The Expertise Economy

Authors: Kelly Palmer & David Blake

Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-473-67700-5


Subtitled, ‘How the smartest companies use learning to engage, compete, and succeed’, Kelly Palmer’s and David Blake’s book begins with an exploration of how humans really learn.


That’s because the authors make the point that the world of work is currently experiencing changes that are no less cataclysmic than the changes that took place as the then prevailing agrarian economy encountered the Industrial Revolution, some 250 years ago. They say that, once again, workforces and organisations are largely unprepared for this new world of work and its novel demands.


However, they acknowledge that some astute business leaders are introducing strategies which are closing the skills gap. Reviewing these leaders’ strategies reveal principles which seem to help modern workers build the skills for the modern age:

  • Make learning a competitive advantage
  • Embrace personalised learning
  • Combat content overload
  • Understand the power of peers in learning
  • Succeed with the appropriate technology
  • Analyse your workers’ skills with data and insights and
  • Make skills and expertise count


These principles form the chapter framework for the rest of the book. Then, the final chapter engages in some ‘future gazing’ – speculating on the future of ‘work’, key skills and careers of the future, along with how organisations can meet the learning challenges that the future world will bring them.


As you might expect from its contents, the book’s two authors are ‘learning’ specialists.


David Blake is co-founder and Executive Chairman of the San Francisco-headquartered corporate learning giant, Degreed. Within a context of data science and machine learning, Degreed aims to connect the resources people use to learn and grow, including corporate learning systems, courses, videos, books, articles, podcasts, and subject experts.


A self-confessed thought leader on learning, business, and career development, Kelly Palmer is currently a member of Degreed’s executive team and was, formerly, the chief learning officer of LinkedIn.


Believing that, in today’s rapidly changing world, a key organisational challenge is developing workers’ skills to ensure success now – and for the future – Palmer and Blake use their book to share their experiences of this phenomenon, while also describing how some of the world’s smartest companies are turning learning and expertise into a major competitive advantage.


Realising the power of anecdote to intrigue and inspire an audience, as well as encourage both thought and learning, Palmer and Blake lean heavily on the power of storytelling – using real world, real life examples to illustrate their arguments.


Consequently, the book includes interviews with people from companies including Google, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Unilever, NASA, Booz Allen Hamilton, and MasterCard. It also includes the views of thought leaders in learning and education such as Sal Khan and Todd Rose; as well as from the Thinkers50 list-makers Clayton Christensen, Daniel Pink, and Whitney Johnson.


Those looking for a ‘dry’, academic – even clinical – approach to the topic of corporate learning and development are likely to be disappointed in this book. Its ‘reader-friendly’ layout and conversational, ‘page-turning’ literary style makes it an eminently ‘readable’ book.


There will always be people who buy a business book to put on their shelves in order to appear to be ‘well-read’. These people may benefit from the kudos of book ownership but the real beneficiaries will be those who not only acquire but actually read this book and apply its messages. It could well help them – and their organisation – achieve the success necessary to survive and even thrive in this new post-Industrial work era.


By Bob Little


Bob Little is a writer, commentator and publicist specialising in corporate learning, especially corporate online learning. He works, writes and is known around the world.