The Insight Economy

Forget the knowledge economy; welcome to the insight economy.

There have long been three essential ingredients to any successful business. One is capital; another is knowledge; and the third is a great idea or insight. (Yes, there are other essentials but that’s a pretty good start.)

In the developed world and throughout much of the developing world, we have long since passed the time when available capital provided a significant competitive edge. Efficient global markets have made capital widely available. So if you’re looking for a reason to feel secure about your economic future, cross that one off the list.

Much has been made of the so-called knowledge economy but knowledge is now in the same category as capital. Thanks to the wired world’s electronic infrastructure, knowledge is an even more fluid commodity than capital. It freely flows across international borders. Not everyone has it, but it has become so widely available—throughout the world—that its ability to provide a competitive edge is waning. So cross that one off the list, too.

That leaves insight, the great ideas that take capital and knowledge and combine them into some new technology or product or business model or marketing strategy. In other words: innovation. That’s not to say that either capital or knowledge is unimportant. They are as important as ever, but in today’s world no one can count on exclusive access to either.

Maintaining a competitive edge in today’s world requires unique insights. Yet insight is an even more widely available commodity than capital and knowledge. Anyone can have a great idea. That means that almost as quickly as we’re moving into an economy in which only insight can still give you an edge, we’re creating one in which insight is becoming the minimum ante just to stay in the game.

What makes ideas supremely important is that they don’t follow capital and knowledge. On the contrary, thanks to global markets and electronic technologies, capital and knowledge freely follow great ideas. A great idea can now attract the money and expertise necessary to make it happen—anywhere in the world.

That’s the insight economy and it’s driven by innovation. In an insight economy, the best ideas win, no matter who has them. Are you creating the sort of innovation-friendly environment that generates and implements attractive ideas? You need to be, because the ability to become a source of great new ideas is your most critical business asset—in the insight economy.

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