Sunday, May 20, 2007

Shirky on why a lack of knowledge is useful for entreprenueurs (similar argument to 'knowledge as a creole')

Rough sketching out...

In Knowledge as a Creole, I talked about the largely unconscious process of 'building a worldview' (though i didn't use that terminology in that post). It's a constructive process, that tries to bulit a reasonably coherent worldview from -- roughly -- the current state of our shared knowledge. We have very limited control over this process, and it is difficult to change our worldview once it is constructed. On the flip side, this process leads to conceptual advances -- advances that were implicit in this shared knowledge.

Clay Shirky has recently written a post The (Bayesian) Advantage of Youth that makes a similar point, though from a different perspective. Rather than knowledge, he's talking about technological advances (made by entrepreneurs), and he's focuses primarily how already seeing things one way restricts your ability to see advances. Also, rather than just the 'worldview' he's talking about experience in general.

...The principal asset a young tech entrepreneur has is that they don’t know a lot of things.

In almost every circumstance, this would be a disadvantage, but not here, and not now. The reason this is so, and the reason smart old people can’t fake their way into this asset, has everything to do with our innate ability to cement past experience into knowledge.

...We are wired to learn from experience. This is, in almost all cases, absolutely the right strategy, because most things in life benefit from mental continuity. Again, today, gravity pulls things downwards. Again, today, my wife will be happier if I put my socks in the hamper than on the floor. And so on.

...In 999,999 cases, learning from experience is a good idea, but what entrepreneurs do is look for the one in a million shot. When the world really has changed overnight, when wild new things are possible if you don’t have any sense of how things used to be, then it is the people who got here five minutes ago who understand that new possibility, and they understand it precisely because, to them, it isn’t new.

Note, Acquiring knowledge is acquiring a skill is closely related to the 'Knowledge as a Creole' post.

1 comment:

  1. Well, i'd say if yoy wanna get inspired, read Sramana Mitra's blogs. Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she showcases her discussion with Warren Packard, a General Partner at Draper-Fisher-Jurvetson on entrepreneurial / investment opportunities to help young entrepreneurs. She has also conducted few other equally inspiring interviews with serial entrepreneurs.