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Social Media as a Vetting Mechanism

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Where the vetting mechanism fails, the system fails. This has happened in countless instances from the current financial crisis to nearly every product, market, environmental calamity, or political failure in recorded history – the referees who were supposed to keep their eye on the ball, did not. Likewise, where a vetting mechanism is effective, the system is efficient.

EBay does little more than defend the vetting mechanism (feedback system) and entrepreneurs do the rest. The credit score allows companies and people to capitalize and securitize assets. The US legal system keeps the game of commerce as fair as practical. Police officers and school boards keep our society safe and smart. We often overlook the importance of vetting in our communities.

Today, we find severe problems in finance and government and people are investing their knowledge assets in social media as the place to “store and exchange” their present and future productivity – instead of debt. As such, social vetting is taking many different forms to validate, qualify, and quantify those assets.

While the progression may not be noticeable, there will be a tipping point where the medium has built enough trust that it can support a currency. This new currency needs to be only a little bit more “trustworthy” than the currency it will replace. This is the point where knowledge becomes tangible.

The Value of Social Currency

How big is this opportunity?

Roughly 10% of the US gross Domestic Product can be attributed directly to the process of evaluating or examining transactions.  This represents a 1.4 Trillion Dollar of value in a system that may be better organized, captured, and preserved through social networks and the conversations that they produce.

Social vetting on a scale that would allow social networks to monetize would require that communities organize their knowledge assets specifically for deployment to a market.  All that an entrepreneur needs to do is fill this need.

What happens if they don’t?

The true cost of vetting may be calculated by what happens in the absence of oversight, transparency, and disclosure. When the vetting process fails, so too does the industry.  The continuing financial crisis of 2008 was fueled by a failure to regulate mortgage backed securities.  The financial Crisis of 2002 arose from a failed accounting (CPA) profession.

The losses due to the absence of vetting mechanism exceeds by many times the cost of having a system in place.  The financial crises of 2002 and 2008 have together wiped out nearly 20 Trillion dollars of value and incurred high volatility to financial systems due to failed vetting mechanisms.   The people who held the knowledge about the impending doom had no effective medium to share.

Who vets KNOWLEDGE assets?

The flow of money lives and dies by the vetting mechanism.  CarFax, Experian, Ebay, Google owe their existence to the ability to vet information – However, they do not vet knowledge.  The ability to deliver the right knowledge asset to the right place, at the right time for the right price is tantamount to being able to “manufacturing innovation”, that is, to print money.  Inversely, the ability to foresee the result of specific knowledge assets deployed to specific business conditions is the Holy Grail of entrepreneurs.

Social networks can carry out this very important function of the Innovation economy; organize, locate, and develop knowledge assets in a form which can emulate a financial instrument.

How are things changing?

Emerging ideas such as conversational currency, relationship economics, innovation economics,. nd new ways to value intangibles are appearing in research blogs across the web.  Disruptions to Global finance, environmental policy, and the emergence of global currencies are setting the stage for a huge transformation in how society organizes itself.  Traditional industries such as print media, advertising, and banking are failing. Nothing is sacred except change.

Where are these communities, and what do they want?

Many communities exist today in a variety of forms and functions such as communities of practice, fellowships, service organizations, professional societies, trades groups, affinity groups, etc.  Increasingly they are moving to Social Media such as Facebook groups, Linkedin groups, Affinity groups, aggregation groups, and political action groups.  Communities are using social media technology to engage the knowledge domain contained within them.

As such, they will soon have ability to foresee the result of specific knowledge assets deployed to specific business conditions.  This is the Holy Grail of modern civilization.

The Next Economic Paradigm; Part 4: Institutions

In part 1, we introduced a new paradigm of economic growth; the innovation economy. In part 2, we identified information as the currency of trade for an innovation economy and we defined that currency’s relationship to knowledge and innovation.  In part 3 we demonstrated a structure for a knowledge Inventory that would enable an Innovation Economy.  In this module, we will discuss the institutions in social media that could keep an Innovation Economy, free, fair, and equitable.

In civil society, there are laws and regulations that protect our constitutional rights; these are essential institutions.

The legal system of the United States is extremely expensive, however, the expenditure is necessary to keep the society upright, productive and prevent it from falling into chaos.  Where a country’s legal system fails, so does its economy.  Entrepreneurs do not invest in places without a good legal system and where property rights are not protected. It is that important.  Investment abhors risk.

Arguably, the most important element of the Innovation Economy will be the vetting mechanism.

Fortunately, social media has the potential to serve this function; in fact in many cases it already does.  A feedback system supports Ebay ($35B Cap), community flagging supports Craigslist (40M ads/mo), peer review supports Linkedin (150M users).  These are not small numbers.  All markets must have a vetting mechanism in order to operate efficiently and if done correctly, social vetting has vast economic implications for an Innovation Economy.

First, let’s return to our financial analogy.

In the old days, the banker was the person to know if you wanted to be successful in town.  But with the emergence of the credit score, the “banker” became digitized; now a Saudi Billionaire can lend money to a young couple in Boise to buy their first home – and neither is aware of the other.  The credit score is responsible for the creation of great wealth because many more entrepreneurs could borrow money to invest in enterprise.

The credit score is statistical in nature; it isolates about 30 or so indicators of your financial activity and puts them on a bell curve relative to everyone else.  These include how much debt you have, how much your assets are worth, your income, etc.  These ratings are run through the FICO Equation and out pops your credit score.  Anyone can now predict the likelihood that you will default on your obligation.

All of the data that feed FICO are collected from public records, your employer, and the people who you borrow money from because these same organizations have a vested interest in a system of correct credit scores.

We are competing with ourselves.

It is interesting that you and I do not compete for our credit score because it is not a ranking system. On the other hand, with no credit, we are invisible and the system shuts us out.  With bad credit, the system shuts us out. We lose some freedom and privacy, but we accept these terms well because they provides us with tremendous benefit to finance a business, automobile, or a home without needing to save cash.

Now we will draw the comparable analogy from the social media.

In the old days, the hiring manager was the person to know if you wanted to get a job.  They would read your resume and compare it with “bell curve” in their experience about what has worked or not worked in their past.  This worked great in the industrial economy, but it falls far short in the innovation economy.  Innovation favors strategic combination of diverse knowledge where the Industrial economy favored identical packets of similar knowledge.

Not unlike the FICO score, the knowledge inventory is a collection of statistical variables and the social network is the reporting agencies who have a vested interest in a system of correct values.  Unlike FICO however, the variables are infinite and it responds to positive event input.
Social networks are by far among the most exciting and important new technology for an Innovation Economy.

Social networks must now evolve to become the vetting institutions for knowledge assets.

All the pieces are almost in place; now we need to develop a new type of search engine.

The Percentile Search Engine is generic term for the ability to make statistical predictions about all types and combinations of knowledge Assets in a network. 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 search engine returns probabilities for the entrepreneur to test scenarios.

For example; an entrepreneur may want to know if her team has enough knowledge to execute a business plan.  Perhaps the team has too much knowledge and they should try something more valuable.  Maybe the team does not have enough knowledge and they should attempt another opportunity or accumulate training.

The search engine can look into a network and identify the supply and demand of a knowledge asset. If it is unavailable or too expensive, the search engine can adjust for price, risk, or options that may emerge at a later date.

Talent will bid up to their productivity value, and brokers will bid down to their productivity value.

Competitors can scan each other’s knowledge inventory to compete, cooperate, acquire, or evade. 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.

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

When the innovation economy will catches fire….

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.

In the next module, we will talk about the entrepreneurs.

Social Enterprise; Rating Systems

There is an ongoing discussion about the rating system for articles posted to a business oriented social network site that I belong to.  While am not part of the discussion, my one and only post to that site had been rated very low despite the fact that I am recognized internationally in the subject matter of that particular article.  I stopped posting articles to rated sites because the rating systems are flawed at the core of logic – Frankly, it’s too risky.  As the creativity, originality, or controversy of the post increases, the disincentives to sharing it also increases.  I don’t want my customers googling me to see this rating without also being able to google my reviewer.  No sour grapes – I’d wear a D+ from Stephen Hawking as a badge of honor.

The objective of any business/social network in today’s world should be to make human knowledge more tangible outside the construct of the corporation, such that it emulates a financial instrument – at the end of the day, it’s about the money.  Otherwise Social Networking amounts to active recreation – like guitar hero, or tubing; fun but somewhat trivial.

ALL financial instruments, without exception, are described in terms of a quantity and a quality.  ALL quantity and quality measures for financial instruments are statistical in nature – that is, they fall on some kind of “bell curve”.  This is true for EVERYTHING from a stock valuation to credit score to marketing demographics to health/home/life/car/business insurance, baseball players, GPA,  etc. – the bell curve is ubiquitous.  Whoever is not minimally familiar with the simplest basic concepts of a Normal  Distribution, et al, is at a severe and unfortunate disadvantage in the innovation economy. This is how the world of money is organized, this is what money is, this is what Wall Street does – for better or worse, like it or not….it is what is.

One obvious failure of most Social network rating systems is the linear 1-5 “stars”.  If there were 6 stars then at least we could have a leg up on applying the most valuable mathematical tools available from the world of wealth and value creation (hence, Six Sigma).  Second – the bell curve is not linear and the reviewer needs to be aware of this. 6 stars would mean that a post falls (in some measure) between 97%-100% of all similar level posts ever read by the reviewer. 5 stars falls in the 85%-97% range; 4 stars, 50%-85%; 3 stars, 35%-50%; 2 stars, 3%-15%; 1 star 0-3%.

If Calculus isn’t your thing, consider this – the bell curve rating system makes the reviewer really think about who they are in the process, the responsibility they hold in the rating of others, and the implications of their ratings – too high, or too low.  It would be good to know how many articles the reviewer has read and rated, the average of their ratings, as well as their own rating on articles published (is this staring to sound like EBay? – it should, at 25B market cap, they’re not silly people).  Social accountability does wonders for market efficiency and wealth creation.

Social Networks are ideally suited for correctly rating their own knowledge inventories so that when their members go out in the new world trying to make a living, it is known to all that they have been vetted by a respected community.  This increases the value of the member and it increases the value of the community in the market. Communities that empower and release great talent to a market actually empower themselves; Harvard, GE, Frank Zappa.  This has happened at the local level since the stone ages.

What about our competitive instincts? There can only be one winner and the rest are losers, aren’t all good Capitalists supposed to decimate thy neighbor? Always remember, it is all about the perfect combination of average assets, not necessarily the single excessive asset that makes product most valuable in a market.  The market for Toyotas is far greater than the market for Ferraris, yet each are competitive in their respective market.  The studies of ‘beauty’ discovered a collection of perfectly average features – in the eye of the beholder, consistent with balance and harmony.  So we’ll need to drop the win-lose culture on this one and worry about competing with the real threats that lie before us.

Sure, most people will complain about such a system because it is too complicated, too math-ish, not the easy tweet (OMG CUL8R!). But this is the reality of how money is organized – and disorganized (did I mention Wall Street yet?). There is no exception, there is no rational alternative – the world does not care if people agree with the way things are or if they understand the math.

Fortunately, once people learn to roll over this metaphysical speed bump, the rest is real easy as a vast world of possibility for generating extreme wealth in social networks will unfold before our eyes!!  Knowledge tangibility is the Holy Grail of modern finance but Social Networks are at risk of squandering this unique and historical opportunity to paint this empty canvas in their own image.  Act now, please – this chance may never happen again.

Social Enterprise; The Vetting Mechanism; #1

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.

Intellectual Property in the Innovation Economy

Today there is a big scare that bad people will run off with your intellectual property and make a ton of money with it. Another problem is that the Patent system is so slow and so expensive that the vast majority of innovators simply do not have access to patent protection – many people just keep their ideas secret. This happens in corporations where your ideas are used to advance the careers other people. Often the dominant strategy is to not innovate or keep your ideas secret.

The trend toward open sourcing and crowd sourcing is a real option in the Innovation Economy where Social Network are self regulating. In fact, these articles reference Wikipedia – a community source of definitions.

In practice, If I do dirty deals of Craig’s List, for example; people know where I live….or I get flagged. EBay, for example, produces relatively little to earn their 30B market cap except protect their social accountability system – the EBay feedback mechanism rewards high integrity and punished low integrity. The hallmark of the Web 2.0 is the user generated content as well as the user generated vetting of the content.

This is significant. The efficiency of any market is directly related to the efficiency of the vetting mechanism by rewarding high integrity and punishing low integrity; the FAA vets the airline industry, checks and balances vets democratic government, and the FICO score vets the consumer credit markets. Likewise, things go horribly wrong when the vetting mechanism fails; the accounting profession after Enron, and the sub prime mortgage crisis after loose lending practices, etc. The battlefields of business are littered with similar examples.

In an Innovation Economy, the secret sauce for the production of innovation is far more valuable than any single innovation itself.  The secret sauce provides a monopoly on dynamic repeatability rather than some static device. As such, patents can be open-sourced and innovation crowd sourced across a much wider domain of user applications.  Such conditions will change the type of innovations that are favored to reflect the broad and sweeping social priorities rather than innovations that are easy to patent, protect, and monopolize – and fear for one’s IP being stolen.    Bad people cannot steal your intellectual capital, your social capital, or your creative capital – it is yours, you own it and you have the social network to prove it.

Ownership is the key ingredient of entrepreneurship – everyone owns the innovation economy.

In fact, the objective of innovation economics is for people to take your ideas and make money with them – then give you some of it. Your income arises from collecting royalty payments on your ideas and participation of many ventures. If someone does not play fair, their access to intellectual property and the Percentile Search Engine can be curtailed just like access to credit can be curtailed in modern finance. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to play fair; you may cheat, but only once.

Social Networks are largely self-regulating; no government, Industry, or management is needed. This is efficiency, scaleability, and multiplicity all in one!

The Credit Score Analogy; Part 2

Now we look for a similar situation for Knowledge Markets.

In the cuurent times, the hiring manager is the person to know if you want to get a job. The manager would read your resume and compare it with “bell curve” in their brain about what has worked or not worked in their past. This was a great system for the industrial economy, but it falls far short in the innovation economy.

The world is evolving so fast with new technology, new disciplines, and global cultures that what worked in the past may not work in the future. Innovation favors different combinations of knowledge where the Industrial economy favored similar knowledge. A hiring manager may not accumulate sufficient experience in a lifetime to make a proper assessment in the complexities of a diverse, global, and technical future market.

If we look in society, there are many vetting mechanism in place. Social networks are by far among the most exciting and important new technology that can serve this purpose. Social networks must now evolve to become a local vetting mechanism for knowledge assets.

Just like the reporting agencies in the credit system, Social Networks can serve an extremely valuable function in permitting human knowledge to emulate a financial instrument by acting as the “Recording Agencies” who have verified the asset in terms of quality and quantity. The knolwedge Inventory acts as the independent variables that are used to calculate the probability of market success. The difference is that the credit score measures mostly negative events while the new system will seek only positive events and can be designed to give the participants much greater influence on how they appear to the market.

One thing is missing. The credit score uses the FICO equation; Innovation Economics will use something called the Percentile Search Engine.

The Credit Score Analogy; Part 1

We have defined the currency, the factors of production, and the inventory of the Innovation Economy; we destroyed the old resume system and turned it into a computer language that makes knowledge appear like money in the eyes of the entrepreneur.

Now, we need a system that keeps the game free and fair. For example; EBay does little more than protect the feedback system, Craigslist uses community flagging, Linkedin keeps track of comments and contacts, etc. All markets must have a vetting mechanism in order to operate efficiently. Entrepreneurs do not invest in places without a good legal system and where property rights are not protected. When vetting fails, investors leave – It is that important.

In the Innovation Economy, the knowledge market is analogous to the credit market.

In the old days, the banker was the person to know if you wanted to be successful in town. If you needed to borrow money to start a business or buy a house, the banker would review your work history and financial records as well as your reputation in the community where you both live. If you were deemed an acceptable risk, the banker would lend you money from the deposits of local companies and individuals.

Then an engineer named Bill Fair and mathematician Earl Isaac created the first behavior scoring system to predict credit risk. They formed the Fair Isaac Corporation FICO and their invention came to be known as the FICO credit score. With the credit score, the local banker is almost irrelevant; now a Saudi Billionaire can lend money to a young couple in Boise to buy their first home – and neither of them are aware of the other. The credit score is responsible for the creation of a lot of wealth because it made many more entrepreneurs who invested borrowed money in business. The credit score even allows you to recover if you hit hard times – you just pay more a little interest until you prove yourself solvent again.

The credit score isolates about 22 or so measurements of financial activity and puts them on a bell curve relative to everyone else. These include how much debt you have, how much your assets are worth, your income, etc. These ratings are run through the FICO Equation and out pops your credit score. Anyone can now predict the likelihood that you will default on your obligation.

All of the data that feed FICO are collected from public records, your employer, and the people who you borrow money from – all of these organizations have a vested interest in a system of correct credit scores.

It is interesting that you and I do not compete for our credit score because it is not a ranking system. The old saying “No credit is worse than bad credit”, although inaccurate, is cited often because with bad credit, you are visible to the system and it can adjust to find a suitable interest rate. With no credit, you are simply invisible.

We lose some privacy with FICO, but we accept these terms well because they provides us with tremendous benefit to finance a business, automobile, or a home without needing to save cash. Likewise, we lose some privacy engaging each other on the Internet and in our community, however, the benefit of Social Networks far exceed many perceived privacy issues.

My personal complaint with credit scores is that they track largely negative events and seem to predict failure. What if we had a system that tracks success and used that data topredict varying degrees of success.

In the next section, we will identify the institutions that exist in society and how Social Networks can act to duplicate the benefits of the credit score without the downsides….watch

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