I had the pleasure of being at the CIM Marketing debate recently which was held at The Hive in Manchester. The debate was based around whether students should be financially remunerated for internships. Two moments in that debate stood out for me above the rest.Firstly, young Katherine Mountain, a student at Manchester University and interning at the fantastic, and newly award winning, Refresh PR, told the audience that she felt there needed to be a way in which students like her ( undertaking a “non creative” degree) could find out more about opportunities in the creative sector that she would have otherwise have been blind to. Second, her debating partner, Robert Minton Taylor making a great point that the students of today, could very well be our direct managers tomorrow, as was his direct experience after he had been made redundant – a previous student who had rose prominently through the ranks put him on the employment path again.

This really made me think. With a proliferation of news and debate around making digital skills such as coding a mandatory part of young people’s education, are we on the precipice of new change? With the push towards younger people bringing more and more relevant skills into the business and wider world, perhaps at a faster rate than traditional creative agencies, is there a new dimension of the economy about to be realised?

I believe so, in fact I believe that the next 5 years will see a shift from the “knowledge” economy to the “learning” economy.

What is the Learning economy?

An economy driven by attitude as well as aptitude, where the growing success of a younger group of people making an impact in the workplace – even delivering solutions direct to clients. It will force us to rethink the way in which we, as individuals and organisations are offering competitive advantage. Already there are more than 20000 people registered every 2 months for on line coding classes such as skillshare, and as web broadband speeds continue to grow that instancy of learning will be awash with opportunity.

The key to success in this new economy will be entirely based on how willing and open we are to new ways of learning, and developing ourselves in a digital age. A lot of our learning capability is ofcourse about our own maturity and growth, and the questions we ask ourselves when dealing with new problems and solutions. In the Learning Economy we won’t necessarily see young people take over the world in political terms, but we will see new opportunities for joining new with old – senior people with the “experience” and new young people with the “skills” to create dynamic teams of 2,3,4 people and solve problems in new and innovative ways.

How is this different to the “knowledge economy”?

Learning is not just about knowledge, it’s about our aptitude to develop and delivery true output for all our knowledge bases. In an age of information instancy, the learning economy means that the quicker we can learn and grow (skills and experience), the more impact we can make. The difference to the knowledge economy is that traditional silos of knowledge will become less and less relevant. I’m already seeing traditional marketing agencies bringing in new talent from diverse fields of behavioural science, data analysis and even chefs to answer new creative and strategic business problems. Traditional notions of which companies are in which “competitive sets” is going to be less relevant in the learning economy because almost every frontier will be one that is open – not just to your generation or the generation below – it’s going to be open to the generation that still hasn’t been born… You only need to look at the way new co-creation services like Fiverr and other crowd-sourced design companies are developing to see that soon the world won’t just be our oyster – it will also be our scope of competition through generations.

Think about it, Act on it, and embrace the learning economy.

Han-Son Lee