In the bad old days, we were who were born to. Whether you were born to royalty or to poverty, it was difficult to change one’s stars. In the 20th century, the paradigm shifted. We were what we learned. Educational merit trumped birth entitlement across the board and the world has been a better place for it. But will that remain the paradigm in the 21st century?
Two trends make me wonder. First, mastering a fixed body of knowledge (via education) becomes less valuable as the flow of ideas accelerates development of new knowledge. Keeping up becomes just as important as getting to the starting line. Second, as communication costs fall, knowing stuff becomes less valuable compared to solving problems.
So how do we keep up and solve more problems? By getting connected to the right groups. That is why I think the new paradigm will be “We are who we are connected with”.
In light of this, consider the shift that Encyclopedia Britanica is making. It used to sell a fixed body of knowledge. That is now ending.
We have not only content, but solutions to help students learn math, science, or language skills in class, the school lab, or home. That’s a very different product from the encyclopedia. It’s a very large market that has been disrupted by technology.
Hmmm … selling solutions. Next thing you know, they will be selling network access.
We’re also becoming more social. The digital environment allows for a process that is intrinsically cooperative, which is creation and dissemination of knowledge. So users can suggest content, links, bibliographies, and images for entries. Suggestions will be vetted to make sure they’re correct.
Interesting. But notice how they are not yet monetizing group membership. That will come. And what are we looking at? Several of the core elements of the standard 21st century technology company business plan.
FOLLOW - Another example of content management business plans evolving. TED talks will now be available via Netflix. But not just the single short talks - the talks will be bundled into several hour segments by topic (and target group). This is a great step to build the capacity to better manage the flow of updated knowledge and enhance expert group dialogue.