Commoditization of Skills

One lens for thinking about the future is trying to understand the spectrum of commoditization. Effectively, what skills or resources or advantages will become commodities – undifferentiated – in the future? Put another way, which advantages are sustainable? Which are inevitably going to be layered over or deemed useless? 

This type of lens aligns with my optimistic belief in humanity. There are many skills and abilities that I believe to be uniquely human. We are incredible at intuition. We are incredible at communication and sales and things like that.

But we have to be real with ourselves and recognize there are many skills – experts’ skills – that are really non-human. There are many skills that would actually be better performed by a computer. I am talking about things like recording material, data collection/analysis, memory, and much more. These are things that we all do on a daily basis but will inevitably be replaced in the future. 

While it can challenging to accurately predict the future, it is not as hard to think about what type of skills will be less valuable in the future. The time horizon, though, is tough to forecast.

In thinking about building companies, we can apply the same lens in trying to identify which segments of the supply chain have opportunity for differentiation and value creation. Which do not? Which will be a commodity layer where there is no unique value add?

Also published on Medium.