The Modern Firm is Broken and You Know It
Capitalism, like all social practices, is nothing more then a series of choices we have made collectively. A wide array of choices about how we trade with one another, how we choose to trust one another and how we choose to interact with one another. The history of Capitalism has been written about extensively and yet something seems to be broken. While we all recognize that for many people its current form has created unprecedented wealth, we also recognize that for many it has failed to do so.
Lets explore its possible future and how it may evolve.
The lab of history has shown that Marxism does not seem to be a viable alternative. Throwing away all parts of capitalism in exchange for a completely new system somehow seems too radical to be realistic. But why can’t we upgrade it. We don’t need to replace it, we need to improve it.
Plenty has been written about the limits to growth and many of us throughout the world have recognized that its current form is simply unsustainable. We have been swallowing the gnawing sense that there has to be more to our humanity then merely chasing safety and wealth for its own sake. At the fringes some of us have designed alternative lifestyles built on a focus of valuing experiences and connection. But what if we can all slowly evolve through a concentrated,collective, conscious effort?
We know through the plethora of research that wealth alone does not equal the good life. But then why are our firms built with this one agenda in mind? What if we began to form into new kinds of tribes. Tribes not aimed at the hording of profits but at the well being of those that are a part of it. The firm in its current form is a social construct we have created over time. It is merely a template that we have chosen over and over. Most of us do not challenge this template as we have never imagined there could be an alternative. But it is ripe and ready to evolve.
The firm is the modern tribe. But it is designed to serve the owners exclusively. We have taken this for granted but history has shown this was not always the case. Somehow we have learned to accept this organizational format and structure. But the networked society will demand a change. We are seeing the beginning of this with the sharing economy. If information is no longer siloed and the cost of collaborating and sharing is in fact cheaper than forming into the traditional structure of the firm, then over time we will no longer choose to do so. At least not in its current form.
The firm of the future will need to offer something that the tech empowered freelancer cannot achieve alone.
The firm of the future will be about maximizing well being and flourishing for its participants in a way that is not available to the lone warrior. If the lone warrior can see how they are being taken advantage of and see a viable alternative they will choose the viable alternative. But if they can see how the firm serves them and how they can gain dramatically from joining then they will choose to do so. Job security and a paycheck will not be enough when it becomes simple to achieve that without giving up freedom and autonomy. The value proposition of the firm to its participants will need to evolve. And I don’t mean better benefits.
It can evolve into a human life fulfillment vehicle. Lets explore this idea. We have made assumptions about what we want. We radically simplified our selves into binary,utilitarian pleasure seekers. We made assumptions and then sold it to one another as facts. But we were wrong. We are not in fact money grubbing profit maximizing machines. We are infinitely more complex and layered then that. The dominant form of capitalism of the future will not be a utilitarian structure aimed at merely growing and hording liquid value for its shareholders. Those who tire of laboring for them will eventually choose a new form of organizing. A form aimed not at maximizing profit but of maximizing well being and the good life. The firm that offers the good life will not win in the traditional sense, it will play a different game. It will optimize itself to yield maximum well being with minimum work for all its participants. And that will become radically appealing to many people. A new race will form not one of chasing the almighty dollar but of different firms trying to optimize and offer the good life to its participants as they attempt to appeal to those they want in their group that can help them in their pursuit of the good life. The good life can be can be hacked and optimized. Those firms that continuously improve its way of delivering the good life will appeal to more people . It will make less and less sense for more of us to slave for the benefits of shareholders. It will be more and more obvious for us to form and group together in ways that maximize our full flourishing and not just our bank accounts. This is one version of an practically infinite set of possibilities. It will be fascinating to see where in fact we will choose to go. It is clear that our current form of organizing needs a serious upgrade.