Having recently started a new role in a knowledge platform company, I’ve been reflecting on the career path that led me here. I was trained as an engineer. My first job was in manufacturing. Next came consulting. When I landed in San Francisco in the late ’90s, I saw the enormous potential of the tech revolution and wanted to be a part of it. That was the start of my next chapter – that took me to Google and eBay.
Now, two months into my new role as a first-time CEO, I’m as excited as I was when I first moved to Silicon Valley. That’s because the same trends that have helped shape my career – innovation, specialization, and reinvention – are powering rapid growth in the new industry I’ve joined: one in which we are connecting the knowledge in people’s heads to businesses that need it.
It’s a platform business, as much a part of the gig economy as Lyft or Airbnb, but instead of driving a car or renting a spare room, you can share your knowledge by serving as an expert for short consultations and other projects.
A fascinating new report by Bruce Reed and Matthew Atwell of Civic, a policy ideas company, explains how this relatively new sector, which they call The Expert Economy, is changing the future of work. It’s an industry where “sharing wisdom could be the next gig.”
Here’s how it works. Expert platforms like ours recruit networks of specialists on just about every topic under the sun. We help our clients get up to speed quickly on issues ranging from cyber-security to fintech to the latest breakthroughs in cancer treatment. For the experts, these conversations are a chance to share knowledge, experience and advice – and get paid doing it. For our clients, they’re a way to get smarter fast.
The sector has grown into a billion-dollar market – and it’s on track to become a $2 billion market in the next few years. According to the report, there are some 1.5 million experts who have signed up – about the size of the active U.S. driver pool of Uber (750,000) and Lyft (700,000) combined (although experts don’t work as often as drivers). The companies the report profiles offer different products, emphasize different priorities, and have different strategies for finding experts and making the best matches with clients. But there are some core ideas that unite us – and those ideas are hugely disruptive to work and learning. As the report points out:
“The expert economy is built on two simple yet radical principles: First, that each of us is an expert at something, even if we don’t think so; and second, that our expertise is worth sharing and has real value to someone else. As technological and economic disruption upend the old order, the notion of putting a premium on earned wisdom, hands-on experience, and deep knowledge is itself a disruptive idea…. the expert economy provides a way for people who’ve mastered a business to share their experience.”
This raises intriguing possibilities for everyone – employers seeking to attract and retain highly skilled employees, workers looking for new opportunities to earn money and build their careers, and policy-makers looking to shape the future of work to make sure our economy keeps creating good jobs that offer workers real security and opportunity.
If you’re interested in how innovation and technology will impact the future of jobs and work, check out the report here.