Professionals in the Knowledge Economy

 

 

N.J.Jooste

Professional’s Knowledge Network (Proknownet)

 

 

Key Words: Professionals, Knowledge economy, Global markets, Pull market, Push market, Advertising, Marketing, Journals, Internet, Collaboration

 

 

Abstract

 

The knowledge economy is resulting in a changing landscape for professionals. This is especially so regarding their ability to maintain a high output while still keeping up to date with the changes in their particular field of expertise. This difficulty is the result of an information overload. But what is this knowledge economy, and where has it come from? More importantly, where is it going? These questions are addressed, as well as issues surrounding marketing strategies in the “pull” market that is busy expanding globally.

 

While the article does not attempt to predict the future, it may help professionals to better understand some of the important issues for the future and therefore assist professionals in making more informed decisions in this regard.

 

 

Introduction

 

We all hear about the knowledge economy that is upon us, and also all the changes that it is bringing with it. The big question that we as professionals have, is how this knowledge economy is going to affect us and our work? This article will try to answer this question. In particular, it will consider:

 

1)    The origins of the knowledge economy.

2)    What the characteristics of a knowledge economy are.

3)    How professionals are affected by the emergence of the knowledge economy.

4)    How to effectively market knowledge products and services in the knowledge economy.

 

 

The “sudden” rise of the knowledge economy

 

We need to remember that as professionals we are in fact a major sector of the knowledge workers that are driving the emergence of the knowledge economy. We are therefore one of the major reasons why the knowledge economy is descending upon world markets. Keeping this in mind, we often ask ourselves what has actually changed, because professionals have been around for many years? To answer this, I believe that it is constructive to consider most systems in the light of two tools. These tools being force field analysis and the theory of constraints. While it is not within the scope of this article to do an in-depth study of either of these tools, I will explain my own understanding of these in a very brief manner. I do in any case believe that many if not most professionals have at some stage or other had encounters with these tools.

 

Force Field Analysis (FFA) is based on the basic law of nature that all physical systems are essentially in some sort of equilibrium, or striving towards equilibrium. If this was not so, things would react rather unpredictably. It is this equilibrium, and search for equilibrium, that drives chemical reactions in any particular direction. It also allows us to design structures and mechanisms. If this equilibrium is present in physical systems, then surely it will also be present in “non-physical” systems such as world economies and the systems within companies. I place the non-physical in brackets because we can actually observe these systems as physical systems, but the driving forces are actually “in people’s heads”.

 

A FFA therefore entails identifying all the factors (or forces) that would tend to push a system in one direction, and balancing them with all the factors (or forces) that would tend to push the system in the other direction. If all the forces can be found, and their relative strengths determined, we could know where the system would eventually reach equilibrium. Once these are determined, we can also decide how to manipulate the system by either making some of the forces stronger, or weaker, to drive the equilibrium position in any particular direction. Often, the forces are not really under the control of any single person or entity, and all that we as individuals can do, is to try and identify the forces and the eventual equilibrium position. If we can identify this, we are in the pound seats because then we can prepare ourselves for this situation and use it to our advantage.

 

The next “tool” that I want to consider is the Theory Of Constraints. (TOC) Essentially the idea here is that in any system, there is one factor (or possibly a few) that constrains the speed at which the system moves. This can be illustrated by considering a typical industrial manufacturing process. These processes are typically a series of events that take place, starting with some raw materials that are changed into a finished product. In the typical process, there will generally be one of the steps operating at its limit of output, while many of the other steps are not near their limit of output. The production step operating at its limit will be the constraint in the system. No amount of time or effort spent on the other production steps will increase the overall output. By investing in the step that is constraining the process, a small improvement can result in major gains for the output of the system as a whole.

 

So it is with “non-physical” systems also. Generally, there will be one particular constraint that is holding back the speed with which a system moves towards equilibrium. If that constraint is eased even slightly, the speed at which the system moves can be altered dramatically.

 

Having explored the two tools of force field analysis and the theory of constraints, I believe that I can, in my own way, shed light on the emergence of the knowledge economy.

 

The Tofflers (Authors of the best seller book Future Shock) have described the knowledge economy as the “third wave”. The first wave was the development of agriculture and the second wave was the development of the industrial economy. In each of these cases, something “new” develops, but then undergoes some sort of an incubation period and finally it emerges extremely strongly, to the extent that it is described as a “wave” or even a “revolution”. Why does this happen? Why is there not just a nice smooth transition? To answer this, we must ask ourselves a fundamental question. What is the final outcome to which any “free” economy strives? I believe that in simplistic terms, it is the situation where everyone has more than they can consume, while putting no effort into getting it. (As I said, it is simplistic.) This final outcome, I will term the “goal”.

 

In this light, the long term direction into which any free economy should ever move is the one where more and more people will do less and less, while acquiring more and more “wealth”. Remember that this is the “overall” direction that should become apparent. Over relatively short periods we can have fluctuations and variations. I can hear you say that the opposite is surely true. That from the agricultural economy (Where the farmers worked for themselves, lived in idyllic settings and danced their nights away.) to the industrial age (Where people had to work for hard nosed capitalists that would wring every last drop of energy from their workers for a measly wage.) there was a reverse in the above mentioned direction. I think this is only true in people’s minds. The agricultural economy has been romanticized by many, but in reality it was very hard. Initially, the farmers were not working for themselves, but rather under a feudal system for landlords. If they did not work extremely hard, they would not make nearly enough for themselves and their families. A single problematic harvest could mean that they and their families starved to death. Certainly, I believe that to the end of the agricultural economy, farmers were more free and their methods had improved to the extent that it would take a number of problematic harvests to put them at death’s door. On the other hand, while there was (and still is) much exploitation in the industrial era, people generally work shorter hours, and consume much more “luxuries” that was the case under the agricultural economy.

 

What we need to ask ourselves is why there was this “sudden” movement from the agricultural economy to the industrial economy? Why not just a gradual movement? That there would have been a movement towards the “goal”, I believe is as much of a foregone conclusion, as that there will from here on out also be a movement towards this “goal”.

 

Again considering our tools that we discussed earlier, I believe that in any system such as an economy, there will always be forces pushing in both directions, to give some sort of equilibrium. Some of the forces will be growing while others will be shrinking, giving constant change as new equilibriums are constantly reached. This would nicely explain a constant gradual change. So why the rapid changes? Let us now consider the TOC tool. In any system there will generally be one factor that constrains the output of the system. Advances in any of the other factors will have only minor effects on the output of the entire system. Once this constraining factor is “sorted out”, the slack in all the other factors is suddenly taken up. This results in the sudden movement of the system towards a new equilibrium.

 

Even during the earliest days of the agricultural economy, there were people involved in industrial activities. These were typically the trades people of the day. They were generally more well off than their agricultural customers, and I believe that many young farm lads were only too keen on joining their ranks. Indeed, their ranks did grow, as more and more people became stone masons, blacksmiths and the like, but there was no “explosion”. There was some constraint in the system that was a “spanner in the works”. I believe this constraint was the lack of a suitable energy source. Till then, the typical energy sources were open fires, wind, human and horse power. All of these are rather limited. With the advent of the steam engine, the industrial revolution began. Suddenly all the slack in the other factors were taken up, resulting in a great increase in the speed with which the changes came about.

 

This brings us to the knowledge economy. What is happening here? Again, there have been knowledge workers around from the earliest times of both the agricultural and industrial ages. These were typically medical doctors, engineers, astronomers and philosophers. They all worked hard and were instrumental in driving our understanding of our world forwards. In terms of the force field analysis, we see that there was always some element of a knowledge economy present even in those days and that it was always moving towards the “goal”. Again, there must have been some sort of constraint, which was holding it back. I believe this constraint was a suitable means to communicate the knowledge widely.

 

This constraint was firstly addressed by the printing press, which itself was seen as instrumental in moving the industrial economy forward. While it certainly was involved with the industrial economy, I believe that it was rather a contributor to the “knowledge sector” of the industrial economy. Later, this constraint in communication was eased by advances such as the telegraph and the telephone. Real momentum was added by the advent of digital technology. Even more rapid change occurred with the widespread use of digital computers. We can see that at this stage, the knowledge economy was emerging as a distinct entity rather than as a part of the industrial economy. The latest advances in communication such as satellite and internet communications are further addressing the constraint that has been holding up the knowledge economy. I am certain that there are many other technologies that will contribute to the communication-ability of our economy. This will result in an even greater speed of change, till the knowledge economy reaches some sort of equilibrium where we can claim that maturity has been reached. This does not mean that at that stage, there will no longer be change. It only means that there will again be some other constraint that will exist, hampering us in our efforts towards the “goal”. This constraint may be environmental issues or even human psychological issues.

 

I have taken many words to just say that all these “waves” or “revolutions” are not necessarily new things happening. These waves are only the visible results of constraints being released that are hampering our progress towards the situation where everyone has everything, without actually working for it. My own hope is that we will never actually reach this situation. In fact, I believe that it is not practically possible, but we will be tending towards some sort of an asymptote.

 

 

The characteristics of a knowledge economy

 

In the minds of many people, the knowledge economy is seen as some kind of “magic” that will supplant the existing industrial efforts of people. This was clearly seen by the sky-high stock valuations given to Internet companies at the beginning of the year 2000. Currently, the stock valuations of many of these companies are some 80% lower, showing that some of the “mystery” has been removed from the knowledge economy.

 

But the question that remains in people’s minds is the role of the industrial sector within the knowledge economy. Again, I believe the future lies in the past, and some sound thinking. When the economy changed from an agricultural to an industrial economy, the agricultural activities did not stop. Why not? The answer is obvious - people still had to eat. What happened, is that the advantages brought by the industrial economy were also implemented by the agricultural community, making them much more productive. In this way, the agricultural economy became part of the industrial economy.

 

In the same way, the current industrial activities will by and large survive very well thank-you. Why? Because the industrial products (most of them at any rate) are still required by people. People will still require home appliances or furniture or automobiles, so these will continue to exist. Just as the agricultural sector changed to become part of the industrial sector, so the industrial sector will change to become part of the knowledge sector. While the industrial sector will remain, their products and methods will change drastically, just as the agricultural sector changed. At the stage when the knowledge economy reaches maturity, people will not really differentiate between the industrial and knowledge sectors. They will be totally interdependent. We have to remember that just as the industrial economy could not survive without the agricultural sector, so the knowledge economy will not be able to survive without the industrial and agricultural sectors.

 

So, what is a knowledge economy anyway? It is an economic system in which a large percentage of the people are involved in producing and consuming knowledge products and services. This also means that a large percentage of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP’s) of the affected nations will be generated by these knowledge products and services.

 

How can we describe knowledge products and services? While I will not attempt a definition, I will try to describe them as I understand them. These products or services generally contain a high percentage of intellectual capital. Generally a knowledge product or service is not an end in itself, but is a means to an end. Let us look at an example. A research report is a knowledge product. In itself, the research report is worth little more than the value of the scrap paper on which it is printed. (Assuming it is rendered in a paper format.) Obtaining the research report was not really the aim of the exercise. Rather, the original aim was the application of the research findings. It is the use of the knowledge to make or upgrade a product or system that really adds the value.

 

Let us consider some characteristics of knowledge products:

 

1)    Consumer products are “consumed” and therefore need to be re-made over and over. Knowledge products on the other hand, are rarely “consumed”. This means that they can be “used” over and over. They can also be used in parallel with other users, which means that they can have a large impact when compared to their cost to produce. (Which often can be considerable.) It also means that knowledge products tend to “accumulate” over time.

2)    Some knowledge can become obsolete, when new knowledge is found that better describes reality than the old. In this way, it can be said that knowledge products have a “shelf life”. A research report generated in 1900 can become obsolete, because the knowledge it was based on has been superseded. This shelf life can vary from days to millennia.

3)    While knowledge products can be rendered in some sort of physical format, its value is only really felt when it is absorbed and used by a person. Often knowledge is built into systems, but even here it is usually humans that have the executive authority to “let it happen”.

4)    Knowledge products by their very nature are easy to distribute, as they lend themselves very well to electronic distribution channels. (It is this ease of distribution that gave rise to the knowledge economy in the first place.)

5)    The ease of the distribution also means that these products are easily copied or pirated. A business model, or strategy, that is based on knowledge products needs to take this into account.

 

While we have looked at knowledge products as being the major product of the knowledge economy, we have to remember that they will also be the major demand items in the knowledge economy. We therefore have a situation where the knowledge economy demands knowledge products, but at the same time produces knowledge products. This is similar to the industrial economy that demanded industrial products and produced them. The big difference being that the knowledge products produced can be around for a long time, being used over and over. This gives rise to a “knowledge spiral” that tends to accelerate the pace of “progress”. Due to this almost exponential increase in the quantity of knowledge, the equilibrium situation will be reached when the systems ability to manage the knowledge is “swamped”.

 

Again using the TOC, it is only reasonable to expect than the “short term” constraining factors will change as the knowledge economy progresses. At the start of the knowledge economy, when it was still considered part of the industrial economy, the constraining factor was the shortage of knowledge. This meant that knowledge workers such as professionals would spend a lot of money looking for knowledge. Typically there would only be one or two trade or research journals that would address our particular area of interest. As such, a lot of research was required by almost all organizations. As the knowledge economy progressed, there were more and more of these journals to read, cutting down on the “original” research that a lot of companies had to do. This supplied us with more of the knowledge products, slowly releasing the constraint of “low quantities of knowledge”. At the same time, another constraint was slowly growing due to the growing quantity of knowledge. This was the cost of assimilating the knowledge. I believe that this is presently the short-term constraint. This cost is basically attributable to two broad factors. These being the cost of the knowledge products (e.g. journals) and the time it takes to actually assimilate the knowledge so that we can apply it. (The time it takes to read journals, research reports, proposals etc.) Today, in any particular area of professional interest, there are numerous research and trade journals providing information. It has become impossible to read them all, and actually have time left to apply what has been learned.

 

 

How professionals are affected by the emergence of the knowledge economy

 

As we professionals were central in the emergence of a knowledge economy, it is only reasonable to expect it to continue to have a great effect on us. In this section, I want to look at the ways in which we are affected as a group, especially in relation to our work. We will obviously also be affected in the same ways as all other consumers living through this transition, but these effects are not what concerns us here.

 

As we mentioned in the previous section of this article, it is becoming more difficult to “keep up” with progress, while at the same time actually getting down to some productive work. We may ask ourselves why we actually need to “keep up” in the first place? Why not just get on with our work and forget all the trade and research journals? The answer lies in what Steven Covey calls the Production – Production Capacity balance. (P-PC balance) Basically this balance can be compared to what happens in production plants.

 

In a production plant, the output is of utmost importance. However, if we were to just run a plant as hard as possible it will only be able to maintain a high output for a short time. After this, it will start to experience breakdowns and it will slowly become outdated when compared to other plants producing similar products. The better way of running such a plant is to do preventive maintenance and continuous plant improvements. Each time such maintenance is performed, the plant output is reduced or stops, but in the long run, the output would be increasing rather than decreasing.

 

This principle is exactly the same with people, and in particular professionals who are living through very rapid changes where the knowledge economy is concerned. If you, as a professional, merely went ahead and did your job without upgrading your skills and keeping abreast of changes, you will also be redundant within a short period of time. On the other hand, if you spent all your time on improving yourself, you will also be of no use to anybody, because as we have already pointed out, knowledge is only useful once implemented. This means that each one of us have to maintain a balance between production and production capacity.

 

While it is so that the P-PC balance must exist, it is also a fact that the demand on our time to maintain the PC portion is becoming greater with every passing year. This is particularly so with regards the number of research and trade journals that we feel we need to read. This would tend to put a squeeze on our productive time. How are we to address this?

 

If we have to be honest with ourselves, we will admit that 90% of what we read is not of immediate value. This leads to the situation where we are actually wasting our time, just to make sure that we are not “left behind”. We need to find a better way of addressing the P-PC balance. This can be done in a number of ways:

 

1)    We can spend more time away from our families, concentrating on our jobs. From the bigger picture point of view, I believe this is the wrong decision, because it ends up destroying the quality of life for ourselves as well as our families. This option I fear too many professionals are taking.

2)    We can specialize more, so that the “area of interest” is cut down, making it easier to keep abreast of the changes taking place. This is already happening, but in itself is not an answer. This is so because even within the specialized area, things are happening faster every day. So specialists are feeling just as pressurized as generalists.

3)    We can modify our existing methods of PC to become more productive in this area. I do not want to go into time management techniques, although these are obviously also important. I believe there needs to be a paradigm shift from “keeping up” to “finding out”.

 

This last option I would like to expand on. I believe that instead of trying to know everything, so that you have the answer when the question is asked, we need to tackle our jobs as a series of research projects. This means that we are not constantly trying to “keep up”, but rather that we spend more time solving a problem when it arises. This means that we do not necessarily read all the research and trade journals as they are issued, but rather find targeted information on a discontinuous basis. I believe that this model will result in much better, up-to-date knowledge being used to solve the problems that professionals typically come into contact with. We will then become “temporary” micro-specialists in the particular field we are researching. We will then also have a much better chance of contributing to the advancement in the knowledge spiral in this particular specialist area, because we can spend more time applying creative thinking to the problem. The results of this creative thinking can then be shared with others. Eventually, I believe, this contribution will come back with interest. (What goes around comes around.)

 

Using the model above, we will not necessarily have the answer to a question when it is asked, but we can very speedily find the answer and contribute to the field at the same time. In this way, we are effectively making the PC time part of the P time. The one assumption is however that we must be able to obtain the knowledge when we need it. Not only must we obtain it, but it must be done in a cost competitive way.

 

There are numerous organizations around that specialize in obtaining this information. The problem is the costs involved. To effectively apply the model proposed, calls for “instant” availability of knowledge at a very low or even negligible price. This means that the information should be available directly to the knowledge worker. Every “third party” that gets involved between the knowledge worker and the knowledge not only increases the cost of the knowledge, but also the time it takes to get hold of it. In addition to this, there is always the possibility that there is a communication gap between the parties. This can have numerous consequences, none of them to the advantage of the knowledge worker. I am not proposing that the organizations that are presently rendering these “literature survey” services are redundant for their roles in more mainstream research. I am however suggesting that the present business models do not serve the “typical” knowledge worker that wants to apply the “project” model proposed above. We need a better alternative.

 

 

Marketing knowledge products and services in the knowledge economy

 

There is also a paradigm shift busy taking place regarding the knowledge worker’s role in knowledge management and marketing. In the industrial era, knowledge workers were largely involved with generating the knowledge and then securing it in some way to ensure that the organization “owning” the knowledge could gain some competitive advantage from this knowledge. This was generally done by utilizing patents, or just plain “hiding” the information as far as possible. While patenting of certain knowledge may be advantageous in some areas, I believe that it will become increasingly ineffective as a general strategy. This is so because rapid change means that by the time something is patented, it is often past its “knowledge shelf life”. At any rate, patents are often based on the details of the knowledge rather than the broader concepts. These details are easily “sidestepped” by the ingenious. We will end up with the situation where, in general, the efforts and costs going into patenting will be too big compared to the returns.

 

In the knowledge economy, which is also becoming a global economy, I believe that the competitive advantage does not lie in keeping others out of the market by “artificial” means. Rather, the advantage lies in utilizing the market forces that govern these global markets. The basic strategy of most companies wanting to win in the global economy is to gain a leading market share, and to maintain this. It appears from recent history, that the best way to obtain this market share is to move first and fast. From this drive for speed have come the concepts of “time to market” and “first mover advantage”. In this way, your competitors will always be chasing your markets. As we know, it is much easier to maintain existing markets than to convince existing, entrenched markets that they should switch to your product or service. This is especially true if you do not offer anything dramatically better than what they already have. At any rate, the advantage in the knowledge economy rarely lies in the “details”, as found with the patenting strategy. The advantage almost always lies in the “idea” itself. This is often difficult, if not impossible, to secure in any meaningful way. The only alternative is to entrench your “brand” as typifying the “idea”. This is best done if you are in the market first. The issue then becomes the protection of your brand. This is generally much easier, because it now becomes a largely legal issue rather than a thechno-legal issue as is the case with patents. I therefore believe that the issues of brand building, and protection of brands will become more important.

 

This leads us to a rather interesting dichotomy of the knowledge economy. To gain the market share, we need to move fast and “show our hand”, without the “catch net” of having secured the knowledge first. In essence, to keep others out of the market, we need to give away our knowledge as soon as possible, while linking it to a brand. This has the added advantage to the “greater economy” of giving the knowledge to others who can use it in other fields of endeavor to also make progress.

 

Keeping the leading market position once you have obtained it, is a different kettle of fish. I do not want to go into this in any detail excepting to say that keeping your customers ecstatic is the way to go. This obviously means providing an excellent quality product, which is backed up by good customer service. All this needs to be provided at a good price. Also remember that you need to constantly be first to market. You can never stagnate in your offerings to your customers. This concept is similar to the “continuing revolution” concept of the Chinese.

 

Along with the “speed to market” trend, there is also a significant change in the way markets operate. In the industrial economy, suppliers would do their best to find out what customers want. They then design products to fit this picture of their customers’ wants. These products are then “pushed” into the market. The consumer then has to consider all the options and choose the one that they perceived as giving them the best value. This is known as a “push market”, because the supplier is trying to push a product at the consumer.

 

In the knowledge economy there is a subtle change. Here the suppliers of knowledge products and services do not try to convince clients to buy their particular offerings. Instead they sell themselves to the client as the best organization to give the client what she wants. The client then enters into a relationship with the supplier on the basis that the supplier will be able to give her the product or service that she demands. She makes her requirements known to the supplier who then customizes the product or service accordingly. This is known as a “pull market”, because the supplier is trying to pull the client to himself.

 

While this pull market is kind of new from a general consumer point of view, it is actually rather old in the “knowledge sector” of the industrial economy. For many years, project management companies have obtained business based on “what they know”, and on their past track records. They did not try to sell a bridge or a chemical plant. Rather, they were selling their expertise, their know-how in making the plan work. This concept is now filtering through to all kinds of companies, which calls for major paradigm shifts in the way they see their products and customers.

 

Obviously, the marketing strategies have to differ between push and pull markets. In a push economy, you need to market by sitting down your potential customers and telling them “how great your product is”. In a pull economy, you rather need to “show what you know” and then make it easy for potential clients to get hold of you. To date however, the marketing alternatives to knowledge economy companies “to show what they know” have not been great. Generally they have revolved around trade and research journals. In fact, it was this need to “show what you know” that was fuelling the existence of these journals for years.

 

As mentioned earlier, this was a good way of marketing, until the knowledge economy started gaining momentum. Now we sit with the “information overload” effect. This will only become greater as the knowledge economy expands. Paper journals also have a number of disadvantages such as:

 

1)    It may take very long to get an article from the stage where it is first submitted by the author/s till it is finally published. In this time someone else may publish similar work, effectively causing your knowledge product to “expire on the shelf”.

2)    Not everyone can read all the relevant trade and research journals, so unless the article is published in all the different journals, it will always be missed by potential clients. You therefore always miss a segment of your target market.

3)    Paper journals are by their very nature a one-way communication medium. Interaction between the authors and the readers of the article is very limited. If this interaction does take place, either personally or through letters columns, it is lost to people reading the articles at a later date, as may occur when the article was found during some sort of a literature search. The great possibilities for collaboration that exists between knowledge workers are therefore lost.

4)    In a pull market, a major characteristic is the relationship that develops between the knowledge supplier and the client. One-way communication media such as paper journals, television commercials and the like do not promote this relationship.

 

There will always be the need to market certain products by using push economy strategies. One-way communication media are ideally suited to these products. In general however, knowledge products are not suited to these strategies. Even within the realm of knowledge products the need arises to “build brands”. This again is well suited to “visual” push economy marketing strategies where the marketing is low in knowledge content but high in psychological impact. It is therefore clear that these strategies will not disappear, but they will increasingly take a different form and role.

 

Instinctively we feel that the internet is an excellent medium for pull economy marketing. For this reason “everyone” is doing it. Almost every company that is involved in the knowledge economy has its own website, and gives a little bit of information, which it hopes is enough to get prospective clients interested and in contact with them. This approach is often adequate when the typical consumer of the product has low expectations of the knowledge that he is looking for. If however the product you are selling is being sold to other professionals, then the expectation regarding the knowledge content is high. The problem is that the “scraps” of information found on individual websites are rarely adequate for professionals. This then takes them to the search engines to try and get better information. This results in a huge amount of fragmented information as well as totally useless information being presented to the searcher. Here we are again back to the point where it takes much too long to obtain anything useful. The cost of acquiring the knowledge in terms of time is just too high. The information could also be totally incorrect, but because we are not specialists in the area, we could easily be fooled.

 

Does this mean that there is not any good information available over the internet? Not at all. Often search engines find rather useful looking abstracts of articles. The catch is that you can only obtain the article if you pay a not insubstantial amount. Generally this is in the US$10 range. Now this is not a big price to pay for an article if you know for sure that it is going to answer your question. More often than not, you will need 20 or 30 articles, or more, before you feel that you are in a position to make an informed decision regarding a particular problem. If you are working in a research environment, this requirement could be upwards of 100 articles. The price now becomes prohibitively expensive. There are obviously “virtual libraries” where you pay a yearly subscription, and then you may obtain as many articles on-line as you want. Again, this yearly subscription is rather high and can easily be in the US$20 000 range. For larger companies this may not be a major obstacle, but for smaller companies and individuals this becomes prohibitive. We see that a need has arisen for a different model of knowledge sharing.

 

Even though information is available on-line, at a price, the overall model being used by the companies pedaling this information is a push economy model. All the potential pull economy marketing advantages, available through the internet, are not used extensively. Generally collaboration and relationship building interactive abilities just are not taken advantage of. At the same time, the cost model where people pay for the information tends to result in a lose-lose situation for authors and searchers. The searcher loses because he may not obtain the information that he wants, due to the prohibitive cost. The author loses because fewer people are reading his article. This cuts down dramatically on the author’s potential client base. Again, it becomes clear that a different approach to knowledge sharing is required.

 

 

Conclusion

 

The knowledge economy has heralded many new forces where professionals are concerned. Typically the forces can be summarized as:

 

1)    A pull type market developing, especially in the realm of knowledge products and services.

2)    A large demand for knowledge products and services being created by the knowledge economy.

3)    An even bigger supply of knowledge products and services being produced by the knowledge economy. This leads to a saturation of the market by these products and services, because the knowledge workers are unable to spend enough time “keeping up to date” with the rapid progress within the current knowledge infrastructure. This results in information overload of the knowledge workers.

4)    The development of the Internet that promises much for the knowledge worker, has aggravated the time pressures on knowledge workers. This is so, because there is so much irrelevant information to wade through before anything really useful is found.

5)    The emergence of a need for a better pull type marketing mechanism than existing paper journals, and better models for professionals when it comes to ensuring that they are up to date with the state of the art in any specialized field.

 

This has lead to the need for a different knowledge sharing and knowledge communication model that combines all these forces, leading to professionals becoming more effective in their jobs.