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Winning Lessons for Entrepreneurs in the Conceptual Economy

- Jay Maharjan

We are witnessing the arrival of a new economic model that we have yet to understand fully. Even though this new economic model is unfolding gradually and the future is yet to be clear, one thing is for sure that the knowledge economy as we are accustomed to is surely changing. Knowledge economy followed upon recognizing a type of workforce in the 1960s known as the ‘Knowledge workers’ – the term famously coined by the management guru Peter Drucker. What the world saw in the following decades was the sharp increase in productivity, giving knowledge workers a higher level of respect and recognition. The era of knowledge economy has consistently given the knowledge workers an edge among general workforce, in turn offering these workers a sense of job security, unheard of during the first half of the twentieth century. However, the knowledge economy as we knew it is changing and it is changing rapidly.

Knowledge workers who were used to the late 20th century job security is up for a wide awakening in this upcoming decade. This is also true for small businesses, entrepreneurs as well as large multinationals who fail to see this change. Knowledge economy gave the United States in particular a tremendous edge in terms of sustaining innovation and creating a healthy job market. Conceptual economy is going to be different. Knowledge workers who adapt to the new norm will weather through the storm, but those who fail to change or acquire new understanding, skills will be left behind.

Just as the knowledge economy brought about fundamental shift in nature of professions, this new economic model will witness new sets of professionals with strong creative knowledge and who will truly understand the need to bring the ‘art’ aspect to their professions. ‘Management by Objective’ will be taken less literally and objectives will be created with more fore sights and amended in an ongoing basis with new knowledge, information. Objectives will be less stringent and more inclusive based on variables. As in the beginning of the knowledge economy, the transition will be less glamorous, but will be more methodical and seamless at times. Conceptual economy will see new professionals in masses with enhanced but less disruptive skill sets. Doctors and engineers will still perform their specialized tasks as they did in the knowledge economy, this time around they will be challenged to use their right brains more in strategic thinking. MDs of the conceptual generation will be more technologically savvy than most of the technologists in the 20th century allowing this new breed to bring about changes at the fundamental level of delivering care.

Beyond specialized workers, there will be a whole new set of conceptual workers whose jobs are yet to be created. Most of what has been offered for free so far in the knowledge economy will shift to a paid model.

Conceptual consumers will end up spending less time searching for bargains or free trials and they will open their wallets for what they believe adds value. Social media will heavily influence consumers in the conceptual economy. Peer influence will play a key role in consumer buying habits. There will also be a new market for paid, high end online content as well as for validated, authenticated news aggregators.

Start up costs for technology companies will come down sharply. Shared resources, communal work effort like Linux, cloud computing will be a standard way of building infrastructure. There will be a big shift on coming up with new business models to measure, support, and train conceptual workers. Analogy for measuring conceptual workers would be similar to the earlier days of the knowledge economy when the companies didn’t know how to deal with the emerging knowledge workers. Hence, the whole new opportunities for consultants emerged – who trained themselves to be experts in consulting to management ( the title later officially became ‘management consultants’ and the likes of McKinsey and Bain & Co. emerged ) Consulting model thrived in the knowledge economy – from Big three accounting firms to ERP consultants to elite management consulting firms that catered to Fortune 500 types. There will be a fundamental shift in the consulting model. The future management consultants won’t be focusing on advising companies on processes and methodologies but rather, they will be emphasizing on human factor, individual human behavior more often than focusing on organizational behavior. Managing new generation of technology savvy, multi-tasking workforce with short attention span will be tough. Management will have to learn ways to train HR department to recognize and encourage the new norm for this new productive group.

There are many opportunities to be had as entrepreneurs in the conceptual economy, generation. Knowledge economy created enormous pool of small businesses. 98% of all businesses in the United States are small businesses. Majority of SMB companies that fall under this category were brainchild of knowledge workers. Regardless of the vertical, there is a tremendous opportunity for conceptual entrepreneurs to get in and salvage these companies from folding and sustain long enough to transform into truly conceptual, profitable companies.

Basic business rules and timeless wisdom will still apply. Ignore glamour. Choose to add value where majority have ignored. Address pain points. Be disruptive, but not too much, another Google is rare. Learn to be a generalist and ADAPT, ADAPT. Specializing in a dated niche tool is not the way to go!, Learn to defy the logic, conventional wisdom. Most likely, conceptual workers will have to go against the thinking of the knowledge workers, who are mostly from the generation of the baby boomers who hate change. No business school will ever get you ready for dealing with human resources, emotions. Conceptual workforce should learn that it is useless doing something very well that shouldn’t be done at all.

Jay Maharjan has written extensively in the areas of entrepreneurship and conceptual economy. Maharjan has unique combination of education background in engineering, art and management.  Maharjan studied under legendary management guru Peter Drucker at Claremont University. Maharjan has over 12 years of private sector entrepreneurial knowledge. Maharjan has equity interest, sits on the board of diverse group of private companies. Maharjan is a region champion for Startup America Partnership, the White House launched, private-sector led initiative to foster entrepreneurship. Maharjan was invited in October of 2012 to be on the panel of the President’s Jobs council.

Maharjan is passionate about mentoring entrepreneurs and supporting entrepreneurial ecosystems, clusters around the United States.

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One Response to “Winning Lessons for Entrepreneurs in the Conceptual Economy”

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