How to monetize knowledge

I discussed my visit to CALM Alpha and the new Kanban certification scheme with a client yesterday. We came up with a few ways to monetize knowledge.

Ways to monetize knowledge:

  1. use the knowledge in your work, get paid for the work,
  2. encapsulate the knowledge in a product, get paid for the product,
  3. put it in a book, which is one kind of product. Except books don’t make a lot of money. Books can be an accelerator of other ways,
  4. create a training around it, sell the training,
  5. do consulting on it,
  6. certify others to give the training, take a cut of the training revenue, or sell the certification,
  7. spread the knowledge under an unclear license, and later harass people into paying (also known as the planning poker model),
  8. certify others to practice the knowledge. Sell the certification (repeatedly by requiring periodic re-certification),
  9. use the knowledge to build a product that is not about the knowledge.

Or a variation on the last, find a problem, use all your knowledge (which is a superset of “the knowledge” by a fairly large margin) and build a product that solves that problem. Get paid for solving the problem by selling the product (or licenses, subscriptions or heaven forbid ads on the product).

A wise person said yesterday at the eXtreme Tuesday club: “You need to decide whether you want to share or not.

Some ways encourage sharing. Others do not.

We’ve done a small safe-to fail experiment with one of the certification pyramids. I’m not sure whether it has had any impact, positive or negative. If you want me to write more about it, contact me, or better, leave a comment :) .

You may also want to read what Liz Keogh wrote about Cynefin licensing and what Chris Matts thought of his visit to CALM Alpha. The comment threads to both posts are well worth a read.

Which would you choose? What do you see as downsides or upsides of each of the ways? Are there better ways?

4 Responses to “How to monetize knowledge”

  1. Luca Minudel Says:

    For the 9 points that listed I can imagine situations where the money gained correspond to a fair amount of value provided. And I can imagine situations where this is not the case.

    Even when looking at the controversial point number 8, the certifications, it is possible to see that the functioning of education systems, from primary schools to universities, share common principles and methods with certification programs. Again the point is the real value provided versus the costs.

    One school course and one certification with one trainer can be valuable and good while another school and another certification can be crap.
    It is possible to find similar examples on both sides, good and bad, for consulting or for licenses and for the other points. It is possible to find cases of good ones that deliver a fair amount of value and cases of bad ones that do not, again for each one of the points.

    This means that, from my point of view, picking up one of the points and describing the downsides or upsides of each one is an over-generalization.

    I think it could be effective to look deeper at a more fine grained level, without bias and with constructive comments.

  2. Chris Matts Says:

    Hi Willem

    Nice post.

    The thing about your list is that each approach to generating revenue has a number of strengths and weaknesses.

    Protecting revenue using patents gives the most control, however it also prevents growth.

    Using the knowledge in your work means you cannot scale and make money from other people using it.

    And so on. I think Cognitive Edge are seeking to find an optimal approach, both giving benefit to the community but also protecting their IP. At some point, they make have to chose what is most important.


  3. Martien van Steenbergen Says:

    Hi Willem,

    To me, one of the key and very sensible practices to monetize knowledge is to capture it in software. Actually, software can be viewed as ‘executable knowledge’. We carefully listen to the needs and goals of our users and clients, and then evolve a software system that meticulously captures the insights, practices and knowledge gained. Next, we find an appropriate business model (and license) that allows us to capitalize on it, that ‘valuates’ our executable knowledge.

    A software system seems like a nice blend of all your points above.

    Succes en plezier,


  4. Willem Says:

    Hi Martien,

    thanks for your comment. I’d say Yes, and… just a little software ;) Too much and it might constrain innovation in much the same way certification often seems to do.

    Succes en plezier,