Humans have been sharing knowledge through storytelling, writing books, and other methods for thousands of years. Now, thanks to technology, our compulsion to share knowledge is creating a new breed of knowledge entrepreneurs.
In much the same way that we moved from an agriculture society to an industrial society, the modern marketplace is becoming a knowledge economy. And technology is helping us to monetise the process of sharing what we know.
“From text and visual-based social media platforms, to video-streaming sites, review sites and podcasts, digital innovation will continue to make knowledge available to us at a moment’s notice,” notes columnist Toby Nwazor.
At this intersection of our expanding knowledge base and just-in-time technical access, knowledge commerce – the process used to monetise valuable knowledge – is flourishing.
How big is knowledge commerce?
By 2022, the online learning market is forecast to surpass $243 billion dollars as per figures from Statista. Another report by Research and Markets suggests the market will reach $325 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7% over the next decade. Knowledge, it can be argued, has become a new form of currency.
“If the industrial economy ran on coal and iron ore, the fuel of today’s economy is knowledge,” insist economists Erik Stam of Utrecht University and Elizabeth W. Garnsey from the University of Cambridge, in their research report, Entrepreneurship in the Knowledge Economy.
Stam and Garnsey note that this growing knowledge economy is not confined just to high-tech businesses and service, but has quickly spread “across all sectors of market economies since the 1970s.”
Future wealth creation, they believe, depends on being able to leverage knowledge to create economic value, regardless of the specific industry sector in which the individual operates. We see examples of this all around us, as technological advances make what we knew yesterday obsolete by tomorrow. At the same time, technology that fits in our palms is being used to access new wisdom, fueling career advancement, personal fulfillment and innovative new career paths.
“The need for knowledge is greater than ever, as traditional work shifts from fulltime to free agent,” says Jonathan Cronstedt of knowledge commerce platform Kajabi. Non-traditional employees, he says, will represent 40% of the workforce in just a few years, and they are going to need specific knowledge and skills to make this successful transition.
Jonathan built Kajabi as a ready platform with the objective of enabling domain experts to start out on their own by packaging and selling their knowledge. Elium is another knowledge sharing platform targeted at consulting firms and the enterprise with the aim of building an information-centric workplace that generates long-term value for the organisation.
A growing number of entrepreneurs are building business models based on knowledge commerce, offering skill development to the evolving workforce of non-traditional employees, and effectively turning their own specific knowledge into a valuable commodity.
The new knowledge commerce entrepreneur
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes approximately 10,000 hours to become an expert in a particular field. Whether that’s true in all cases or not, the fact remains that most of us have accrued a certain level of expertise in our respective fields, through years of hands-on learning and our own studies.
When that expertise is shared – and monetised – those hours of real-world experience can be leveraged into a career in knowledge commerce. As Cronstedt notes, people are seeking out specific knowledge every day. They want to learn from people who have already mastered what they want to learn, from people they can trust and relate to.
Because of the massive amount of sheer raw information out there, we seek out knowledge that is curated, compiled, and narrowed down so that it becomes easier to consume and absorb.
“While the scale of information on the internet is almost limitless, a reasonable percentage of it is questionable,” Nwazor adds. “That’s why millions of internet users looking to learn a creative skill or get a professional counseling session or perhaps learn a new language tend to choose platforms specifically designed to meet those needs.”
Knowledge commerce entrepreneurs – those experts in their fields who have turned what they know into a commoditised asset – often share this information using nothing more than a smartphone, a microphone, and an online knowledge sharing platform on which they build their businesses.
Packaging knowledge for sale
As technology turns knowledge into a global asset, these knowledge commerce entrepreneurs are building lucrative and innovative careers in the new economy. They are designing online courses; building memberships sites; hosting webinars; creating white papers, reports and ebooks; hosting classes, seminars and workshops; and offering one-on-one mentoring, consulting and individual tutoring on specific topics.
The online knowledge economy will continue to flourish, and at the same time, outdated ideas of who is qualified to “teach” drop by the wayside. Traditional educational institutions can barely keep up with the pace of innovation, and the next generation of career professionals realises that the knowledge they need is found more in practical experiential learning than in traditional academic study.
For this new wave of knowledge commerce entrepreneurs, the market is ripe. And as the knowledge economy encompasses the traditional one, it’s going to influence the work habits of practically every one of us.
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