Back to School; “Prosumer”, “Pro-Am” and other words you should know

A few years ago, I stumbled across this article declaring “unfriend” to be the Oxford dictionary 2009 word of the year I remember at the time feeling quite shocked by that and reflecting on “what is the world coming to?”. Now, 5 years later, new language which is being facilitated by the internet is commonplace such as “hashtag” etc…

I’m discovering that my own domain of the collaborative economy is also doing its bit to enrich the  English language. Explaining the words is a good way of illustrating the changes which are taking place and which businesses should be aware of.

Let’s start with “Prosumer” which is a bridge between producer and consumer. A wiki definition exists of course . Key point for me is that the consumers are increasingly engaging in the shaping of the products they consume through crowdsourcing. My favourite example Lego Mindstorms. Here, the company provides the platform and the tools to enable the customer to design and program their own lego robots. Check out this video for Rubix Cube fans

Ok, it is still expensive to buy one but what a great way to engage your ecosystem in developing your business.

Along a similar vane is “Produser” . Wiki itself is probably one of the best examples. It’s also crowdsourcing but crosses producer and usage so that the end outcome is the co-creation of value through collective intelligence. Take a look at this website . The products are a result of a collective intelligence process and you’ll find things which you won’t see elsewhere. Some are cool, some are crap but its the process of its creation I think is its greatest value.

One last word, or set of words, to articulate the change further is “Pro-Am Revolution”. In the 20th century, we saw the rise of the professional. If you didn’t have a specific degree or piece of paper, you couldn’t do certain things. Part of this is probably good, as it certainly reassures me that my doctor has a qualified understanding of biology and chemistry but parts of it are also dumb as you don’t need to study economics to work in a bank for example. In the 21st century, we are seeing the rise of the amateur. People can contribute to strategies via crowdsourcing platforms without working for McKinsey and having a masters degree. It will democratise many professions.–am

Are these words merely, trending, or are they hear to stay? I’ve learnt both French and Spanish in the last few years and you learn a lot about culture and people through language and I suspect that the same will be the case for people who want to learn and understand how the economy is changing. Back to school for businesses and consumers or you’re in danger of missing the boat.

One response to “Back to School; “Prosumer”, “Pro-Am” and other words you should know

  1. I always thought Prosumer was a combination of Professional and Consumer – I associated with quasi professional equipment that assisted the Amateur close the gap and produce some quasi-fantastic results.

    On a broader note, I fully agree that the semantic changes reflect reality.

    In addition, I think the next step here is going from specialist mindset to flex-alist (being able to quickly adapt/pivot and be effective in different roles). Requirements change so quickly we now need people to be able to envisage (thus having visions of multiple outcomes) and adapt by mashing together results by referencing (stealing) ideas from multiple sources and (re)proposing them in innovative formats.


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