In the answer economy, solutions are offered and differentiated. The old is constantly repackaged as a potential answer to questions unasked, in order to eliminate preferences.
Would we have a lot less of what we don’t need if we could have anything we want.
The habit of creating demand for an existing answer leads to waste, it also wastes the individual’s time. We can give all that time back to people while retaining the potential to create great wealth by providing what is actually needed. And with marketing turned upside-down, eliciting questions becomes a fundamental business function.
The Answers Economy over-produces in order to meet demand that it cannot predict, which reduces the potential customizability of products and services actually delivered in the economy. So, we compromise and end up with products we don’t actually want. We experience that as “too much stuff.”
We are drowned in the wrong information as a result of the answers orientation. The millions of answers to any search are piled up and we still have to sort through it all to find what we actually want.
A questions-oriented economy will bank the value of getting what is wanted to those who want it at the right place and time for an acceptable price. In other words, the new value created by a questions-based economy will be divided by those who mine the delta between what is currently available given resources and what could be delivered in the future for a lower price based on validated demand, expressed as questions as simple as “Can I have an Egg McMuffin or its equivalent at 3:30 PM next Thursday? (or every Thursday for the next two years).”
In the case of new value, identified in advance or as an expression of unfulfilled demand, financing, logistics and so forth involved in delivering what is in demand, less the inventory risk of the Answers Economy.
A corollary of this axiom is that everything Google delivers today is already known, and hence only a commodity in the questions economy. The real value in Google, which is the quintessence of the answers economy, is not the content delivered but the searches conducted. Google and everyone else is totally unequipped to exploit the opportunity, which is why the current economy exacts the price of Excess Margin on everyone.
Axiom: In the Answers Economy, the cost of uncertainty is passed along to in the form of excess margin, generally about 40% of the final cost of the typical commodity. Hence, there is at least 40% inefficiency in the current economy.
Marx referred to the inherent unfairness of the economy in terms of the labor value expropriated from the worker, failing to recognize the value of coordination in the capitalist economy. Excess Margin places the onus back on the producer-network, which does not know how to price for an optimum market of perfect knowledge.
The essential error in capitalist thought is the notion of perfect information, which we can never achieve because we value answers over questions. We do this by ignoring most of the information about consumers, formulating offers (potential products) and attempting to “market to” consumers in order to make them accept the difference between what they want and what is available. In other words, we provide a limited set of answers and expect the demand-side of the market to compromise with their true desires and accept an inferior but partial answer.
Perfect knowledge in a world where we create answers and then invest in defending them rather than asking new questions that produce increasingly differentiated value is an impossibility in the Answers Economy, because it is predicated on mining the value in the delta between what is wanted and what can be produced. That requires ongoing consumer acceptance of what they largely do not want.
Axiom: In the Answers Economy, uncertainty is the enemy. Without the certainty that a particular resource will be available and in demand on the target date, one pays for that uncertainty in the form of inventory risk.