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The internet is the best place to test the true market worth of your ideas — cheap, fast and effectively We are living in exciting times. A time when there is strength in numbers. Experts may dub it the Participatory Age, the Age of Collaboration, the Age of Instant Communication and if I may add to those epithets, The Age of Instant Gratification. The internet and the online communities that it allows us to set-up has shrunk the world and given everyone a voice. First-time, self-published authors are realizing the market value of their dreams through self and digital publishing. A bunch of aspiring filmmakers on shoe-string budgets are shooting with hand-held cameras and basking in the reflected glory of their two-bit fame on You Tube. A housewife in Houston is sharing her tips on kettle corn with a cookery club on Facebook and going viral with her homely goodies that earlier had no takers. The possibilities are endless and it’s not difficult to understand why. The tools of creativity are now more widely and evenly distributed. Anyone with a laptop and an internet connection can set up shop or get connected with a business associate or a peer from any spot on the planet! It’s easy and cheap to experiment. It costs virtually nothing to float an idea on the net, check the response, get quotes, get metrics, gauge the size of the market, estimate cost of raw material procurement — and based on all this cheap R&D, determine your margin of profitability and the marketability of the idea. No need to hire McKinsey consultant when there is free-floating advice all around you — offered free-of-cost on a LinkedIn web forum! These days, if you have an iota of talent — any kind — degrees and titles don’t count. Now, if you have already found a perfect excuse not to work, no one can help you, but if not, there are opportunities around you waiting to be tapped and you can earn a decent sum even from the 8X8 confines of your home-office. What’s more and even more exciting is that in this networked world, commitment is voluntary — you may accept and refuse a project from anywhere, dictate your own terms and conditions, shoot down proposals and accept those that do appeal to you. Money flows from talent and value-added services. Communities are setting their own rules and norms of doing business and information is traded widely and openly.
There are no trade secrets (and even if there are, they would be difficult to maintain for very long) and everyone is an experimenter; an entrepreneur. Earlier, the gap between the have, the have-nots and the “have-got-what-is-not-theirs” was wide and insurmountable because information — the main instrument of this Participatory Age — was asymmetrically distributed. Those who had more information dictated terms that others had to follow. Today, everybody has access to the same sources of information. Very little information is privileged or confidential — think Wikileaks! Just about everything now is decentralized. Online marketplaces like eBay, eLance, oDesk, Lulu.com have made it so easy for buyers and sellers to find each other. Resources are following opportunities. Communities set rules that members must follow. This is a true democratic order of things. On the flipside — survival with this information-overload can be tough. Since one has a proprietary over information tools, ideas today compete on an equal footing and the challenge to your idea can spring from anywhere in the world. This implies that you need to have your ears to the ground 24/7. It would be a mistake for New Age entrepreneurs to underestimate the power of this media. It enables small companies to pose like big Daddies. It allows testing to be done cheaply and quickly and it enables marketers to come up with unique ways of selling their products in manners that dwarf all other forms of conventional marketing. So huge can be its impact — but more of that in our next post…. Till then, stay tuned….