I read many articles with rants like “all this social network stuff is cool – but show us the money”.  Innovation Economics offers a way to see new markets and new businesses that are currently hidden by “the old way” of doing things.   This article is part of a series called ‘Business Plans of the Innovation Economy” which will identify ways that Social Networks can command huge markets and drive vast revenues – if, and only if, they align themselves in a specific way….

Managers manage through experience. They observe a situation and compare it to prior situations they have encountered. Through a process of intuitive (statistical) analysis, they calculate the probability of success based on the success or failure of prior experience. This is the reason why managers are often older and also why youth correlates with inability to manage.  The depth and breadth of one’s experience is often called wisdom.

Today’s problems, business opportunities, technological change, and competitive strategies are so complex and so integrated across the globe that no single person can accumulate in a lifetime the experience needed to manage at what is called a Pareto Efficiency. A Pareto Efficiency, named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, is an economic condition where a one’s actions benefits at least one person while leaving no other person less better off.

The problem with the “top-down” management structure is that the “top” no longer has a statistically relevant sample of prior experiences from which to fully understand the probable future outcome of their actions – the consequence is that someone always gets screwed (Pareto Inefficient).

The concept of Pareto Efficiency may be what people are today inadvertently calling “sustainability”.  I recently saw the movie Syriana with George Clooney about the petroleum industry in the Middle East.  It was a convoluted mix of 5 different stories.  Each story had its hero doing what they thought was in the best interest of those they represent – “the common people”.   Yet the combination of actions carried out by these heroes was absolutely disastrous for all of them.  So no matter how benevolent one’s intentions are – and I believe that most corporate managers are acting in the highest integrity that they know – this systemic failure of knowledge will always hurt someone, continually adding to those already at the fringes.

The world of imperfect information is therefore the enemy of sustainability.   Perfect information is when everyone associated with a business transaction has the exact same information as everyone else.  Perfect information is what makes markets efficient and decisions rational.  Agreement is perfectly mutual, supply and demand are perfectly aligned, all risks are perfectly predictable and cause and effect are perfectly transparent.

It follows that any business plan that simply improves information in a market can command revenues proportional to the degree at which market efficient is improved.  For example; Ebay owes its 50 Billion dollar market capitalization to the feedback system which supplies improved information in a market.  Carfax, The FAA, Craigslist, Democratic Government – all have vetting mechanisms that make their prospective markets more efficient.

Likewise, when the vetting mechanisms fail, the market fails.  I attended a lecture once with Charlie Munger, CFO of Berkshire Hathaway.  Regarding Enron, he said (paraphrase) “It’s tragic enough when the accounting profession goes bad, but God help us if we lose the engineers”.

This brings us back to management.  The business plan of the millennium will be the art and science of perfect information.  We know that no single human can accumulate enough experience, however, we also know that perfect information can reside in many people – it is simply a matter of finding the perfect group of people who collectively possess perfect information.

This relatively simple task is entirely and irrevocably the domain of Social Networks. Social Networks are sufficiently enabled by current technology to perform this essential and highly lucrative task – if and only if they align themselves accordingly.  Social Networks need to hold a complete and detailed inventory of resident knowledge.  Social Networks must cooperate to codify social capital, creative capital, and intellectual capital so that computational methods can be used to assemble unique collection of persons holding unique collections of experiences. That unique set of knowledge assets must then be deployed precisely in the market, ideally targeting specific transactions.

If Real Estate Agents can command 6% of a gazillion dollar housing market and bankers can take another huge chunk – and not even do a very good job at providing perfect information – only to get bailed those at the fringes.  Social Networking have a moral, ethical, and entrepreneurial obligation to compete in the sustainability game.


So now, what are the entrepreneurs going to do with this percentile search engine?

Entrepreneurs wander the earth looking for valuable things that are being used at a low level of productivity and they move those assets to a higher level of productivity and then pocket the difference, called profit.

Think pet rock, condo conversions, sand, corn, etc.,…it goes on forever.

The entrepreneur needs to have a clear view of what the asset is, the lower level of productivity, and the higher level of productivity of the asset. These three elements are the focus of all business plans. Then they set things in motion and give life to the market system.

When we look at financial banks we see the classic entrepreneurial activity. In the simplest form, banks do little more than find people who have a surplus of money and they match them with people who have a deficit of money.  Bankers have a clear view of the asset, the lower level of productivity and the higher level of productivity for the asset.

They pay a lower interest to the depositor than they do to the borrower and pocket the difference. In addition, they enjoy a multiplier effect that allows them to lend the same money many times effectively creating money from a promise to pay, or debt.

It is in the best interest of the bank to find rich people who will not need their money for a while, and poor people that have the best likelihood of paying the money back in time. This is to minimize the risk that the depositor will pull out their deposits and the risk that the borrower will not pay back the loan. The problem is that some assumptions need to be made, some of which may no longer be valid:

The bank assumes that the borrower has the knowledge required to execute the business plan that they are financing. Unfortunately, the credit score does not predict knowledge on future ventures.  For this reason, new ventures are not easy to finance.

The financial bank makes the assumption that the entrepreneur has the knowledge to execute a business plan that they seek money to fund.

On the other hand, the Innovation Bank makes the assumption that the entrepreneur has the money available to execute the business and is searching for the knowledge to do so.  This service will be required in the innovation economy since no single person can live long enough to possess as much knowledge as is required to manage the complexity of problems that face the World. We will need to mind meld.

The Innovation Bank simply matches most worthy knowledge surplus with most worthy knowledge deficit and a market is born.

The challenge for the innovation Bank is to match the most correct knowledge surplus to the most correct knowledge deficit. This is accomplished with the computer enabled knowledge inventory. A search can be conducted of the supply and demand for knowledge assets. The Percentile Search Engine will calculate the probability that the specific business objective will be successful.

The business plan for the entrepreneur is very simple but the implications are vast.


The Percentile Search Engine is a way of using a computer to make predictions about all types of combinations of knowledge Assets.

Conceptually, the percentile search engine is where all of the equations that we use to analyze financial assets are now applied to knowledge assets. The main characteristic is that the Percentile Search Engine returns probabilities – that is, what’s the probability of success for any number of scenarios.

For example; an entrepreneur may want to know if her team has enough knowledge to execute a business plan. Maybe the team has too much knowledge and they should try something more valuable. Maybe the team does not have enough knowledge and they should find someone else, take training, or try something simpler. The Percentile Search Engine can look into the community and identify the supply and demand of a knowledge asset. If it is unavailable or too expensive, the Percentile Search Engine will even tell them what training they need to increase their probability of success.

The entrepreneur may also want to determine what competitors have a dangerously high probability of competing with her new business. The Search Engine will allow competitors to scan each other’s knowledge inventory to determine how long it would take for their secret sauce copied. They can take then choose to take evasive action, compete, or cooperate. If a key person retires, the entrepreneur would simulate the knowledge that is lost and reassign people strategically. All of these scenarios can be examines prior to spending money. They can be made during the project cycle, or after the project is completed. Lessons learned can be used to adjust the algorithm perfecting it over time.

While companies such as Disney and Boeing both use Engineers, each would have proprietary combinations of knowledge that represents their “secret sauce” of success. These recipes can be adjusted and improved to reflect the wisdom of an organization.

Over time, these algorithms will far more valuable then the Patents and Trade Secrets created by them – this will allow technologies to be open sourced much more profitably and shared across more industries.

Literally thousands of new business plans will emerge from this important new paradigm. Knowledge will become tangible outside of the organizational construct of the corporation. Knowledge combinations will become the new corporate structure. The rate of change of knowledge with respect to time is the key metric and fundamental building block of the innovation economy.