Businesses are increasingly flexible and ethereal; it's a trend that's not going away.

The concept of “cloud companies” or “cloud operational structures” is not new.  Consider intelligence agencies.  They have used this idea for decades.  Our ability to make ourselves less vulnerable is dependent on employing an invisible operational structure with trust-based networks of productive agents.  This is similar to how living systems work.  The material aspect of an organism is ephemeral, temporarily employed to maintain the organism's essential organization.

Spurred on by the acceleration of innovation in areas like social media, bio-mimicry, and nano-scale materials, companies are using technology to mimic (knowingly or unknowingly) the fluid nature of intelligence networks and living systems.

One of the most striking examples of this structure working successfully before the recession (and perhaps one of the first large-scale models of a distributed workforce as a viable alternative to one concentrated in a physical office space) is Wikipedia.  A non-profit whose campus encompasses an ever-changing array of workstations in coffee shops, libraries, and office buildings around the world, Wikipedia has generated a massive amount of credible content without a traditional home base and with minimal office maintenance, commuting, printing, or other resource costs.

While start-ups in the 90's were associated with the "garage model" (that is, a poor entrepreneur with no resources building a business from a parent's garage while developing and strengthening local sales relationships), the start-ups of the 21st century have quickly moved towards the Wikipedia model.  People all over the world with rapid-fire 3D communications are collaborating online.

Unfortunately, both national and international legal, accounting, and tax systems have not caught up with this trend.  These systems still expect businesses to be physically located in a permanent place.  I have encountered one company that was turned down for business insurance because they worked in a shared office space.  An even more powerful example is the current controversy with the release of classified documents by the organization Wikileaks.  Without a physical office space to raid, how does one go about investigating or taking legal action in this kind of situation?

It would not be surprising if the Wikileaks controversy and how it is managed internationally sets the precedent for future businesses operating with a "digital nomad" or "location-independent" structure.

Businesses and their products are increasingly flexible and ethereal.  This is a trend for a reason, and it is not going away.  The problem is with the systems supporting businesses, not with companies' weightlessness.  It's time (and there's an opportunity) for business services to catch up.

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