A pulpit for the pros that is worth celebrating

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Unlike other social-media platforms, LinkedIn has been able to position itself as the place for professional profiles with an ecosystem to boot. Recently, LinkedIn celebrated its list of “Power Profiles” for 2017 – a group of 59 individuals in Singapore who have topped their respective fields – as an attempt to recognize genuine authorities from various areas of specialization.

For thought leaders and aspiring authorities, here is why LinkedIn’s Power Profiles matter.

An age of disintermediation

We live in a funny age. Wasn’t there an Internet meme going around saying “The world’s biggest taxi company owns no cars”? This sweet tune of a New Economy enterprise like Uber might be music to the ears of Masters of the (Financial) Universe with cash to burn – a massive market, network advantages, and the prospect of phenomenal growth – but it certainly sounds too good to be true, especially in car-crazy Singapore. In a shift from that Internet meme of owning no cars, The Straits Times said Uber had submitted more than 800 bids for Certificates of Entitlement, which accounted for 11 per cent of total bids made for COE cars last year.

Uber’s shift from owning no cars to owning some might have an impact on its ability to scale at an acceptable reinvestment cost. The viability of Uber’s operating margins remains to be seen. But until its valuation story becomes implausible, cash will continue to pour in and fuel its disruption of the world of urban transportation.

Through a multibillion-dollar-valued digital platform (which bleeds money), both drivers and riders can today engage directly without the intervention of clunky transportation companies whose taxis had the unusual tendency of shunning rainy weather as much as their commuters. The same can be said of retailers, hoteliers and traditional media, just to name some sectors that have borne the brunt of evolution in this digital age.

While there are clear benefits to disintermediation, there are also serious risks posed by irrational exuberance, and I’ve written about how Singapore would do well to consider three challenges so that the fallout from these risks could be tempered. These challenges are the displacement of legacy, understanding the consequences of disruption, and the urgency in skilling up its citizens to thrive in the New Economy.

An age of Trumped-up expectations

Enterprises like Uber aren’t the only ones profiting from disintermediation. Against the odds (at least according to America’s Fourth Estate), Mr Donald Trump became president of the United States. If Mr Trump was propelled into power in part by his “locker-room talk” on disintermediating platforms like Twitter, it was the incessant wailing of his supporters that fueled his ascent.

Foreign Affairs magazine attributed Trump’s win to the Jacksonian revolt that had brought about a new normal that made some people think of themselves as experts when in fact they’re not. The magazine  said: “We’ve all been trapped at a party where one of the least informed people in the room holds court, confidently lecturing the other guests with a cascade of banalities and misinformation…. The essence of the effect is that the less skilled or competent you are, the more confident you are that you’re actually very good at what you do.

“Not only do such people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.”

In other words, this age of disintermediation has also heralded a time when more people are forsaking the opinion of experts far away for loud-mouthed influencers next to you who might not actually know any better. While this might be a dreadful regression for the professionals who have made their keep from the very expert opinions they hold, what is even more potentially tragic are the consequences that these trumped-up expectations will yield for the many who have pledged their faith to this Church of Ignorance.

Since the dawn of the city-states, societies have always had the function of a governing stratum to translate cosmic revelations into an order of civilized human life. In those ancient times, such an order would revolve around the practice of crop planting in tandem with the seasons. With a greater certainty of the harvest, cities were able to plan ahead, accumulate reserves, weather times of want, and enable their civilizations to flourish.

Key to the understanding of these cosmic revelations was the realization of an order that the governing priesthood had found was mathematically discoverable. These discoveries were thereafter couched in metaphors so that they could be appreciated and intimately held. Many of these surviving metaphors are known to us today as mythology.

If science tells us the “whats” and “hows”, then mythology has been found to provide mankind with windows to the “whys”, which enable people to make better sense of the world and their purpose within. The governing orders help to connect their peoples with the symbols and rituals that point to these mythologies so that these metaphors are experienced.

In a similar manner as before, this age of disintermediation requires the people who know to stand up to those who don’t, be counted and, while doing so, consider platforms like LinkedIn as their pulpit.

A pulpit for the pros

I recently wrote an op-ed titled “In defense of Singapore’s chief naysayer” to put in perspective common frames of reference between what seemed like vehemently opposing viewpoints on Singapore’s foreign policy from two Foreign Service luminaries whom I greatly admire. I wrote that the practice of good foreign policy was very much dependent on sound domestic politics, which must stem from a well-informed electorate. Beyond foreign affairs, I believe that the same principle is true for the good practice of any profession.

I’ve used LinkedIn to screen potential hires (I’ve hired at least two talents via the platform), issue public statements on corporate positions, engage with like-minded professionals and read great content contributed by thought leaders and captains of industry. In turn, I have attempted to contribute to the wealth of this global repository with curated content and self-penned commentary articles about themes ranging from geopolitics to public affairs, from brand building to corporate storytelling.

As a Singapore-based private institution with a pan-Asian network, PSB Academy uses LinkedIn to engage with working professionals and fresh school graduates about highly personal choices in their plans for further education. With the ability to harness the data available on LinkedIn, such as the academic history, endorsed skills, recommendations and professional accomplishments of each prospective student, the PSB Academy team has been able to adopt a targeted and data-guided approach to consulting and responding to their needs very well.

As PSB Academy continues to serve as the de facto brand that is known for its expertise in quality private education and as it galvanizes the public to co-create “The Future Academy”, LinkedIn will continue to serve as a pivotal rally point for this movement.

LinkedIn equips professionals with a drawbridge to lift or lower the credibility of profiles in a disintermediated, peer-to-peer setting, which makes the whole process of engaging with, and learning from, the professionals who know a rather democratic one, among a well-informed audience. The platform bridges distances to the experts who once seemed far away, which in this age of irrational exuberance is worth celebrating.

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