83. Are companies agents for good and progress?
Interesting things happen when we reconsider our definition of “technology.” When we think less about gadgets, machines, data and pixels, and focus more on systems and tools that allow improvements in human efficiency and effectiveness, naturally more things enter the picture. (Note Jack Dorsey’s timely comments above.)
The concept of a company, for example, is a technology. As a way of organizing people, ideas, capital, and attention, it can create incredible outcomes. Unto itself, the Company has developed into one of the great, driving technologies of the modern era. And by capital-C Company, I really mean a collection of people organized according to a certain set of norms for the purpose of achieving a certain set of goals.
The Company is not static though. It is in fact quite dynamic. A lot has changed and continues to change. It’s an exciting time to be in the business of creating, funding, advising or working at companies.
- Nothing’s off limits for a Company these days. Think SpaceX.
- The systems that can help Companies find their place in the world are improving quickly. They can be big or small and everything in between.
That is not to say that everything in the world of Companies is blue skies.
- Some Companies need very few people to operate (relatively speaking), leading to questions about how companies will interact with society writ large in a scenario where they employ smaller shares of the populace. This is an important dialogue.
- Companies — or more specifically the people organized in the context of a company — have proven quite fallible. Think Volkswagen and more specifically the group of working at and managing Volkswagen.
And yet cause for optimism (even if cautious) exists.
- Companies rely on, and are more focused than ever on, customers. This accrues to our benefit.
- Companies are incentivized to improve themselves constantly. Or again to be more specific, the people at Companies are generally motivated to keep improving their products and services. If they don’t, they are — for lack of a better word — disrupted.
- Companies can create the environment where people can collaborate and do great work and form meaningful bonds grounded in cooperation.
Exceptions and counter-examples exist too, of course. All technologies can, in fact, be used for many purposes, both good and bad. The question is whether they are more often agents of positivity and progress than not and whether the trendline points in the right direction.
Note to reader: This is day 83 of 92 in my commitment to write for 30 minutes each day from October 1 through the end of 2015. Previous posts can be found here.