Watching BBC2’s The Virtual Revolution at the weekend, I found myself drawing an unexpected and slightly uncomfortable parallel.
Entitled Enemy Of The State?, this week’s installment looked at social networks and political activism – touching, as you’d expect, on Twitter during the Iranian election, the great firewall of China, Islamic fundamentalism and the Estonian cyber-attack. All implications of the decentralised network, it gently argued:
Al Qaeda, like the internet, has no centre. It’s a dispersed group of loosely associated people.
Those few seconds of prime-time Saturday evening telly seemed to be laying down a challenge. If you asked people name the biggest influences on modern life over the last decade, the internet and Al Qaeda would be right up there. Both hugely successful, despite the lack of formalised structure. So why am I getting hung up on the supposed need to build a bigger company, and become a ‘proper’ business?
There are, of course, entrepreneurial opportunities in this field, for those motivated, resourced and skilled enough to exploit them: to build large corporate structures, and extract money from fellow large corporates. As I’ve blogged here previously, I know I probably should be looking at these. But the truth is, I don’t feel a compelling need to do so.
I’m left wondering whether the lesson of the decade of Bin Laden and Berners-Lee is that loose affiliation isn’t just as good as formalised corporate structure; but is actually better. Anyone?