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The old adage, "Knowledge is Power," is quickly becoming an antiquated slogan. While some business people still cling to this dictum, its appeal is waning. In fact, knowledge has become a commodity in our world. That is a scary thing for a planet full of business people who believe we live in the "Knowledge Age."
Just as the Knowledge Age was built upon the back of the Industrial Revolution, the business world is quickly moving to a new “Creative Age.” How did this happen and what is the implication?
Tom Friedman’s 2005 business and social blockbluster, “The World is Flat” outlines ten forces that have “flattened the world.” The ten forces from Friedman’s book are:
- 11/9/89 – The fall of the Berlin wall opened up a free flow of information between east and west and unified large segments of society
- 8/9/95 – Netscape went public on this date, signifying the arrival of the World Wide Web as an information appliance accessible to everyone
- Work flow software – Software automation that enabled people and firms to collaborate across boundaries and in ways never before possible
- Open-sourcing – “Self organizing collaborative communities” – signified by the “Open Source” software movement, in which groups collaborate to build software. This is a powerful metaphor for the Cheap Revolutionary and represents a new way of doing business
- Outsourcing – The trend which emphasizes that companies should focus on their core competency and look for others outside their firms to augment their efforts
- Offshoring – The availability of enormous, relatively cheap labor pools (compared to American labor pools) has helped to drive new business models. Cheap Revolutionaries now have access to call centers and software teams from their bedroom office
- Supply-chaining – This represents a maturity in the marketplace in recognizing the role and value added by each step in getting a product or service to market, and optimizing those steps Insourcing – This refers to bringing logistics companies, like UPS, in-house to help your operation gain scale. If you can now do something through another firm that you might normally be too small to do by yourself, you may be insourcing
- In-forming - The massive mining of knowledge by the search engines provides us with information at our fingertips previously unavailable
- The steroids – Digital, mobile, personal and virtual technologies recombine everything above and deliver it in ways that change the entire playing field
Friedman’s book carries a number of important lessons for the Cheap Revolutionary. We’ll try to distill some of them here. The big message is as follows. Once the purview of the powerful businessman or politician, knowledge has been placed directly in the hands of every person. Information factories like Google and Yahoo are key examples of the commoditization of knowledge. These firms are continuously refining the vast amounts of data and knowledge that is stored on the Internet. They are also providing individuals with free access to the tools to manipulate and manage this vast data. We can research the background of someone we never met 10 minutes before entering a meeting with them. We can discover the strategic plan of our competitors. We can map out a real estate market, book our own flights with the cheapest fares or discover a broad range of techniques for treating an illness. These examples were once the exclusive domain of specialty realtors, travel agents or doctors. Every man, woman and child can now be a Knowledge King or Queen. The challenge has moved from getting the data, to knowing what to do with it! Asking questions about how this knowledge can be combined, leveraged or reorganized into more useful forms has become the key value add activity. This is a distinctly creative endeavor … and is the domain of the Cheap Revolutionary.
Read our related post, The Cost of Sharing Information.