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Old World Business, New World Business

Photo by Pedro Lastra on Unsplash

The internet fundamentally changed our world after its widespread adoption in the early 1990s. Business is perhaps the greatest example of this evolution.

I’ve already talked extensively about income generators and qualifications in the past. While these are both great examples of the influence the internet has had on business, in this post I wanted to focus on something else.

The modern basket of industries can be separated into Old World Business and New World Business. An example of an OWB might be the financial sector, where people wear suits and ties and have meetings and have rigorous formalities, etc. etc. An NWB, naturally, could be something in the software sector, where people wear polos and jeans and use Slack and save the formalities for their OWB clients. Even then, the principles of the new world begin to infect that of the old — you can see a clear difference between Goldman Sach’s software department in comparison to their investment banking department, despite the fact they fall under the same corporate umbrella. 

Perhaps the natural question to go to is why these changes occurred. There is nothing inherently about the internet that requires one to ditch their suit in favor of casual clothing. One could argue that the rebels who invented the software industry also invented its culture, and that future generations modeled off of these founders. This would certainly explain the financial sector, with its formalities in direct correlation with the emerging capitalists of the 1700s and 1800s who created them. 

But, perhaps, it doesn’t explain everything. Based on this logic, you might consider more ‘lower-class’ professions like manufacturing to follow alongside the informal nature of software. Yet that is not necessarily true. There are clear distinctions and traditions in manufacturing that allows one to still clearly define it as OWB — perhaps a blue-collar variant rather than white-collar, but the distinction still exists.

So perhaps it’s more deeply tied to the internet era than it initially appears. Perhaps it ties to a wider trend, the throwing away of pleasantries in favor of getting your voice heard. Perhaps the creators of these first software companies knew this new trend, and that’s why they elected to throw away their own pleasantries in favor of building a good product. 

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