The specialization economy, also know as division of labor, is what makes modern society run. People do what they’re good at, get increasingly good at it, and we have a society that can do increasingly complicated things. This makes us avoid things that are “not our job” – when my car is broken, I take it to the mechanic; when my mom’s internet stops working, she calls me (forgetting that web entrepreneur != IT guy); and when we’re sick, we go to the doctor. If we’re really sick, we hope researchers come up with something.
The story of 15 year old Jack Andraka, who created a more efficient test for pancreatic cancer, turns this idea on it’s head. Jack hasn’t gone through the decades of training of our idea of a researcher, and doesn’t have the life experience of school teacher Victoria Knight-McDowell, creator of Airborne. He took concepts from a high school biology class, Google, a year of hard work, and pushed the boundaries of medical research. Seems like a fluke, but is it?
The internet brought about a democratization of knowledge, and with it the rise of micro-experts – folks passionate about a very specific topic not necessarily related to their day job, and have gathered a depth of knowledge. Jack and Victoria are two examples of innovation coming from unlikely sources, and this is just the beginning. I believe innovation will increasingly come from micro-experts, and our task ahead is enabling them and identifying the best ideas.