubling Word, Consumer
Jerry's BrainPersistence: An Appreciation
Lessons from Wikipedia
Why Do I Do What I Do?
Seeing Abundantly: Education

If you’d like to dive deeper, please take a look at the REX Commons, or consider applying to join the private REX Cohort.

This year I’m going to be putting the Relationship Economy’s ideas to work in many ways.

The debut event is a day-and-a-half-long workshop I’m running at the GDI — the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institut — an excellent think tank based in Zurich. The workshop will run all day Monday, February 3, and end with lunch on the 4th.

The online description is in German, but I’ll be running the workshop in English. In case your Deutsch isn’t what it used to be, here are a few more details about what we’ll cover.

Consumerism ate the world. It didn’t just change consumer products and entertainment. It changed the way we relate with one another, the way large organizations treat us and even the way we see the Earth — and not all for the better. That consumerist model peaked some years ago, when there were still only a few TV networks and newspapers weren’t falling like flies.

Now we’re in uncharted waters, where a strong point of view on what this big shift is about is really useful. Even better is a strong PoV that has explanatory power looking back at history and out to the future. The Relationship Economy is just such a point of view, and one that is humanist and optimistic to boot (though very messy in the near term). In this workshop we will apply the thesis to that most fundamental area: customer relationships.

Along the way, we will address chewy questions such as, “Are we trustworthy?,” “What are our new sources of value?” and “How is power shifting?” Guests with their feet on the ground in different industries will offer case studies of their experiences. We’ll run through several exercises together. And we’ll wrap up with what to do going forward, to thrive in this emerging Relationship Economy.

If this sounds interesting to you, please sign up here. If you know someone who ought to be at this workshop, please let them know. It’s the best way to strengthen relationships.

Announcing REXlab

Jerry —  August 7, 2011
REXlab is a curated, membership, think-and-do tank, focused on accelerating our shift to the Relationship Economy.

REXlab members build the answers to important questions, such as:
  • In these harsh economic times, what systems and practices lead to lasting job creation?
  • How might we rethink education? What new institutions and businesses might it need?
  • How can we help artists and designers build stable economic platforms that reward them for (open) creation?
  • How can we invent and make decisions in full consciousness?
  • Where is social media headed? What’s a better platform for productive collaboration?
We also tackle less ambitious things, all under the assumption that these projects will accelerate our flourishing in the Relationship Economy. Project ideas that resonate we call “REXy.”
REXlab is a workshop for creating more REXiness in the world. In it, you might find your tribe and your right livelihood — or like-minded people to be the crew for your REXy idea.
REXlab is the REXpedition’s global, virtual offer. It’s a fun, subversive, generative space that holds a lively online conversation among like-minded collaborators who get things done.Through REXlab, members develop their collective understanding of how today’s massive changes will play out, then walk that talk. In doing so, they help create and nurture the ventures and practices that will be necessary in that world.
If  this quest resonates with you, REXlab may help you answer all these questions. It may also open your thinking in useful, unexpected ways.
Jerry Michalski is REXlab’s spark. He’s a deeply experienced facilitator and guide to the bumpy and ever-fascinating interactions between technology, business and society.
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”– Alan Kay
Let’s do that. Together. Now.
To learn more, write Jerry. To apply now, please fill out this short form.

Take REXy action

Jerry —  January 24, 2016

You’ve just watched or read something to do with the Relationship Economy. Thank you!

You found it interesting and would like to:

Please follow the links above, depending on your path. Thanks again for your interest!


Last week I was in Switzerland, first to run the “Future of the Customer” workshop I described earlier (and will return to), then to attend and speak at LIFT14 in Geneva.

At LIFT, I dove into many of the topics that bubble out of the Relationship Economy: the language of advertising, minding our Commons, seeing the big picture and DFTBA.

Here’s my LIFT talk, plus some Q&A after:

Here’s the Prezi I created for the speech.

Jerry’s Longer Bio

Jerry —  December 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

(longer narrative bio; a shorter one lives here)

Jerry Michalski (ma-call-ski) is the founder of REX, the Relationship Economy eXpedition.

He is a pattern finder, lateral thinker, Gladwellian connector, facilitator and explorer of the interactions between technology, society and business.

From 1987 to 1998, Jerry was a technology analyst, focusing not on quarterly earnings but rather on which technologies would be useful and which would be distractions, what trends and forces create new value, and where all these forces might take us over a 20-year timeframe.

For the last five years of that period, Jerry was the Managing Editor of Esther Dyson’s monthly tech newsletter Release 1.0, as well as co-host of her annual conference, PC Forum. He was fortunate to be on duty when the Internet showed up.

Since 1998, Jerry has been an independent consultant, doing business as Sociate, a name he coined because he is skilled at associating ideas and people, and also because he believes that the social changes that we are going through as a result of all the new connectivity (e.g., Internet, mobiles, inexpensive cameras, video sharing, tweeting) will be more profound than the structural and economic changes we have already seen.


In 2010 Jerry launched REX — the Relationship Economy eXpedition — a private, collaborative inquiry into the next economy, which is based on trust.

REX was born from Jerry’s realization in the mid-1990s that he disliked the word “consumer.” He paid attention to the word, its metaphors and business models, and realized that every sector of our lives has been consumerized — to society’s detriment. The relationships studied in REX range from buyer-seller (no longer consumer-producer) to business-government-social sector, science-religion, business-nature and more. All are shifting madly.

Clients and advisory roles

Jerry has worked with companies such as Best Buy and Havas Media as well as non-profits such as EDF and the Institute for the Future. He’s been widely quoted in the major media and greatly enjoys public speaking.

He also acts as a technology advisor to startups, ranging from OngigTwine and CoTweet (acquired by ExactTarget) to Evernote, TheBrain and Socialtext. During the dot-boom days, Jerry was an advisor to eGroups (now YahooGroups) and Pyra (now Blogger, part of Google).

More background

Prior to writing Release 1.0, Jerry spent five years at New Science Associates, a technology market-research firm similar to Gartner (later bought by Gartner). At New Science, Jerry launched and ran two retainer research services, Intelligent Document Management (which included hypertext and groupware) and Continuous Information Environments (which included wireless communications, voice/data integration and then-hot pen computing).

His first real job in the world was as a transportation rate clerk at Mobil Oil, looking up freight rates in a room full of paper tariffs at the same time as he was learning about computing and the early online world with an Apple II+ and a 300-baud Hayes modem.

Between Mobil and New Science, Jerry earned an MBA from the Wharton School and spent almost three years in strategy consulting with an internal strategy startup at Price Waterhouse. (He rues that his age shows as the companies he was with continue to change names, such as ExxonMobil and PricewaterhouseCoopers.)

Jerry earned an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA in Economics (mostly econometrics) from UC Irvine. He was raised in Peru and Argentina and speaks fluent Spanish and German — and pretty passable French. You can contact him at

Finally, here’s a long but excellent interview from 2006.

Jerry’s Bio

Jerry —  December 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

(short bio for external publication; a longer version lives here)

Jerry Michalski (ma-call-ski) is the founder of REX, the Relationship Economy eXpedition, a private, collaborative inquiry into the next economy. More broadly, he is a pattern finder, lateral thinker, Gladwellian connector, facilitator and explorer of the interactions between technology, society and business.

From 1987 to 1998, Jerry was a technology analyst, first at New Science Associates, then as Managing Editor of Esther Dyson’s monthly tech newsletter Release 1.0, as well as co-host of her annual conference, PC Forum. He was fortunate to be on duty when the Internet showed up.

Jerry works with companies such as Best Buy and Havas Media as well as non-profits such as EDF and the Institute for the Future. He’s been widely quoted in the major media and greatly enjoys public speaking. He also acts as a technology advisor to startups, ranging from Twine and CoTweet (acquired by ExactTarget) to EvernoteTheBrainSocialtext and Seedwiki. During the dot-boom days, Jerry was an advisor to eGroups (now YahooGroups) and Pyra (now Blogger, part of Google).

Jerry earned an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA in Economics (mostly econometrics) from UC Irvine. He was raised in Peru and Argentina and speaks fluent Spanish and German, as well as pretty passable French. You can contact him at

How will we deal with abundance?

Jerry —  April 24, 2013 — 1 Comment

Provoked by Tim Wu’s review of the book Abundance, Chris Mitchell of ILSR asked whether abundance might not be too much. Won’t we get bogged down in all the choices we have to make?

I love this question because I think seeing abundance (and acting in ways that generate abundance) is a big piece of the solution to the world’s present woes. As a point example, here’s 8 minutes on how we needlessly create artificial scarcity in education, when in fact there is abundance.

We’re just so accustomed to the institution as it exists today — in this case, education — that we can’t see the abundance, which violates many of our dearly held beliefs.

The problem with sudden abundance that Chris described is the Tyranny of Choice (pdf), which Barry Schwartz has investigated well, and Malcolm Gladwell has popularized by writing and speaking about it in his appealing way (I think it’s in this TED talk). A typical story: When faced with 23 jam samples, people bought fewer than when they saw only three. Our mental fuses pop when there’s too much to consider.

When the Cluetrain cabal announced that Markets Are Conversations, a common complaint was that nobody wants to enter a negotiation or selection decision every time they are thirsty for a soda pop. Yup. No doubt.

The good news is that over time we get used to abundance. We form habits. We learn what we like, we share opinions, we groove behaviors that make us happy. Now and then we change them.

The advent of the Internet is the latest firehose of abundance in our lives (compare to the telegraph, then TV). Despite all the hyperbole already written about the Net, it is an amazing thing. Now we can communicate instantaneously with half the humans on this pale blue dot, at zero marginal cost.

Now everything people write on line is available, as well as their movies, tunes, scribbles and (sigh) breakfast photos (well, Zittrain and Pariser show how companies and governments are trying to stop this wanton open sharing, but I’m hopeful it’ll be around a while).

We’re at such an interesting moment in history. When I run workshops about the great change afoot, I’ll sometimes read out loud the semi-famous paragraph from Borges’ short story The Aleph, in which he describes seeing everything that ever happened, is happening, and will happen, through the Aleph (it’s the paragraph that begins “On the back part of the step”).

The Net is our modern Aleph. It just showed up a few years ago.

We’re overwhelmed now, as we should be. (It’s an Aleph!) Since the dawn of hominins (is that what we’re calling our precursors now?), nobody has been able to do what the Net now lets us do — a pretty good reason to preserve Freedom to Connect, if you ask me. It will take us a while to sort out how to deal with it all. Along the way, many of us will just check out or give up. So it goes.

But we humans do sort things out. We find clever mechanisms to sift through the torrent to find what we want. Today it’s hashtagsWODsplaylists, timelines, concept maps and pinboards. Tomorrow, who knows? We curate, share and recommend. We create better tools. Our perception of the environment evolves over time.

The bigger win, though, is when we let abundance back in to industries and sectors of life that have been denuded by notions like “scarcity equals value,” or by social norms and cultural conventions based on trying to stop bad actors from acting badly, rather than on cooperation, then dealing with the bad actors later.

Think about copyright overprotection. Treating the radio spectrum as if it were real estate along a beachfront. The compulsory education system. At the start of this post I pointed to that 8-min screencast about education. I amplify on it in my TEDx talk, which plays out this idea of designing from trust in education, and teases about more.

That’s all fodder for much more than these couple paragraphs. It’s the foundation of the Relationship Economy.

Early on, when the firehose opens up, the barriers crumble and all the new choices multiply, this process takes patience. But it leads to a better world.

A REX Videography

Jerry —  December 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

Here’s a curated playlist of videos related to the Relationship Economy thesis.

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A REX Bibiliography

Jerry —  December 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

For a quick immersion in the ideas behind the Relationship Economy, here are three books, videos and websites we recommend:

Those resources and more live in context in Jerry’s Brain, here.

In addition, here is a curated collection of videos that illustrate many different aspects of the Relationship Economy.