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August 27, 2020

Information Liquidity and the Rise of the 10x Knowledge Worker

New tool are empowering us to dramatically reduce the friction involved with working with various forms of information. Knowledge workers who equip themselves with these tools could be far more effective than their counterparts.

We have access to more information at our fingertips than we can comprehend. While we may be able to read, watch, and listen to petabytes of content, harnessing and working with that information is still difficult.

Let’s say that you’re listening to an audio-book and you come across a nugget of wisdom that you have to note down. How would you do it?

If you’re listening to a book on Audible, you might ‘clip’ an audio snippet in the app and add a short note. But what if you wanted a transcript of the selection to add to your favourite note-taking app? You’d probably listen to the recording a number of times and painstakingly type it out  or play it out loud to a voice-to-text service on your computer.

Far from ideal.

The same is true for books, podcasts, YouTube videos, etc. To capture usable information from these mediums involves a great deal of friction, or have something we might call low informational liquidity.

Information Liquidity

Liquidity in finance refers to how quickly an asset can be converted to cash. Cash flows easily. Houses not so much. Liquidity is an important because of the greater freedom and responsiveness it provides those who have it.

Information liquidity refers to the effort required to convert an informational asset into a usable format.

It’s something we don’t really speak much about, but most  digital citizens probably feel the pain of working with relatively illiquid information assets every day.

New Tools

Fortunately, a whole host of new tools have become available recently which allows us to dramatically increase the liquidity of the information we come across. Here are a few of my favourites:

Roam Research

Roam research is the dark horse of the productivity app space and probably the most powerful tool mentioned in this piece.

Roam in action: Anne-Laure le Cunff’s Blog

Roam is a notes tool for networked thought. Rather than having to go through the impossible task of figuring out which folder a file should go into, Roam allows you to seamlessly link notes together (among many other things), allowing you see the structure of your information — and even your mind — emerge across time. (Here’s a great example of how to write essays using Roam.)

Anne-Laure Le Cunff knowledge graph.

Roam has the most passionate following I’ve ever come across (see: #roamcult on Twitter). When you start using it, you’ll see why.

Otter.Ai


Otter is one of the best AI transcription services on the market. Upload video or audio files to it, or talk directly into the app, to get an accurate transcription of whatever you want. It even syncs with Zoom.

I use Otter to record the random ideas that pop up into my head when I’m out and about. I can’t type fast enough on my phone to capture the ephemeral thoughts that spring out of my subconsciousness, so being able to talk out loud without worrying about losing whatever insight I might have had is a relief.  

Readwise.io

Readwise syncs the highlights you’ve made from your favourite reading apps (Kindle, Instapaper, Pocket, iBooks, etc) and makes them easily accessible. It also sends you an email of random highlights you’ve made over the years, so it’s great at improving your retention of note-worthy information.

As a podcaster, a lot of the people I interview have written books. Being able to access the best parts of those books I’ve highlighted through Readwise saves me considerable amounts of time when preparing for an interview. (I take my highlights from Readwise and plug them into the relevant podcast page in Roam.)

Airr Podcasting App

Airr solves the problem of taking podcast notes I mentioned at the start of this post. It allows you to seamlessly highlight, transcribe, and share the best moments of any podcast you’re listening to.

Screenshots of the Airr App

Narro

One of the ‘problems’ with reading is that you can’t do anything else while doing it. Podcasts and audio-books have changed this, allowing us to turn mundane tasks like driving and folding laundry into learning opportunities.

Unfortunately, audio versions of the essays and articles you want to read aren’t always available. Narro fixes that. It turns blog posts and papers you come across online into a private podcast feed that you can listen to whenever you like. It lets you choose from more than 25 AI-powered voices in  10 languages.

Pair it with the Airr podcast app mentioned above and you have a slick note-taking workflow in the making!  

(The tools listed above are just some of the ones I’ve come across over the past years. There’s bound to be plenty more out there, and even more to come. If you have any to add, please share them in the comments below.)

The Rise of the 10x Knowledge Worker

From one perspective, knowledge workers haven’t quite benefited from the fruits of technology as much as programmers have. While our ability to access information has never been greater, there’s still a great deal of friction involved with using the information we come across.

In the tech world there’s the idea of a ‘10x Developer’, someone who is considered 10 times more productive than others in their field. The idea of there being a ‘10x knowledge worker’ might seem impossible, as people like writers probably can’t generate 10x more content than their counterparts without sacrificing quality.

This might not be the case now due to the slew of new tools available to us all that improve the liquidity of the information assets we use. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that knowledge workers with an arsenal of tools that increase information liquidity could become 10X more effective than their analog counterparts.

One of the best examples of such a person is writer and marketer Nat Eliason. He uses many of the tools above to churn out blog posts and newsletters among many other things. (Here’s a great blog post of his that describes how he captures notes from podcasts using some of the tools listed above.)

As the years progress, people who know how to leverage the new tools available to us will have a significant competitive advantage, and the proof of this will be in the quality and quantity of their output.

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