Is the internet good for you?
Was it this week that we had the media telling us that Facebook would give us cancer? And a professor telling us that the internet makes us scatty?
Well, I won’t go where angels fear to tread, but I do know this. The world has changed in a fundamental way and it is very important THAT YOU GET IT!
The internet has changed the way we make a living and before you go off and spend 5 to 10 years getting a qualification and doing low paid jobs to get experience, have a look at the business model of the profession you are entering. Will your profession survive the intenet?
And don’t ask recruiters and HR officers either. They rarely know the answers.
Ask experienced people who are responsible for strategy in their field and don’t join up unless they can ask clearly! Invite people who have a hig profile in your future career to talk to your school, university or service club, and ask the questions you need to ask!
At the heart of any profession or occupation is the management of risk – yep that thing that bankers didn’t seem to understand.
Very simply, we cannot know everything in the world and when we have an unfamiliar decision to make, we turn to professionals for advice – doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, and even, bankers. Even my lowly purchase of a loaf of bread at the supermarket is the purchase of advice. I am trusting my supermarket to sell me something wholesome and good at a reasonable price.
But how do we know who we can trust?
We have several mechanisms.
- First is a system of licenses. A body, like the British Medical Association gives a doctor a practising certificate, for example, to indicate the doctor has the training and knowledge that we expect.
- Second is a system of audits & inspections. Chartered Accountants like KPMG and Deloittes check the financial affairs of a business and tell us if it is a going concern.
- Third is the business model itself. Newspapers, for example, would verify information is correct before they printed it and it was for that verification that we would pay a shilling or a dollar for our paper, though we often felt that we were buying the content. They are motivated to get information correct so they stay in business.
The internet adds another way to manage risk
The internet has changed the game of business, and importantly the careers available to us, because it adds, among other things, an additional way to manage risk. This additional mechanism for managing risk affects how consumers get advice and who gets paid for giving advice.
- Google Search, for example, allows us to pull up information from all over the world in the blink of an eye. For many particularly simple matters, we can find information for free and save ourselves the fees of professional advice. Knowledge has become more easily available and much cheaper.
- Twitter provides recommendations with equal speed and allows customers to speak to each other. The wisdom of crowds gives us assurances that previously were only available from auditors and inspectors.
- Blogs, YouTube, Flickr make us all citizen journalists. Collecting and transmitting data is now so cheap and easy that events like a plane ditching in the Hudson are transmitted as they happen. No paper or TV service can report events so quickly.
But there is so much rubbish on the internet
Indeed there is. And it is very important to treat the information for what it is. IT IS NOT information provided with a stamp of approval from a professional body or a well established business.
This is frightening for many people. And so it will be until they think clearly about what is happening and act accordingly.
We have two tasks therefore.
- First, understand how to verify information on the internet.
- Second, to understand how the internet changes the value of various professions and how much people in those professions will earn in the future.
A lot of people write about the first task. I am interested in the second.
How does the internet change the value of various careers and the salary you can expect to earn?
Whether you are in a profession or ‘old school organization’, or if you are changing careers and thinking about your next move, these are the questions that I think you should ask.
5 questions to ask about the value of information in your profession or organization
1 Why did you want to go into this career?
When you chose this career, what value did you believe you would add to the world? Why did you undertake the qualifications instead of just opening up your business? What did the qualifications teach you that cannot be taught elsewhere and freely on the internet? How are the systems of knowledge maintained so the knowledge of your profession is deeper and more valuable that information on the internet? To what extent is the profession protected artificially and will these artificial barriers be stripped away by the internet?
2 How do you maintain integrity?
What are the promises that your profession makes to the public and are these promises genuine? For example, do you send someone to jail for breaking these promises? What areas of malpractice does the profession look out for? How do you check that your core promises are being honoured? When your customers are able to talk directly to each other, what aspects of your service can they inspect better than you can? If they are able to check themselves, of what value is your guarantee? What aspects can they not check and is the responsibility of your profession?
3 What does your online profile say?
Are you on professional groups like Facebook, Twittter, LinkedIn and Xing? If we Google your name, can we find you? What issues are Googled by your clients/customers/patients and what do they find? How do you maintain your profile? How good is your understanding of information traffic on the internet and the way Google chooses what to show people? How is your profession learning about the internet and the way it is developing? How is your profession managing the conversation about the internet among your members?
4 What is your ‘authority’ on the risk management issues which have been the basis of your profession?
What are the issues on which your profession is expert, experienced and willing to help other people, albeit for a fee? Who in the internet world defers to your opinion and how do they link to you? How does your profession monitor your online authority? How do you manage your online authority? How do you manage the way one member of your profession competes with another for internet domination? How do you ensure that your clients/customers/patients get access to well debated information and ‘honest authority’, so to speak?
5 How do you help your customers/clients/patients find the information they need and make intelligent choices?
What choices are your customers/clients/patients making on a daily basis? What information do they use? What do they search for? How does information find them and are they able to process it safely and to their advantage? How has the internet changed this process? And how have those changes, and ongoing changes, changed the basis of your business model? How you make a living, in other words, and how future members of your profession will make a living?
This is the first time I’ve written about these issues. So I’d be very interested in your views – or comments – or indeed questions.
How do you think the internet changes our work and our long-term potential to make a living?
What questions should we be asking leaders of professions and encouraging our young people to ask before they invest in an expensive training?