We all know the old axiom of knowledge is power. But we’ve all also experienced in the ‘free agent economy’, having a specific talent or expertise is critical to being able to add value to a team. So how do you maintain your competitive differentiation, whether you are a business or a individual in a knowledge sharing world? Here’s an interesting example of why you are more than your sum of your knowledge. Five years ago today, MIT launched OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW), a project that has had a profound effect on university dissemination of knowledge and academic material to learners around the globe. It was a revolutionary step — one that reflected the idealism of the MIT faculty and the core educational mission of the Institute. OCW has ultimately led to fundamental changes in the way colleges and universities engage the web as a vehicle for education.

Today, thanks to OCW, MIT has made available, online and free of charge, the course materials from over 1285 undergraduate and graduate courses, and there are OCW projects underway at leading universities around the globe (including Tufts, Johns Hopkins, and universities in China, Spain, Portugal, Japan, France and Vietnam.) Nearly 20 million people have accessed OCW since its inception.

So has the OCW project meant that MIT has lost any of its status or influence, considering anyone around the world can ‘virtually study’ there? Not in the least, instead I would argue that MIT’s influence has increased. Just as at ManyWorlds, where we measure influence of authors, by using our Epiture (now Synxi) technology to figure out how many pieces of content are connected to authors, our own influence is statistic that we should all track. Influence is not just about connections, its about being able to channel knowledge and ultimately influence decisions in those connections. Connections in this case can be other people, academic institutions or companies. By opening and sharing more, MIT increases the scope of its connections, and can influence those connection points.

Its interesting to ponder how to do this on an individual basis. There are many people whose distinctive talent is based on the scope of their Rolodex, and there are many people whose distinctivness rests on their specific focus or expertise in a subject. But the knowledge economy that we live in now, demands that we both be master of an extensive connections network and have specific knowledge/expertise to share, in order to be truly influential.