More than 83% of German internet users share digital content. About 17% of German users share things like cars, bikes or their flat with other community users.[1] The main motivations for being a member of different sharing platforms like Foodsharing, AirBnB or UBER are saving money, earning money and trying things the members are unable or unwilling to buy on their own. Sharing things is nothing new, even if there are no comparative figures for older generations. What is new, however, is how my generation (Y) share and handle these products and services based on our digital lifestyle.

Future-oriented, ready to contribute now, opportunity-driven: these are the characteristics of a generation that is already making its mark on the working world. We remain optimistic in the midst of the current economic turmoil. But we are also highly restless. Our generation, which was brought up in an era of rapid technological change, will seek to earn greater opportunities for rapid advancement and more responsibilities at a younger age, requiring organizations to change the way they attract, develop, promote and retain these talented individuals.[9] Generation Y (born between 1980 and 1994) is often tagged as a self-entitled group raised during prosperous economic times, placed on pedestals by their doting Baby Boomer parents. In the context of the shared economy, I am a challenging customer for companies. I rate products and services online and tell the whole world whether the deal was good or not. I give feedback irrespective of whether it was requested. If I like something I make referral marketing, for free. I share and use what I am interested in and what I am unable or unwilling to buy. All producers and providers of shared products are interested in this feedback, information and the knowledge of the user. [2;9]

Knowledge is power – Shared knowledge is the new power

The theme „knowledge is power“ is still current, but there has been an evolution of how power is used. Sir Francois Bacon wrote his essay about „knowledge is power“ in 1597.[3] Bacon talked about knowledge and science as the basis for an enlightened life. In the understanding of Bacon, power through knowledge was only achieved, if people made full use of their knowledge to arrive at new ideas and a better way of living. As a result of technological progress, more than 3 billion people are online and able to access information at almost any time and from any place in the world. For example, the basis of the Arab Spring was the supply of information via Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and News by smartphones. Without these social media, it would not have been possible to organize the protests and to inform the whole world about the revolution from the people’s rather than the politicians point of view. Edward Snowden wouldn´t have been as effective as a whistleblower if he had not had the possibility to share his 1,7 million documents5 by uploading them and publishing them at any place and any time. Not the possession of information and knowledge itself, but the opportunity to share information and knowledge is what makes it important today. The dynamic creation and sharing of information, which is proliferating in everyday life, is also entering professional life and promoting interactive corporate practices and the development of Enterprise 2.0.[6] Modern technologies are stimulating transformations within companies based on the ways that information is captured, organized, stored, and shared as corporate knowledge among all members – management, employees, and consumers. In the era of the network society, knowledge is considered as an important source of wealth creation and competitive advantage. Thus, the expectations of companies and leaders change and have already been changed by the shared economy.

The death of Taylorism 

Due to the progress in information technologies and the growing number of Generation Y employees and customers, there is pressure on companies to gear their production structures on the Shared Economy. Many companies are now using their constant and often direct contact with customers to make the knowledge they gained usable to develop further their products and services. Companies hereby convert themselves, as it were, from a place of production to a place of thinking. Therefore, it is important, with the help of social software systems, to permanently empower people not only to identify, find and re-use information, but also to exchange and retrieve it. The staff of Generation Y in particular use their leisure social networks to create these possibilities for their employers. According to Herzberg’s two-factor theory (1959)[7] and Schnell’s theory of social desirability (1999)[8], many companies use an approach of Bring Your Own Device for hygienic reasons. Thus, the company’s agility is increasingly determined by the degree of cross-linking with partners, customers and organizational areas and spatial distances. Thus grows the power of communities, because the flood of information requires a higher selection ability, supplemented by collective filters. In order to remain flexible and adaptable, and to respond to customers’ requests at any time, the tension between 24/7 service and internationalization needs to combine synchronous and asynchronous communication and collaboration. The structure of organization have to change  from Taylorism with fixed rigid forms to increased virtualization, heterogeneity and autonomy on the part of the employee, but also on the part of customers. The half-life of knowledge is so short that cross-linking or a constant push and pull of information and knowledge prevails the aim of innovation. For the employees, this change means that the net employment duration with a topic from an individual’s perspective sinks, so familiarization and provision need to be optimized through knowledge and output. So they have to demand new forms of collaboration and team leadership.

Share economy inside the company

As one aspect of share economy, the idea of sustainability comes up again and again. This aspect does not only concern the customer, but also the business side. The scarcity of natural resources and the impact of demographic change on the available human capital will drive the virtualization of corporate structures. In 2020, Generation Y will make up 70 % of the workers. With regard to the claims of Generation Y to employers, 60 % intend to develop activities that are interesting and in which they have fun. 28-40 % see the content as a prerequisite to get a job and be motivated by it. In addition, the time spent in companies is declining rapidly, currently 32.4% of Gen Yers remain in one company for only one to two years.9 For many sharing platforms it is a confirmation that young people spend significantly less on status symbols like cars. Why be tied to businesses or an apartment, when this means a heavy loss of flexibility? For companies, this means that digitization has to change work processes to manage the increasing complexity in staff management and product development. Therefore, timeless and spaceless flexibility and sustainability are getting into the focus of interest. In a few years, more than 1.3 billion people will do their jobs virtual rather than in a physical office. At IBM alone, more than 45% of the 400,000 officers and employees are already no longer working in corporate offices.[10]

Future value will be determined by the ability to generate distributed knowledge throughout the company or within the project team. This ability is an important resource in enterprise networks, as it brings an advantage over competitors and also generates important social intra-networks. In terms of sustainability and flexibility, the experiences and expectations as well as skills and knowledge of employees and stakeholders will be strongly in focus.

Thus, the reduction of potential reactances is one of the main challenges of networks since success depends heavily on the communication and collaboration readiness, self-motivation and corporate identity of all employees and stakeholders. The identified environmental factors by Davenport and Evans, such as the increase of knowledge in management processes, globalization, growth of knowledge-intensive products, the shortening of product cycles11 as well as the changing importance of communication – from the hierarchical dialog to network collaboration12 – provide direction for cooperation and thus leadership in the share economy. The goal is to master the balance between business agility and the flexibility business needs and the market needs such as corporate power.

Leadership between generations

With regard to the different motivators and claims it is essential for employers to take the individual preferences of their employees into consideration. As with cars, bicycles or apartments which are shared or exchanged, also the employer may be (ex-)changed just as easily. This creates a difficult balance between best practices (resistant structures) and flexible handling. For reasons of fairness and efficiency, most work environments are based on a standardized staff management. But this unified approach ignores the fact that the needs and desires of a person can change during the course of their professional life and between individual generations. For more than half of Gen Yers, the ideal supervisor is more of a coach and mentor than a hierarchical chief. Among their executives, the Gen Yers want to evolve and to realize their full potential. Due to the demanding nature of Generation Y, lots of supervisors who have spent their entire professional lives to achieve a certain position are snubbed. “The war for talent”, as McKinsey calls it, is causing internal problems for many companies. Older generations are still in business and have a vast amount of important knowledge, young professionals are the future.

Job sharing

An approach that benefits all generation to good, is the approach of job sharing. There are a set of requirements, a goal, a common responsibility. Flexible working models of tomorrow need to allow other activities, time and contractual specifics like all other products and services within the share economy. Many people appreciate the variety and versatility, they draw strength and creativity from their second job which they benefit from in their main job. In contrast to that, it is a great opportunity to see the long term employees happy. In contrast, just older and younger generations can share a job within the same company only in different projects. If they work together more intense, they clash between the generations can turn into benefit for the companies. So the knowledge of the individuals will circulate through different teams. 

Flexible working models of the future are not longer presence models, provided that the activity can be done equally well from somewhere else. It may already be a great relief to not have to commute 1-2 times a week and work at home office or in another creative place. And thus perhaps to gain time for errands which can be hard to integrate into a regular working schedule.

Flexible working models of the future should allow time outs: Sabbatical year, 3-months-holidays, longer (unpaid) breaks – for many people are these very convincing arguments to chose one employer over another. Particularly considering the high rate of burn-out patients.[13] 

In the light of the described developments in the working world and the increasingly common multiple employer changes and working life appropriate arrangements are made to ensure that agreements such as sabbaticals, learning time or working-life accounts are retained even when changing employers and can ideally be transferred to a new company. Companies must therefore follow the principle of flexicurity: It takes flexibility and adaptability and simultaneously continuity as a framework.

Essay on the topic “the Clash of the Generations” for the 45th. St.Gallen Symposium.



1.“Neue Macht durchs Teilen”. Internetworld. 

2.Parment A. (2009) Die Generation Y – Mitarbeiter der Zukunft: Herausforderung und Erfolgsfaktor für das Personalmanagement. Wiesbaden: Gabler

3.“Francis Bacon” Wikipdia. from

4.“Edward Snowden” Wikipedia.

5.Li, C. (2010) Open Leadership: How social technology can transform the way you lead, San Francisco

6.Herzberg, F.; Mausner, B.; Bloch Syndermann, B. (1959) The Motivation to Work. 2. Aufl. New York

7.Schnell, R.; Hill, P.; Esser, E. (1999) Methoden der empirischen Sozialforschung. München

8.„Generation Y: powerhouse of the global economy Restless generation is a challenge and a huge opportunity for employers.“ (2009) Deloitte.

9.Johns, T.; Gratton, L. (2013) Organisation: Die Zukunft der Arbeit. In: Harvard Business manager. Ausgabe: März 2013

10.Davenport, T.H.; Prusak, L. (1998) Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press

11.Evans, P.B.; Wurster, T.S. (1997) Strategy and the new economics of informations, in: Harvard Business Review, Vol. 75, Nr.5

12.“Teilzeit boomt in Deutschland.” (2011) Zeit Online.

Share economy the death of taylorism - A claim for new leadership strategies
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