In a world where success is measured in terms of concrete things, how do we value that which is invisible? More often than not, we convert the invisible to tangible anchor points that we can visualize. We associate quantities of electricity with the size of a light bulb, bits of information with hard drives, and monetary value with dollar bills. In the pre-industrial world, things were what counted and counting them was a pretty good proxy for wealth and success. But with each passing day, more and more of the products that create wealth, more and more of the things that matter to us, are invisible. I took my 91-year-old mother, who recently moved from the midwest to our small New England town, to a local savings bank headquartered in a 200-year old house. She looked at the bank's wood clapboard construction and asked if her money was safe in there. I chuckled and reminded her, "It isn't there. They don't keep your money there." "Oh, right." she said, and then asked, "Where is it?" I paused and said, "The same place where all money from all banks is located." "Where is that?" The answer isn't comforting when you get right down to it. The fact is that it isn't anywhere. It doesn't physically exist, except as incomprehensibly small bits of slightly reorganized, invisible energy we call memory. It's associated with your social security number, which is maintained in the same way. And who knows where that is. Your money is in many places, but the only tangible representative of it is on your monthly statement printed on paper. I don't even get that.
I can lose my wallet and not lose my money, because it isn't in there either. I just lose the time and energy required to resolve a lost ID and credit cards, or to restore a compromised credit score. Corporations have parallel concerns when their physical assets are compromised. If a fire or other tragedy strikes a corporate office, there could certainly be financial losses and time and energy lost putting things back together. But the corporate DNA, the essential information that allows that company to operate and generate wealth is not located in the office. It's in bits of information scattered around the globe in backed up copies, it's in the minds of the people who work there, and it's in the intellectual property that provides the basis for the business and makes that company unique. A manufacturing company might suffer greater losses in machinery and inventory, but would still retain its ideas, patents, designs, and people.
We are moving rapidly toward an economy in which value is increasingly invisible; less and less wealth is associated with tangibles. Not just products and services that companies "produce," but companies themselves. Whole companies. There can be a plaque on an office door that indicates a company is in a location, but today that often has little to do with where the value is. For some businesses, like real estate or raw materials, physical place matters. But, ultimately the value of an organization is based on the favorable ratio of tangible and intangible value delivered to customers in relation to the amount of material mass required to deliver and maintain that value. This is the principle of the dMass economy - harvesting and securing invisible value from the least possible invested mass.