The modern financial system traces its beginnings to the Middle Ages. As commerce passed a certain sophistication threshold that extended transactions beyond “right here and right now”, bartering broke down as an effective means for exchanging value. Since that inflection point, the world embarked on an ever increasing liquidity quest. As ever more sophisticated financial instruments emerged, they in fact substantially increased the mobility of assets.
In our so-called “knowledge economy”, context-deprived information is plentiful and indeed free flowing or “liquid”. Contextualized knowledge on the other hand, the true asset of a knowledge economy, remains locked inside human brains. And human brains in the form of “talent” are anything but liquid. Indeed, in as far as the liquidity of talent is concerned, we are still in the bartering equivalent of the financial system. That is because talent in the 21st century continues to be tied to jobs. Jobs in turn are firmly implanted in rigid corporate structures. There are both intractable problems waiting to be solved and knowledgeable individuals. But we are lacking a vehicle for expeditiously bringing the two together. Problems materialize and morph in a flux whose dynamic far exceeds the pace at which talent can change jobs or advance through monolithic corporate hierarchies so that it can be applied where it is most needed. And so, most of our modern’s society’s problems get partially solved and the best talent is only partially and incompletely utilized.
A true knowledge economy would move away from the “job” construct. There is no need to keep talent around when problems are infrequent. Talent needs to be applied on demand, where and when it is most needed. Knowledge needs to be liquid.