Expertise during a data explosion

No one really knows how much data is being created in the world. We know that most of the data that exists was created in the past couple of years. Some people say it is doubling every year. The reason that this is even possible comes back to lower barriers of entry. Until we had low cost computing, internet connectivity, and more recently the smart phone, data was isolated, segmented and verified by institutions who were given the authority to create, curate and store it. Authority in this instance was a function of finance. The cost of creating permanent information was expensive – print materials, broadcast hardware, costs of distribution all limited the ability for information to be created and shared. It meant there was far less data, but it also meant we knew where to look to find what was available.

Data has moved from being something which was structured, in know-able places, to something which is unstructured, distributed and without authority. It’s now organic, alive and rapidly evolving. Authority and tools go hand in hand. Now that the tools of creating and storing data are omnipresent and almost free, their is no authority governing it. This means two important things:

  • It will continue to increase exponentially
  • Knowledge no longer has a boundary

So how can anyone be an expert on anything?

In this environment expertise has no choice but to change. No one can know everything, even in the most niche of subjects. If we add to this the idea that the major factors of production are shared – that being 1’s and 0’s – then the potential for cross fertilisation of ideas is infinite. What is true today might be kiboshed tomorrow by new inventions, ideas and collaborations.

The new art of expertise has to become this – knowing where to look and who to rely on.

While we’ll never know everything that has ‘just happened’ and we’ll never be able to predict exactly what is next, we can study the trajectory. Pattern recognition, is quickly becoming more important than knowing. What experts will need to be able to determine in the future is how likely something is, how to assess the sentiment of future behaviour and how to be able to verify what just happened. Expertise is becoming a weird kind of reverse archaeology.

Increasingly what we need to know is how to work with the tools to uncover knowledge as it is created.  The age of memorising things for future reference is quickly becoming obsolete.

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Come join me Tuesday Night in Melbourne to dig into your future and some of The Lessons School Forgot – register here. See you then, Steve.

Trade Secrets

Once upon a time simple forms of industry knowledge were a significant competitive advantage. The little things we knew about our industry from working in it mattered. We had to earn expertise over long periods, and the release of that expertise to prospective customers. We traded in trade secrets. But now those days are coming to a close.

In a market where anyone can know anything about an industry (from the worlds experts) with just a few key strokes, then we need change our view on what creates an advantage. Knowledge of products, prices, places, who does what and who owns what are all knowable. We are quickly approaching a market of perfect information. And when everyone can know everything, and prices quickly level out, the only thing left is trust. And a great way to build trust is by sharing trade secrets. By being generous with our knowledge well before we want to do business with anyone. We need to share what we know so others can navigate the market and reduce their risk.

When it finally comes down to doing business, customers have a much higher probability of trusting those who gave them the most trust first.

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5 things to check out

I happened upon 5 things in the past few days – all of which had a certain something. Most of these came from Dan Groch over lunch on Thursday. They inspired some thoughts. So here’s the 5 pieces & the thoughts they each inspired for me:

1. WorryDream – I can’t really explain this other than saying this guy is a genius with genius ideas. Have a wonder through it.

2. Bobby McFerrin plays the audience – Yes, that Bobby McFerrin. He does something so amazing and shows the power of non verbal communications. Wisdom of crowds and the importance of music. Very enjoyable to watch indeed.

3. The inner game of tennis – An amazing visual of how to remove complexity. The simplicity of instruction without thought. How we can actually let our body do the learning once we avoid over intellectualising everything. I’ll be using this technique while surfing and doing anything physical.

4. Digital feudalism and how to avoid it – This in my view is an incredible risk to our species. Shiny things and big brother control from brands we actually love. They’ve already teamed up with the NSA, and we are letting it happen. HT to Josh McDonald for this one.

5. Powerful ideas about ideas – Alan Kay demonstrates some new teaching methods.

Again another reminder that a cheap laptop and the internet are all we need to know all we desire. And I’ll leave you with this simple fact: Anyone who has access to the internet, has more information at their disposal than the US President did just 10 years ago.

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Why junk mail matters

Junk mail is not named correctly. It should be called Research Mail, Zeitgeist Mail or something much more complementary.

Here’s a list of great things it does:

  • It tells us what people think they can sell
  • It tells us the price of things, probably our competitors
  • It tells us who can afford to advertise
  • It tells us the economic conditions of the day via the discounts made
  • It display the advances in technology
  • It tells us what’s hot
  • It keeps us in touch with the business environment more than the Wall Street Journal does

It’s an entrepreneurs best friend. Startup blog says read your junk mail.

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Inside the minds of others

When our genes could not store all the information necessary for our survival, we slowly invented brains. But then the time came, maybe tens of thousands of years ago, that we needed to know more than could be conveniently stored in brains. So we learned to stockpile enormous amounts of information outside our bodies. We are the only species as far as we know to have developed a communal memory, and the warehouse of that memory is called the library.

Something extraordinary has been happening on the planet earth. Rich information from distant lands and peoples , has become routinely available. Computers can now store and process enormous amounts of information extremely rapidly. In our time a revolution has begun. A revolution perhaps as significant as the evolution of DNA and nervous systems and the invention of writing. Direct communication among billions of human beings is now made possible by computers and satellites.  The potential for a global intelligence is emerging, linking all the brains on earth into a planetary consciousness.

The above words were spoken 29 years ago by Carl Sagan (in Cosmos 1980). Well before the personal computer revolution, the graphical user interface, before the internet had left military installations and Universities. Carl was a prophet, with great insight. He’s just described our world so poignantly, well before it arrived.

It makes me excited to be able to share my thoughts so easily, like Carl said we would all this time ago. It makes me want to ensure my digital contribution is positive and leaves a valuable legacy. It makes me want to make sure we all know how important this gift of omnipresent communication is, at a time when our species needs to collaborate so strongly for our survival.

Now that we can so quickly enter the minds of others, we should all make sure our contributions are positive, that we add something of value to this collective consciousness.

beware of averages

If we added up all the men, and all the women on our planet, we’d find that, on average, the typical adult human being had exactly one breast and one testicle. Yet how many people actually fit that description?

Statistics are used the create meaning. Yet, very often they create the opposite. In a world for of numbers, statistics and analytics (yes, even the Google kind) we are better off deciding what we want to find out, than we are looking at the available statistics and asking what they mean.

Startup Blog says: First decide what you want to find out, then devise a way to measure it.

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