Technological change: Culture always pays the price for technology

Neil Postman gave a talk in Denver, 1998 titled Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change

Postman’s speech suggests that technology cannot solve the human race’s most profound problems and creates new ones. He provides five ideas to help understand these new problems.  

Here is a summary of the five ideas using cuts of Postman’s words:

  1. All Technological change is a trade-off. Culture always pays the price for technology.
  2. The advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evening among the population. There are always winners and losers in technological change.
  3. Embedded in every technology, there is a powerful idea, sometimes two or three powerful ideas. The ideas are often hidden from our view because they are somewhat abstract in nature. “The medium is the message” Marshall McLuhan.
  4. Technological change is not additive; it is ecological. The consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable and largely irreversible.
  5. Media tend to become mythic. The best way to view technology is as a strange intruder, to remember that technology is not part of God’s plan but a product of human creativity and hubris, and that its capacity for good or evil rests entirely on human awareness of what it does for us and to us.

The full text of the speech is freely available on the internet. It is worth the read.

We must view and acknowledge the change to culture brought about by technology and start to use these tools to improve our lives rather than changing ourselves to fit the technology. Many of us now provide our undivided attention to our phones whenever notifications request it, or open social media’s endless scrolling feed and never allow our brains to be bored or fully assimilate new information between tasks. 

We have just been forced through a cultural shift that has required significant technological change. We are beginning to emerge to a new work culture that we can either deliberately design to meet our needs, then build technology to enable it, or allow the current technology to shape this culture for us.

Maybe take a few minutes over the weekend with some paper and a pen, turn off the phone, and sit in a quiet space and start to design.

Linkedin Learning’s Workplace Learning Report 2021

Linkedin released their 5th annual Workplace Learning Report today. The findings are collected from Linkedin’s learning and development survey, completed by over 5,000 professionals across 27 countries.

65% of L&D pros have a seat at the exec table, up from 24% last year. This increase is mostly due to the need’s for remote working during the pandemic. 57% of L&D professionals say learning & development as moved from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have’.

The focus of Learning and Development in companies in 2021 is upskilling and reskilling, with 59% of companies saying this is their priority. The need for new skills can be partly attributed to the digitalisation of many roles. According to the World Economic Forum, 85 million jobs will be displaced, and 97 million new jobs will be created globally by 2025 due to computing playing a larger part in many businesses. The pandemic has accelerated many companies plans for digitisation and the training staff to take advantage of the new technologies. Leadership and management (53%), Virtual onboarding (33%), and Diversity and inclusion (33%) are the other most common priorities. The two most essential skills are resilience and digital fluency to address the pace of change. 

The skills gap created by increase technology in the workplace has lead companies to focus more on internal mobility, giving employees extra motivation to engage in learning and development. 51% of UK companies now say that internal mobility is more important now that pre-pandemic. To support internal employee progression, 39% of L%D professionals are currently identifying skills gaps in their organisation, and 33% are developing tools to help develop programmes targeted at upward or adjacent moves of employees within the company. The report suggests that employees at companies with high internal mobility stay almost twice as long; an average of 2.9 years for low internal mobility companies and 5. years where internal mobility is high. 

Community is becoming a crucial part of learning programmes. At Linkedin learning’s internal programmes, learners who used the platform’s social features watched an average of 30 times more content. This mirrored in the feelings of Learning and Development professionals in the survey. 84% said that learning is more engaging when done with other people, 94% said that it is more successful, and 95% said it helps create a sense of belonging. 

Linkedin Learnings own programmes have seen a 58% increase in users in the last year to 25 million global users; each user is watching on average twice the number of hours. Generation Z, born between 1995-2010, are the top uses of Linkedin Learning, growing 2.5 times the number of users in this bracket, and they are watching 50% more hours.

The five most popular Linkedin Learning courses for learning and development professionals:

  1. Instructional Design Essentials: Models of ID by Joe Pulichino
  2. Articulate Storyline Essential Training by Daniel Brigham
  3. Instructional Design: Storyboarding by Daniel Brigham
  4. Converting Face-to-Face Training into Digital Learning by Daniel Brigham
  5. Measuring Learning Effectiveness by Jeff Toister

The MBA where your teacher is a machine

Quantic.edu, formally Smart.ly, is an online MBA programme built by a former CEO of the Rosetta Stone language learning company. It is based on self-paced learning driven by questioning and then supported by live sessions for traditional discussion of case studies and group work. The aim is to make high-quality education cheaper, quicker, cheaper, and better at delivering outcomes. They have taken the learning by testing idea that has made Rosetta Stone so successful and repurposed it to help people learn business skills. 

To make education cheaper, the programmes primary instructor is software, which is then supported by live classes with humans. Around 80% of the cost of a degree in America is staff costs, so replacing the lecture with self-paced learning allows Quantic to offer their Executive MBA for just $9,600, significantly cheaper than other similar programmes. The programme is also quicker, taking 11 months to complete compared to the 18-24 months of a regular executive MBA. 

The company offers its regular MBA for free to the student. It acts as a recruiter, placing its graduates in jobs with tech firms like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, looking for a talented individual, and then charges the company a recruitment fee. They have been innovative with their admissions process too. Once a prospective student applies, they have to go through the self-paced business Foundations’ courses in the period before their submission is accepted, with the engagement in these courses being a part of the acceptance criteria.

The real innovation is in their active learning teaching method. The website states that there is individualised feedback every eight seconds. The free course I took averaged around fifty words to a page and taught through questioning the questions’ difficulty gradually increasing as your confidence builds. These tests are presumably ‘low stakes’, meaning your answers are not recorded, but rather it’s part of the teaching method to give regular feedback and allow you to get it wrong and provide the solution to correct you.

Research – just as good as a traditional MBA

A July 2016 study by Stanford University academics compared learning from Quantics’s online model to on-campus MBAs for finance and accounting modules. Quantic participants took a pre-test, completed a self-paced course, and then took a post-test. On-campus MBA students took only the post-test. The study concludes that ‘Preliminary analyses show learners in the Quantic groups performed as well as or better than MBA participants at post-test.’

The Quantic students improve an average of 29 percentage points in accounting and 33 percentage points in Finance from pre-test to post-test. The average post-test score was 86% (accounting) and 82% (Finance), which was 11% higher for accounting and 1% higher for Finance than the on-campus MBA students’ scores in the same test. Students also like it; Quantic received similar net promoter scores to Harvard and Wharton MBA programmes in the study but has since improved on this by introducing their blended model that supports machine-driven learning with live classes.

“This study supports the assertion that some of the foundational accounting and financial concepts taught in traditional brick-and-mortar MBA program can be learned independently, online through Pedago’s targeted Quantic active-learning courses. Significant improvement in students’ knowledge can be gained in as little as two hours of engagement with these courses.” Quantic efficacy study

The self-paced courses are not enough on their own. The study suggests that the materials be used as part of an MBA programme that includes cohort-based elements alongside. The two suggestions were for the machine taught content to acts as introductory materials before the MBA starts or as prerequisites to live sessions in a flipped learning approach.

If acting as introductory materials at the start of the course, they can enhance students understanding of fundamental ideas in hard to learn areas or bring students up to a similar starting level—the Prerequisite work for blended-learning classes. If used as prerequisite learning between live sessions, it can leave instructors more classroom time to explore case studies and interact with peers in group work. 

Podego – The tesla of education – cheaper and quicker to learn 

Quantic is run by Pedago, a private company that aims to ‘build an end-to-end talent engine.’ They state that the fourth industrial revolution is leading to disruption of the labour market, removing or changing the jobs people do, and that technology can help people become smarter and re-skill in the new job market.

Education + career matching = Talent engine

Podego

They want to be the ‘Tesla of education’, using technology to making it cheaper and quicker to learn new skills, using technology and new approaches. One such method is eliminating the lecture and replacing it with discovery-based learning, replacing the lecturer with a computer, and focusing on interactivity and personalised feedback and progression, supported by live online classes with humans.

They state that Quantic is the worlds first accredited, machine taught degree and that it is specifically designed for access on mobile as that is where modern students want to learn. Their MBA is their first course and acts as a proof of concept and aim to move into teaching programming, blockchain, robotics, and other subjects that represent a skills gap in the economy. 

The Education company of the future

MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE: We’re mobile-first, platform-agnostic, self-paced, and easily-translatable into every major language.

MAKE IT AFFORDABLE: We remove the cost barrier and the heavy student debt burden, ensuring access regardless of socioeconomic status.

MAKE CREDENTIALS VALUABLE: We admit students for degrees and certificates based on prerequisites and prospects for employment.

TIE IT TO CAREER: We link education directly to its ultimate benefit, motivating financial gain, career advancement and personal fulfilment.

MONETISE ON THE EMPLOYER: We help companies match with the ideal job-seeking student, with the desired skills, education, and culture fit, paying upon a successful hire in our career network.

Podego

I highly recommend you sign up for their free courses and experiment with the Quantic learning method. If I took anything from exploring a couple of their introductory courses, it was the idea of tracking the number of interactions a student gets in their on-demand content. Self-paced learning in courses is essential to make the class time more valuable but can often rely too heavily on content and not enough testing. Moving to a metric of ‘seconds per interactions’ might be too much of a jump for current HE lecturers, but ‘minutes per interaction’ might improve the student experience significantly. 

Finding a startup business model

Many startups fail because of a lack of research. Founders assume that customers want to pay for their product and scale before knowing their business model works. The ‘Growth at any cost’ approach encouraged in Silicon Valley has led to some spectacular collapses when a company’s business model has not been adequately tested before it scales. 

The most dramatic recent example of a startup scaling before it has a solid business model is WeWork. The office space startup launched in 2010, and by 2019, the company had an estimated value of $47 billion, helped by an $8 billion investment from Softbank. The company never made a profit but instead focused on a massive expansion of locations without learning if their model worked. The collapse came when they attempted to transition from startup to established company with an IPO in 2019. Potential investors got to look at its finances and compare WeWork to established and profitable real estate companies such as IWG.

A startup is not just a smaller company. Traditional product development ‘Waterfall’ methodologies work for existing companies with a known market and low tolerance for failure. A startup model with ‘agile’ product development is needed when you are unsure about what you’re selling and who you are selling to and need to repeat the design and development process many times until you find something that works.

Startup: A temporary organisation in search of a scalable, repeatable, profitable business model. Steve Blank

A startup is a company in search of a customer, product, and business model. The Customer Development Model can be used to make this search systematic and reduce the risk of failure.

The Customer Development Model

  1. Search Mode
    1. Customer Discovery – translate the startup’s vision into a testable business model hypothesis.
    2. Customer Validation – Test the business model for repeatability and scalability.
  2. Execution Mode
    1. Customer Creation – Establish the market, product position, and demand. 
    2. Company Building – grow the organisation to support executing the business model.

The Build-Measure-Learn Loop can be used in the Search Mode to learn from customer feedback when developing products and services. The build phase of the first iteration of the loop creates the simplest customer-ready product known as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

Minimum Viable Product: The version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. Eric Ries

The Build Measure Learn Loop

  1. Build a product from a plan
  2. Measure the product to generate data
  3. Learn from the data to create the next plan

A company should validate their business model and customer before any significant money is spent in the Execution Mode. If the business model hypothesis fails, the startup can pivot to a new idea until a scalable business model is found.

The 4Ps of Software Engineering

Software engineering is a set of processes carried out by people undertaking various practices and informed by an overarching paradigm.

Processes are a series of activities that move from an idea, problem, or opportunity to completed software delivered to users. Most processes include four phases-specification, development, validation, and evolution. Agile and lifecycle are two different process approaches to software development. 

People involved in software engineering include developers who do the work to enable users to interact with the software in some way. The customer, sometimes the user, makes decisions about the design. Maintenance staff (operations) launch the software and look after it once completed. Testers check that the software meets the original requirements set by the customer, and technical authors write user guides/manuals.

Practices are the specific activities a developer carries out to develop the system. Examples include analysing and modelling people’s problems, collecting user requirements writing code, and testing the system works. The order of the various practices is dictated by the process chosen.

Paradigm is a set of practices linked together around a set of beliefs about developing software. The two most common paradigms are Object-oriented programming where software is built as a set of real-world objects with properties and behaviours, and Structured systems analysis where software is a set of functions operating on data.

Refactoring, Reuse, and Learning Design

The increase in digital technology in many fields has also brought software engineering language and practices into these areas. I studied Information systems and management at University, so I am more guilty than most for this trend. I have introduced rapid prototyping, the Capability Maturity Model, and daily stand-ups to my team’s work to name just a few.

Refactoring: The process of changing a software system in such a way that it does not alter the external behaviour of the code, yet improves its internal structure.

Martin Fowler

This week I have come across a company using ‘Refactoring’ as a term used in learning design. In software engineering, programmers use refactoring to describe going back to old code and cleaning it up. Refactoring is a continual process of improving code and reducing the number of lines while maintaining functionality. Code is usually written quickly to solve a functionality problem, so programmers revisit it, and rewriting it to run more efficiently. Reuse is a significant part of the refactoring process where a programmer copies some code from another programme to replicate the functionality and simplicity somewhere else quickly.

The company that I will not name used refactoring to describe unbundling a course and then restack it into different offerings. It is splitting a degree or Masters into its separate modules and then offering these individually or in groups of modules to other potential students. This might be offering the first 180 credits of a degree or a combination of modules from all three years into a certificate. It might also be offering working professionals the option of studying a single module that they need for work. The idea they tried to get across was that universities already have these bundles of modules that can be rearranged into courses that attract a wider audience, but I do not think the term quite works.

Reuse: An Engineering strategy where the development process is geared to reusing existing software

Ian Sommerville

After the session, I revisited my university notes to see if ‘refactoring’ was a marketing effort and taking liberties. I came across a line that I am not sure is mine or a direct quote from a book but refactoring ‘allows us to think about reuse of previous components or looking at alternative ways of doing things.’ Reuse is borrowing code from existing software to reduce the amount of code required to produce when developing a new system. I can’t help but feel that ‘reuse’ is a better technical term for what was implied, but it is not flashy. 

Let me know on Twitter if I am wrong or want to share other terms taken from software engineering misused (think Agile). We can have a group eye roll.

n.b. The rest of the presentation was excellent, and they had great ideas.

The Expectation Gap Survey

WONKHE and Pearson today released the analysis of their second Student Expectation Gap survey. The survey was available throughout December 2020 and covered English and Welsh universities with 3,389 student responses. Students have understood the situation academics are in and are satisfied with their responsiveness to feedback and support requests; however, only 40% agree that their experience as been of sufficiently good quality.

What we take from the findings is that among the students we surveyed, the fundamentals are generally in place. Teaching staff seem to be (mostly) engaging and responsive, and though some students flagged specific frustrations about learning remotely, most reported good access to learning resources.

WONKHE

The responses showed that 46% of the courses were delivered entirely online, and a further 14% started with some face-to-face and then moved entirely online during the term. Only 33% of student had campus-based sessions throughout the period. 80% of the students have less than 10 hours of timetabled sessions per week, and 17% had less than two hours (mostly PGT), the rest of their couses were independent study.

The pandemic has accelerated the move to technology-enhanced learning. According to this survey, students are open to keeping the changes once the government lifts the social distancing rules. Universities now have the challenge of assessing what delivery looks like post-COVID. They must decide what should be retained in the short term, what to develop for the longer-term strategically, and what to remove.

The survey suggests students want:

  1. More significant interaction between students on campus and supplemented online through discussion forums
  2. More contact time with tutors in the classroom, online in seminars, through remote check-ins with tutors, and via email.
  3. Encouragement and support to become independent learners through online formative self-assessment, more frequent assessments, and progress reviews indicate how they perform on the course.
  4. A more consistent approach to teaching across modules
  5. The campus and classrooms used for interactive tasks and activities, practical experiences, lab-time, and fieldwork. 
  6. Online learning used to add flexibility, remove constraints around scheduled contact hours, and enhance learning delivery.
  7. A better User Experience UX design of the VLE to improve signposting and to set expectations around learning.
  8. Content broken into manageable chunks interspersed with a large variety of activities and knowledge checks.
  9. Online access to wellbeing, careers, and academic support services.
  10. More skills development through independent study learning activities for academic writing, digital learning, project and time management, the confidence to engage with groups, information literacy, and independent learning.

You can read the summary and the research findings on the WONKHE website.

We have a human captial problem; we should all become engineers

What if everyone became a (hard) scientist or an engineer, how quickly would we fix the world’s major problems? How quickly could we eradicate poverty and unemployment, create environmental security, and help people live healthy, predictable, and straightforward lives free of high order issues? 

Naval Ravikant believes everyone can be rich and belives it can be taught. He believes that everyone can become a scientist or engineer with support, patience and the right expectations. Of course, most people do not want to put in the time it takes to build these skills, they want to do other things, or they do not have the financial support or expectation that it is possible, but it is.

The engine of technology is science that is applied for the purpose of creating abundance. So, I think fundamentally everybody can be wealthy.

This thought experiment I want you to think through is imagine if everybody had the knowledge of a good software engineer and a good hardware engineer. If you could go out there, and you could build robots, and computers, and bridges, and program them. Let’s say every human knew how to do that.

What do you think society would look like in 20 years? My guess is what would happen is we would build robots, machines, software and hardware to do everything. We would all be living in massive abundance.

We would essentially be retired, in the sense that none of us would have to work for any of the basics. We’d even have robotic nurses. We’d have machine driven hospitals. We’d have self-driving cars. We’d have farms that are 100% automated. We’d have clean energy.

At that point, we could use technology breakthroughs to get everything that we wanted. If anyone is still working at that point, they’re working as a form of expressing their creativity. They’re working because it’s in them to contribute, and to build and design things.

I don’t think capitalism is evil. Capitalism is actually good. It’s just that it gets hijacked. It gets hijacked by improper pricing of externalities. It gets hijacked by improper yields, where you have corruption, or you have monopolies.

Naval Ravikant

Chamath Palihapitiya believes we can solve most problems, and we have the money to do it through capital markets, but we have a human capital problem. We know how to fix most issues, but we miss the smart people to research, develop, and build the solutions. Part of the problem is that technology firms swallow all of the best talent straight out of university. We need more talented scientists and engineers, and we need to motivate them to become entrepreneurs or work for innovative companies that want to solve the most significant problems.  

Human Capital: the skills, knowledge, and experience possessed by an individual or population, viewed in terms of their value or cost to an organization or country.

Oxford languages

The example Chamath gives is the goal for making every home in America carbon neutral. Sustainable home-generated power could be achieved through roof-mounted solar panels that store electricity on-site in a reliable battery and controlled by an app on your phone. The homeowner could also power an electric car and replace their petrol or diesel one. Through bonds and investment, capital markets can fund such an effort, but we do not have the technically skilled people to research, develop, build, and install it. But how real is Chamath’s and Naval’s idea of science solving the problem if we just had the people?

In the UK, fossil fuel burning to generate electricity is the largest source of carbon emissions. WWF UK suggests that moving to 100% sustainable fuel power generation by 2050 is the most significant action the Government can take to meet the climate ambition of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The next most crucial step is to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and transition to electric vehicles. SolarPower Europe suggests that engineers have improved solar technology and panels now generates 30 times more power over there lifetime than is required to manufacture and that ‘solar offers the most cost-efficient means to decouple electricity generation from environmental and health impacts.’

EngineeringUK references ten core and related engineering occupations on the UK Government 2020 Shortage Occupation List (SOL) of the most needed skills in the economy. The skill shortages include design and development engineers, electrical engineers, and production and process engineers, all of which are involved in solving the emissions problem. We do have a human capital problem, and it is holding back a solution to climate change.

Naval and Chamath set a challenge to all of us to solve the significant issues that we face. Are you working in the hard sciences or in engineering to solve these issues? If you are an educator, are you focusing your efforts on developing and motivating people to solve these technical problems? Once we reach a world of zero poverty, zero unemployment, and zero carbon emissions, we can all pursue creative expression. Until then, let’s solve the human capital issue and become engineers. 

Using Abbing’s brand model to develop a service offer

University leadership teams are currently planning what delivery will look like next academic year. A form of blended learning will likely be maintained even if social distancing rules are relaxed. Educational technology and academic development teams will need to restructure their services to provide academic departments with the support they need to transition from this year’s delivery model to a more sustainable and quality-driven model for the future. But what does that service offer look like and how can it be designed to provide freedom for academic teams to explore what this new future looks like?

Author/Copyright holder: erik roscam abbing. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Erik Roscam Abbing’s brand model could be used as a starting point for Edtech teams to create their new service blueprint. The starting point is to map out the team’s own identity, vision, mission, and behaviours. An understanding of the Capability Maturity Model can also input into the team’s desired brand. I have added below my current thoughts on the first phase for my team. If you have any questions or want to collaborate on ideas, get in contact with me on Twitter @samueljtanner

Team Identity

We have moved towards a Learning Design skill set in the team rather than the more traditional Learning Technologist. Each member of the group would consider themselves as a ‘techie’ and has an expertise that sits somewhere in the nexus of three core technical skills; Learning and teaching, multimedia and technology development, and design. Learning Designers operate as project managers, follow design thinking methodologies using personas and prototypes, and adopt a scholarly approach to quality assurance and continuous improvement practices.

Vision

We believe in the transformational nature of technology, and that learning and teaching can be made better when technology is used to design student centred experiences. Teachnology allowed learning and teaching to be:

  • Flexible: accessible to anyone that wants to learn, at whatever stage of life they are at, and whatever their context.
  • Personalised: designed to meet students individual goals and provide choice as these change.
  • Active and collaborative: engaging learning experiences that prepare students with the skills they need for the workplace, including problem-solving, teamwork, communication, and resilience. 
  • Redefined: using technology to create student experiences previously impossible with physical constraints.

Mission

By 2025, all students will have a flexible, personalised, and active and collaborative learning experience that uses technology to provide better learning outcomes.

Behaviour

We are: 

  • partnering with academic teams to co-design modules and courses
  • defining what quality looks like and how to get there sustainably 
  • sharing ideas of what is possible and what works
  • building an easy to use and seamlessly integrated technology ecosystem that provides the tools needed 

My ideas will be different from yours

The ideas here are just a brain dump around the direction I am taking my team, but I suggest using the same framework for your institution. Phase two will look at the identity, vision, mission, and behaviour of those teaching at university. My team is a service for academic departments to help them teach students, and so our customers are the lecturers. It is a time of disruption for the role of academics, and the answers to the questions in phase two will be very different now than six years ago when I moved from further education to the university sector. I have some research to do, but I imagine that brand promise will be something along the lines of… 

Brand promise: Your Learning Designer will help you design, develop, and deliver a flexible module quicker, easier, and provide a better student experience than if you had done it independently.

1,000 True Fans and the Portfolio Life

In the book, The 100-year life, the authors introduce the idea of a portfolio job. To provide an individual with autonomy in their working life, they step away from full employment in a single position to take on several smaller roles that together make up the required income and creative outlets that person desires. A portfolio job requires the individual to have developed mastery in a field that they can then exploit for revenue through various products and services. It is an attractive idea for those of us that have worked hard to develop a level of mastery in our chosen fields, but it is a step away from what most of us learned in school. For knowledge workers, the two big questions are who are our potential customers and what kind of products are services can we offer them? 

1000 True Fans

Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired Magazine and author, wrote an article in 2008 titled 1,000 true fans in which he argued that to be a successful creator and make a living, you only need a thousand true fans. Kelly defines a true fan as someone that will buy anything that you produce and a living as earning $100,000 per year. To make $100,000 per year as income, you must create enough to earn $100 profit from each of these true fans and then sell them directly. This calculation assumes that it is better to sell more to your existing fans than it is to find new ones and that you get to keep all the purchase price from any sale instead of giving away a percentage to an intermediary.  

The target of 1000 true fans is a number that is manageable for most people, that could be as simple as one per day for a few years. You can play with this formula depending on your field, so if you can earn more per true fan, you need fewer of them to hit the $100,000 mark. These true fans will also work for you through word of mouth marketing and attract regular fans that may purchase some but not all of your product so focusing your attention on them is far more valuable than other marketing approaches.

Kelly highlights two areas where this formula is becoming accessible to a larger group of creators. The first and more obvious reason is the internet has made it far easier to connect, build relationships, and have financial transactions directly to a vast pool of consumers. The second and less obvious reason is how network effects amplify the discoverability of niche products and put them one click away from that best selling ones.

Selling your creative output is an easy idea for traditional creatives such as musicians or artists, but what about knowledge workers?  

The Full-Stack Freelancer

Tiago Forte has built a portfolio business as a freelancer in Forte Labs and suggests seven types of product that can make up a portfolio income in his blog post ‘The rise of the full-stack freelancer.’ These income streams can mix products and services, digital and physical, and passive and active income.

  1. Social Media
  2. Blog/subscriptions
  3. Public workshops
  4. Online courses
  5. Phone coaching
  6. Corporate training
  7. Consulting

A portfolio of income streams takes advantage of opportunistic addition; doing each of these in moderation can add value and minimise the diminishing returns experienced when focusing exclusively on one area. Each of the products or services feed off each other and create a marketing funnel from free content to the higher value offerings. True fans can be developed in one direction through this funnel or move through multiple streams and back again with a monthly subscription to a premium blog, purchasing one-off highly interactive courses, and receiving a free monthly newsletter for example.

Creating a portfolio life

The idea of discovering and cultivating a relationship with a collection of individuals who will then purchase what you produce to give you a steady and comfortable living is exciting. A place to start could be to build a presence on social media such as Twitter or Instagram and begin to cultivate an audience, and an email list, through free longer-form content on blogs or podcasts. Once you have a following, you will introduce revenue-building products or services such as a book or an online course. Whatever route you choose, the portfolio life is an attractive one, and the internet has made it easier than ever to cultivate. 

Have a conversation with me about this post on Twitter; I am interested to hear your thoughts.