Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cognitive surplus as an asset class.

I've just learnt of a new term this week - the cognitive surplus.

Your cognitive surplus is the amount of mental energy you have remaining after going through your workday. With the Internet allowing new business models to be created in seconds in the form of blogs, mobile applications or websites, its no wonder that at a global level, this is an asset that cannot really be ignored.

While the self-help gurus are trying to make sense of cognitive surplus as an idea, I'm going to step forward to say that the cognitive surplus is something which needs to be invested just like an asset class. In fact, your cognitive surplus should be part of your human capital and managing it well can mean more financial capital to fund your retirement or travel ambitions in the future.

The reality of cognitive surplus immediately kicks in after you are willing to consider it as yet another form of investment.

In this reality where a business can be built in minutes and torn down in seconds, saturation of the Internet as a media makes it very hard to generate a positive ROI within any reasonable time-frame.

In my personal case, selling my time for money at work seems efficient enough. Investing my wealth for dividends has also been relatively frutiful. But an honest examination of how I am using my cognitive surplus reveals that there are many areas of improvement. In fact, I can safely say that I'm losing money and time from my cognitive surplus ( maybe there really is such a thing as a cognitive deficit. )

Only one out of three of my books has broken even. My on-line boutique does not really sell due to high prices and my e-book has only allowed me to get back my capital. Like any business, employing your cognitive surplus requires capital and you will need to husband the steady flow of income into something which is repeatable, it's like turning your ideas and brain juice into an annuity-like financial product.

As I have yet to get my formula right, I can only guess what's the next step for me :

a) To leverage on cognitive surplus, first seek a platform where you can easily reach your niche market. My RPG books sell in

b) Use a small project with little time and money and then seek to break even to push yourself up the learning curve.

c) Using sales figures as feedback, employ deliberate practice to adjust price points and optimize expenses accordingly.

d) Seek secondary benefits, like skills you learn can be applied to your day jobs or refine the way your invest your financial capital.

e) For me at least, the cognitive surplus simulates a deeply out of money call option. Until you can find a niche or a consistent set of customers, you are more likely to never get into the money. As many options expire worthless, many out of office efforts only lose time and money.

Right now, I consider myself lucky. As it turns out, my day job and investment income funds my dreams of a being a writer. I could also be finding other ways to squander my cognitive surplus like spend my time watching TV or playing computer games.

But it's humbling to know that there is a long way to go before my cognitive surplus can be converted into an annuity payment.

I hope someone with better luck out there can share some ideas with me on managing this new 'alternative investment'.

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