What is scalable knowledge?

When Thomas Edison* developed the light bulb, it lit up the world (pun intended). One invention could be scaled to tremendously impact the lives of so many people, for so long, allowing for increased productivity and development.

Photo by zhang kaiyv / Unsplash

Once humankind figured out how to generate energy from steam, we developed the steam engine, which in turn was used to develop trains. Once we developed the first train, we could scale to build many more trains. Once we developed the first building, we could scale to build many more buildings. Once we developed the first city, we could scale to create many more cities.

As you can tell, developing the first anything has a lot of importance. In the same sense, we should focus on knowledge, ideas, or inventions of our own right that benefit a large number of people. Now, we might not be able to replicate an invention as impactful as the light bulb, but we all definitely can offer some form of 'shareable' or 'scalable' knowledge.

How do you go about developing 'scalable knowledge'?

Why would you ever need to develop scalable knowledge? Because it can make a tremendous impact, both in your own life and for others too, even at work. As someone working at a large corporate, it tends to become difficult to differentiate yourself from your peers. I identified building 'scalable knowledge' as one such mechanism to help improve that, but how exactly should anyone go about developing it?

  1. What 'scalable knowledge' is needed and is it useful? These should be 'knowledge bases' or 'materials' that can be developed once but used over multiple times in multiple ways for multiple people across the business to generate value. Examples include building web-scraping scripts to pull competitor data, automating manual daily workflows, or even developing a company-wide slide template for internal/external presentations.
  2. Do I have the capacity and the capability to build it? This is dependent on your own skillsets I would highly recommend that you identify your own strength areas and  
  3. should be 'knowledge bases' or 'materials' that can be developed once but used over multiple times in multiple ways for multiple people across the business to
  4. How can others benefit from it? Sharing your developments with others does not make you cocky or egotistical in anyway. It is actually beneficial for others that you share t

Scalable knowledge I realized that the company did not have a strong understanding of the address locations of our customers. They never truly mapped out their customer base!

Sure, the back-end system recorded customer addresses but these were manually filled out by our service staff. Hence, the data was incomplete and had a number of errors. By incomplete, I mean if I wanted to plot a geographic heat-map based on customer address, or identify particularly which district a given customer was residing in, I wouldn't be able to.

So my first contribution of 'scalable knowledge' was to clean our customer address information and use a Python library called geopy which connects to external mapping APIs to record the full address. It was incredibly easy from my side given the library handled all the parsing, but .

Libraries are actually great forms of 'scalable knowledge', and I just had to be resourceful enough to figure out it existed and read the documentation so as to learn how to make use of it.

The purest form of scalable knowledge is training others to redesign their systems. Systems can refer to anything habitual that you develop for yourself from how you plan your nutrition or fitness routines, to even their work processes.

I saw space to automate my co-workers work processes, but if I were to support automating or improving their workflows myself, it would take quite a while! What if they had the ability to marginally automate their own workflows? An understanding of fundamental programming would definitely be scalable knowledge that could grow to allow everyone to participate in improving their own workflow processes.

*For those arguing he stole from Tesla, let's just consider him a placeholder for whoever actually built the light bulb...