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.

The hidden asset base

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I was speaking with a friend about some of the great quotes from long gone captains of industry. J.D Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Benjamin Franklin and cohort. One quote that got me thinking was this:

“If I went broke, just give me my 5 best people, and we’ll be double the size in 5 years.”

I searched Google, Wikiquotes, Brainyquote and all sorts of places to find who it was with no luck. My buddy said it was JD Rockefeller, but I can’t confirm it is, or even find the quote. In the end it doesn’t even matter. What I do like about it is the layers it carries. Some of which are pertinent in an age of technology disruption.

  • The people around us are more important than ourselves.
  • The business is the people and the culture, not the infrastructure.
  • Business is ephemeral, skills are enduring.
  • It’s easier to grow with a fresh start, than with legacy constraints.

But above all it reminds us that our most valuable asset is what we know. Something which can’t be taken away from us, even when a business falls apart.

Virtual Classroom

The thing that we are fortunate with today, is that it is easy to catch up. If we haven’t been paying attention to the world we make our living in, someone usually has been. And of those people who have been paying attention, these days they are often generous enough to share what they’ve seen. If we’ll take the time to invest a few minutes with a sharp mind, they can teach us what took them years to uncover themselves. I recently happened upon two Youtube videos which do just that – albeit in different ways.

Then & Now

This keynote from Seth Godin is the best I’ve seen from him. It really is a master class in how to do a keynote. It provides the most compelling story about our exit from the industrial era and shift to the connection economy. If by chance you’ve not noticed the structural shifts in our economy in the past 20 years, this 55 minute mind boggle will get you up to speed. Given you’re a reader of this blog and that can’t possibly be true, please share the link with someone who you think will find value in it. Click here to watch.


Tim O’Reilly is one of the great philosophers of our time. He knows how to see, he notices the long play, more than most I think. I often just type his name into Youtube and the word ‘interview’ after it. I then sort the Youtube search result by date to get most recent content. Every time I do this I find an astounding interview with him which provides deep and profound insight. That’s what I did yesterday and I found this gem. A discussion about the maker movement, and evolution in the web of things. The stuff that is coming in our technology world. Really leading edge thinking:  Click here to watch. (or listen as this has no important visuals)

In today’s world we can know anything, on demand from the worlds best thinkers. It’s the first time in human history this has been possible. There aren’t really any excuses for a lack of knowledge in our topics of interest. These days knowing or not knowing, has little to do with access and a lot more to do with effort.


The Potential Employee Flip

I can remember a time when it really mattered that you stayed in the same industry.  If you wanted a job in consumer goods marketing for example, it really mattered that you had experience in consumer goods marketing.  If you wanted to transition industries it was an incremental process. You had to eek your way across to new ground. Small step by small step. They wouldn’t let you play in their playground unless you had played their before, or at least a very similar playground. Sadly, our first job often defined us for much of our career. An potential employee needed a logical straight lined career flow.

I’m glad to say those days are over.

That attitude was one of protection. It’s a guild ethic, where profits are a function of a knowable, existential system. One that must be protected at all costs. But when a system breaks down, the smart players look for a new set of functions. A new attitude and ideas from an unfamiliar realm. If you’re in the middle of career transition, or wanting to break into a self determined entrepreneurial realm then there has never been a better time in history to do it. It’s damn exciting.

The best CV, or should I say personal brand isn’t one with a consistent story line. No, today it needs to be a set of juxtaposed, unusual and significantly differentiated projects, industries and activities. One that shows experimentation and the ability to cope with non-linear complexity. Go ahead and get involved in some, we’re waiting for you.


The abundance crisis

The late great comedian Greg Giraldo was one of the smartest and funniest guys who ever lived. He really had an eye on society. In 2004 he had a bit in his stand up comedy routine which spoke of the Obesity Crisis:

He said:

They say were in the middle of an obesity epidemic. An epidemic like it is polio. Like we’ll be telling our grand kids about it one day ‘The Great Obesity Epidemic of 2004’. How’d you get through it grandpa? “Oh, it was horrible Johnny there was cheesecake and pork chops everywhere.”

It is not without a small amount of irony that we are now entering what I regard as a great content crisis. There is such an abundance of content available that we are literally gorging ourselves on omnipresent opinion and data. We are doing this without thinking about how this shapes our minds.

“… Oh it was horrible Johnny, there were blog posts and celebrity stories everywhere….”

Both of these consumption problems are a function of our make up. Our desire intake as much information and food as we possibly can is mostly out of our control, it is coded into our DNA. Our current human operating system which dates back around 2 million years has us programmed to eat all of the food available to us (which is why sugar and fat taste best), and to take on all of the data available to us (which is why we are mesmerised by media). These behaviours are part of the human species survival doctrine. Our ability to be omnivorous, control our food supply and acquire knowledge are what put as atop of the food chain. The problem is than our DNA is yet to update its operating system to cope with an over abundance of food, and now information. Given our operating system updates via natural selection, we are faced with an intellectual challenge – the ability to ignore the instinct for more, and instead to choose less, but less with the required nutrition.

As we enter an age where we have access to most everything, both physical and mental, longevity and success are being redefined. The art of living well is becoming less about wealth and more about the ability to choose, and choose well. And that choice will invariably need be about the nutritional value of our inputs into our person, both mental and physical.


The next 6 months of news

I’m about to provide you with a report of the news for the next 6 months and quite possible eternity.

It’s all bad.

Every story, well at least those stories that don’t include baby kissing, the back page, or the lovely human interest pieces after the weather report. If it was good news, they wouldn’t bother telling us.  Their job is to leverage the most basic of human emotions, and that emotion is fear. Good news doesn’t hold attention as deeply as the bad does. Our lizard brain makes sure we pay attention for survival purposes. But here is what we should do instead.

Stop watching it.

It actually wont teach us anything, and quite possibly rob us of valuable time we could be investing in real learning or actual projects. It might even have a negative impact on our psyche and chip away at our soul. We must not let that happen. As entrepreneurs we are far better off investing our viewing and reading time in specific knowledge which might solve problems. All the news does is promote problems.

Everything we would see in a news report can be garnered by scanning a news sites headlines, which takes all of 2 minutes. If there is seriously anything life threatening, we’ll find out, and then we can dig deeper. If not, we should get on with something positive. In truth the ‘news‘ should be called the ‘olds‘ because all they ever do is recycle the same old crap that adds little to no value to our personal life.


Big think

Lately I’ve been totally loving the Youtube channel Big Think.

Basically it is some of the worlds leading thinkers, scientists, artists, educators et al, giving their views on important questions in a global society. Heavy kind of social, geo techno political issues. Often they are in short soundbites of under 5 minutes. For me it a nice TED alternative for bed time watching on my iPhone, or car listening (also via my iPhone which is streaming it from Youtube) – which makes me wonder is their a Youtube ‘radio’ app – where it streams only the MP3 file? If not there should be one. Gee, I might have to build it myself.

Check out Big Think – it is big awesome. Over.