Coping With Impermanence

What happens if companies as we know them disappear? That’s certainly one version of the future I see as possible.

There are certain industries that I think will always have a traditional business structure (construction, auto repair, manufacturing, etc). They are necessary, vital industries but don’t lend themselves to some of the recent trends in destructuralization. They may become more automated over time, they may incorporate some portable tools and better communication to become more efficient, but they tend to work best with a centralized structure.

What of the rest of the business world? I see a continued trend of telecommuting, remote offices, home based workforces and virtual companies and collaborative business models. There is a push for this from all sides, even outside of the business community. Eliminating commutes has clear value in saving wear and tear on roads and conserving gas, not to mention being better for the environment overall with less vehicular emissions. It has clear health benefits for employees – shorter or eliminated commutes may lead to more sleep and less stress, more family time, and overall health benefits. It’s more cost effective as well, and may spearhead a movement to bring programming, writing, call centers and other jobs back into the country, helping revive the economy.

Of course, with any innovation and change there can be drawbacks. For one thing, there is an overall feeling of impermanence now with the economy. People used to a mentality of pensions and long careers are being faced with a world where companies may not continue to exist, which can be scary when you grew up thinking of business and your job a certain way. The age of entitlements has already gone the way of the dinosaur. We’re becoming a DIY economy. No longer can we sit back and wait for companies or governments to revive our lifestyle – if we want economic recovery we’re going to have to make it ourselves, and it will have to start at a simultaneous local and global level, using local connections and technological connections to ramp up and out.

Even more challenging for some of the workers used to doing things a certain way will be the trend to not have companies at all. I already run my business as a collaborative business. I have a wide variety of people I trust that I call on for various projects, and create fast moving, experienced, knowledgable, flexible, competent teams for each project out of a vast reservoir of connections I’ve built over the years. I see more and more businesses and projects falling into this flexible, cost effective, tax friendly model of business as time goes on. To create a sustainable infrastructure around the new business models, health care reform will have to ramp up (more and more folks will be supplying their own individual coverage, no longer supported by any size business), the tax system will have to change (33% and more is a killer tax level for a small or individual business, and it will need to be lower to be sustainable and growable), bureaucracies will have to become paperless, and new jobs will crop up to help businesses be as mobile as possible (many of these jobs are already here, like Virtual Assistants).

What are your future predictions for changes in business? This post is just a quick glimpse at the tip of the iceberg of change.

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