There are many things we can say a business is. A business is a tool to deliver goods, or do tasks. A businesses away to consolidate and in theory improve economic functions. A business is a way for people to effectively earn a living. There are many things indeed that we can say a business is.
(Yes, I could talk about corruption and so forth, but stick with me here.)
The business is also social institution and understanding that is important to analyze the future of businesses–when they actually have any.
A movie theater isn't just a business that specializes in first releases and greasy popcorn. A theater is about social experiences that we have, about marketing targeted at delivering a particular form of entertainment, as well as nostalgia and memories of the past.
A newspaper is in just the news, and adds, and local announcements. They have history, there've points of pride, they have awards, they have local identity (or in some cases national or even international identity). Have you ever seen people identify with the newspaper they read? I have, and at times it reminds me of the way people are passionate about sports teams.
What of gaming companies? Look how some of them generate fanatic loyalty even when their products have a temporary dip–or a dip in quality of about a decade (see yeah, you know who I'm talking about).
Companies are social institutions, social structures, symbolic, historical. People identify with them, people are used to them, people even structure parts of their lives around.
Think how used we are to certain companies and kinds of companies, to certain businesses and kinds of businesses. We can imagine life without them, even when they seem clueless, stupid, or behind the times.
That's the problem.
Everything changes, and right now between high technology and bad economics, between unexpected wars and expected conflicts, the world is changing very rapidly. National boundaries shift, government shift, new technologies come, old technologies go, and the world gets smaller and smaller.
Many businesses don't change. We could argue that they don't change due to everything from greed to the need for stability, and we would be right. But I believe that many don't change, and that potential changes are not implemented, simply because we are used to them. They don't change as they're part of us culturally and socially.
We're used to the movie theater and even when we don't go and see films it's hard to imagine that they could have–yet is an age of streaming video on home entertainment, what is the purpose of the theater?
The game companies we love can be acquired, can put out lousy product, can milk the franchise and deliver nothing of interest. They may subsist just because we are used to them, because they're part of her social identity, because they are familiar.
I'm all for stability, I'm all for familiarity. Heck, I'd like a little more of it sometime. But things change, some things have to change or need to change to deal with the world in flux. Economic structures, businesses and corporations, that are there only because were familiar with them, because were used to them can't move with the times, and may even be barriers.
So, my fellow professional geeks, what businesses and companies are out there that only exists now because of sheer familiarity?
In these areas, there are opportunities for new businesses, opportunities to involve–and a chance that some business and corporate structures will overstay their welcome, and eventually face of horrible collapse.
We're geeks, we think of the future. It's time to think of what is coming–and what may have to change radically or simply go away.
Of course more thoughts on the next column . . .