August 2010

Billions Of Dollars Will Be Made From The Cognitive Surplus

If you want to understand where wealth creation will come from in the coming years then you should read Clay Shirky‘s latest book called Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.

His argument is so simple but so profound and that concept is this:

“A trillion hours a year of participatory value are up for grabs. That will be true year in and year out.”

If you think about how most of us spend our time, you’d recognize that it’s probably spent  consuming media. We spend hours watching TV, checking Facebook statuses, reading articles, watching YouTube videos, but only recently have we begun to collectively contribute and generate our own content. When added together, this aggregate thinking and aggregate contribution, or “cognitive surplus” as Clay puts it, can add up to value that we are just beginning to fathom.

However, that value is only as meaningful as the organizational pieces put in place to harness its true power. And this can all be done without spending significant capital.

“Organizations designed around a culture of generosity can achieve incredible effects without an enormous amount of contractual overhead.”

If you were to closely examine companies like Groupon, Kickstarter, Wikipedia, or FashionStake, you’d quickly find how they each leverage the power of groups, aggregate thinking, or aggregate financing. This is where true value lies. Being able to align the cognitive surplus in an elegant fashion so that it benefits both the community, the individuals, and the organizers.

Like I said, I think there are billions, literally billions, of dollars to be made with this mode of thinking.

Watch Clay’s TED talk here and get a hold of his book.

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Learning From Experience

Intel Booth at 2008 Microsoft TechEd.
Image via Wikipedia

School is mostly bullshit. The only way you learn things is by doing things. Real things. Things that have consequences and things that have rewards. A “C” on some school paper isn’t really a consequence, and an “A” isn’t really a reward.

A consequence is losing money on a sunk venture.

A consequence is damaging a good relationship on a failed project.

A reward is turning an idea into a reality.

A reward is getting recognition for some meaningful contribution to a meaningful endeavor.

When I was in high school I had the privilege of working for a person who threw me into the fire and showed me first hand what consequences and rewards, in the business world, were all about.  That person was Marc Harrison, President of a company called Silicon-East Inc which is a small, very technical and very experienced hands on IT firm.

On day one, Marc had me building computers. Start to finish. From hardware assembly to software installation. Up until that point, my experience with PC’s ranged from basic MS Dos to Sim City guru. And before I knew it, I was building, installing and repairing hundreds of computers and shortly thereafter, I was doing the same with servers, laptops and networks. I was on the phone daily with folks from Intel and Microsoft and attended many, many conferences including Intel Channel Partner Conferences and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

At a relatively young age I learned what consequences and rewards meant.

I learned that a consequence is incorrectly building someone’s computer or network  and seriously damaging their business.

I learned that a consequence is incorrectly invoicing a customer and losing hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars.

I also learned however, that a reward is making someone’s day easier by educating and selling that person on new technologies.

I learned that a reward is having the respect and endorsement to represent a company at events and conferences nationwide, even if only 15 years old, and flying solo.

Most importantly, I learned that the only way to really learn anything is by doing. Experience matters most.

Thanks Marc.

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