A recent tweet by Mike Su led me to an interesting post on society, complexity, and the entertainment content business model. The post was written by Clay Shirky, and is titled The Collapse of Complex Business Models.
The post starts out with a study of several successful societies that eventually went through a sudden collapse. When each of those societies entered the growth phase, things needed to become more complex. Whether this was because they needed to build granaries to house food or a system for distributing water, each added level of complexity added significant value to society.
As the society matured, it reached the point where the value added by additional complexity was actually zero to negative. By this time, the elite in society were either unable or unwilling to devalue complexity. The end result was that the collapse of the society was not only inevitable, it was necessary. The author then goes on to discuss how this might relate to recent events in the entertainment content industry.
While this post was associated with the business model of the entertainment content industry, the lessons about society and complexity are useful for any organization. I have seen organizations that have come to associate value with whatever has brought them success in the past, and then be unable to make adjustments when the thing that has brought them success no longer brings additional value. It’s important to be cognizant of this, so that organizations and businesses can make better decisions when changes in the environment necessitate it.
Note: I’ve added the post by Clay Shirky to the Recommended Reading list.