Thoughts on The Knowledge Economy

by Scott - 1 Comment

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Two things that I love are learning and businesses that create surplus from uncaptured value. A space that particularly intrigues me is the Knowledge Economy.

Knowledge Economy
So much of the incredible knowledge that people have gained through experience lies dormant. People always want to improve, gather more data points, and find things faster so there is a continuous demand for this knowledge. The supply is equally abundant: Odds are someone else has done what you’re trying to do or found what you’re trying to find. Yet despite someone really smart inventing the internet, there is still a disconnect between knowledge supply and demand. I attribute this to the fact that the channels through which knowledge is exchanged are still not fully matured as well as the ever-changing landscape of the world. 

Companies like  Quora, Skillshare, and HyperInk have played a role in my life and are mediums that are closing the gap between the two axis. How? More so than anything they’ve lowered the barrier for participation with respect to traditional knowledge sharing platforms. In the process, they’re creating surplus within the knowledge economy by creating exchanges that otherwise would have ceased to exist.

Quora = lowered barrier to blogging, personal publishing
Skillshare = lowered barrier to teaching in a classroom-like setting
HyperInk = lowered barrier to publishing a book

It’s amazing that in an hour and a half, I ,to an extent, learned what Georges Janin  did after of 9 months pounding the phones in a cubicle by himself. Would I have been able to accrue this knowledge from Georges without Skillshare? Probably not unless I decided to go work with him. Ah, the creation of surplus!

We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible with the knowledge economy. So much of the knowledge out there that I crave is still loafing on the couches in peoples’ heads.

How can we extract more? Challenges are highlighted by examining why people don’t share knowledge.


  • Are not familiar or experienced with modern sharing mechanisms (think of AOL users or all my college friends. Quora is some girl they went to highschool with.)
  • Do not realize that people seek their knowledge (demand perception)
  • Do not internalize that people will pay for access to it (Skillshare, Hyperink, Udemy)
  • Do not perceive an ROI on their time for sharing their knowledge using the given mediums
  • Feel they’re sacrificing some type of competitive advantage
  • Fear potential detrimental effects to their reputation and image
  • Do not have time or perceive this to be the case
  • Are generally too shy, embarrassed, or lack the confidence to put themselves out there
  • Are just lazy

Coin flip. People share knowledge because they:

  • Perceive some ROI on their time often in the form of:
    • Money
    • Social capital
    • Enhanced personal well-being
  • Are altruistic
  • Desire approval or acceptance
  • Feel a sense of duty

When I contrast these two lists and think about realistically what entrepreneurs can change without going door to door with hawking self-help books, a few things come to mind:

Boost awareness/unfamiliarity with SEO juice: When people have questions or want to get better at something they usually go to google. This is especially the case with normals who aren’t comfortable broadcasting messages to hordes of strangers. Crazy right?!

All of these platforms want to be a destination for consuming content and/or a portal to purchase the means to obtain it. But in order to do this they’ll need to familiarize themselves with prospective audiences by penetrating their existing workflows (Google/Facebook). Quora has done a good job of this (SEO) and has the easiest row to hoe.

Stress the human and social elements of teachers/influencers: Before I took a Skillshare class I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in hell that someone would actually pay money to learn something from me. Before I saw a friend answer a question on Quora I acted like a passive content urchin on that site. I never thought anyone would pay for a book I wrote until I talked to a guy who wrote about something equally niche with Hyperink.

If we want to maximize the knowledge pool thoughtleaders can’t be the only ones perceived to be contributing on learning platforms. As a prospective contributor/teacher/author, I need evidence that inspires the confidence to participate. In order to do this there must be equal signaling that both the Fred Wilson’s of the world and JV Johnny are contributing. Profile pages and highlighting professional titles are a good start as they typically span the spectrum.

Expose demand outwardly: The internet is laden with content on how to raise money, find a good doctor, or buy your first house. Yet I still can’t easily find out what the best hyperlocal content portals are or which gyms in New York are more geared toward functional training. I know there are people  on these platforms that have this information. They just don’t recognize that I need it.

Most of the things learned through experience eventually become internalized to a second naturesque degree. After writing cold emails for a year, it becomes just something I do. At that point it’s hard to internalize that this is a skill others put on a pedestal. Its uniqueness has lost its salience.

Once we’re prodded by an external signal that someone desires this knowledge/skill we recall its uniqueness and are provoked to share. This process is crucial to populating the knowledge economy. It’s why there needs to be greater focus on exposing this demand. I’d love to see a forum style area on Skillshare where people could put forth topics they wished people would teach. The same goes for Hyperink. Exposing demand would help people internalize that others actually would pay for their knowledge.

Note* you still need some form of street cred for me to open the wallet.

I’m really looking forward to seeing companies mature that improve the knowledge economy. It will be a great day when an internet connection is the only resource I need to learn anything or answer any question effectively and efficiently.

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