Knowledge workers—lawyers, clinicians, teachers, researchers, consultants, etc.—have always operated within the paradigm of knowledge scarcity. Many years of education channeled information to them, enabling each to become an expert in their respective field. Once educated, professionals shared their knowledge and expertise, but at a price. What happens to their professions when information is no longer scarce, but abundantly available?
Impact of information abundance on education
The impact of information abundance is perhaps best illustrated in education. Historically, the role of teacher has been that of gatekeeper and distributor of the canon. For the most part, the teacher was the sole provider of content and students were encouraged to arrive at their own conclusions by interpreting this information within certain parameters.
In our current economy of abundant information, the teacher who still insists upon distributing information solely via lecture and textbooks is competing with a wealth of primary sources, documents, and conflicting opinions that allow students to actively participate in their own learning in ways that go far beyond simply sitting in a classroom.
In short, just applying the traditional education methodologies that were successful in the past hinders the learning of today’s students.
New role for teachers
Rather than devaluing the modern teacher, the new economy of information is an opportunity to free teachers from their limited role as fountain of knowledge.
The abundance of information allows teachers to become chief analyzer, validity coach, research assistant, master differentiator, and creator of a shared learning experience, while ensuring that daily learning objectives are met. Today, teachers need to highlight and celebrate successes, build skills, and hone the ability of students to evaluate this abundance of information critically (McCurker 2014).
The Impact on other professions?
Providers vs. Customers
- Certification and licensing are probably here to stay. Even if someone has mastered all necessary medical knowledge, just claiming they know it is not enough to make them clinicians. Professional boards will remain in charge of determining and verifying the minimum knowledge and experience needed in order to practice.
- Information asymmetry between customers, clients or patients has reduced significantly, as everyone has access to the same sources, at least theoretically. The value of a professional will be to interpret the information, put it in context and suggest next steps given individual circumstances. Reduced information asymmetry can alter the relationship between the professional provider and the client in a positive way, as informed customers like to be involved in the decision-making process.
- Finding the expert no longer takes an expert. The internet makes it possible to source from a much broader scope. Super-specialists can find their niche audience through a targeted online presence—and vice versa, as seekers can find and compare super-specialists online.
- Assessing service quality may remain tricky, as the quality of a professional service is typically rather opaque. However, customer ratings, patient satisfaction scores, etc., are useful proxies that customers already use to compare services and service providers, with evaluations and reviews being part of the public domain.
Types of Services
As the teaching example shows, the current abundance of information demands significant shifts in the types of services that will be sought. Some may see these changes as threats, but honestly, the abundance of information offers a wealth of opportunity.
Today, those who learn fastest will benefit most—whether a provider or a consumer of professional services. Because while information is free and abundantly available, knowledge and expertise are not (yet).
Are you interested in exploring the opportunities offered for your practice by today’s abundance of information? Or would you like to assess your organization’s ability to learn? For more information contact us at: info “at” organizing4innovation “dot” com, or visit our website at www.organizing4innovation.com.