Rob Katz

Guest Post: Coping With Abundance

Guest blogger Bill Kramer was, until recently, WRI’s Director of Education and Training for the Markets & Enterprise Program, and? Deputy Director of Development Through Enterprise.? He now runs Global Challenge Network, an executive education and training company. His email is

By Bill KramerMichael Jensen, director of strategic web communications for the National Academies, wrote an interesting piece published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New Metrics of Scholarly Authority.? While Jensen focuses on the granting of scholarly authority, his argument is equally applicable to virtually all new knowledge – practical as well as scholarly – and thus, relevant to the world of business and development.

His main point is well summarized in this, his final sentence:

(I)f scholarly output is locked away behind fire walls, or on hard drives, or in print only, it risks becoming invisible to the automated Web crawlers, indexers, and authority-interpreters that are being developed. Scholarly invisibility is rarely the path to scholarly authority.

Jensen argues that the old authority model is based on content and authority scarcity, and that led to the publishing model of the past–expensive, specialized, making the most of scarce resources.? Web 1.0 was based on organizing ?king content? using ?old? models, such as subscription, which assumed value in the scarcity.? Web 2.0–Google, Flickr, YouTube, all the social networking sites–recognizes the shift from scarcity to abundance, and is thus focused on organizing and making it coherent, often through collective intelligence–cross-reference rankings, voting, linking, etc.? is one such response. ?

Web 3.0, he argues, will likely involve a much more robust and complex set of ?reputation and authority metrics? that weave personal and institutional factors with deep sharing mechanisms, current and historical ranking of other work, and other factors into a fabric that confers authority. ?

Without benefit here of extended argument, I will simply assert that our ability to solve deep-rooted issues–economic growth that is environmentally sustainable, equitable and inclusive–is similarly dependent on that authority conferred, not by exclusivity and erection of access barriers, but rather by broad, deep, and effective application of new knowledge.? In other words, by sharing and not hoarding.? Smart companies will quickly learn that their competitive advantage is derived from success in doing and not just owning.? And the doing demands learning and sharing in new ways that, while easy to understand intellectually, are stubbornly difficult to achieve in the real world.