At first, we sold our labor. That was 10,000 years of history. You traded sweat for food.
Eventually, people figured out that they could build an organization. And an organization made things, which someone could buy. Add some technology and machines and productivity would go up, the things would get better, and profits would result. Industrial capitalism. This is the sort of project that most people think about when someone says “I’m going to start a business.”
But there are other options.
Linux and Wikipedia and the local farmer’s market are all projects. They may or may not lead to a profit for every person who engages with them, but they’re distinct entities that organize various talents and inputs and create value for the people they serve.
Stemming climate change, stopping the spread of disease and fighting homelessness are also projects. They may not have coordinating bodies or a single entity, but they represent a combination of ideas, people and initiatives that are coordinated through culture.
Bitcoin is a multi-trillion dollar project with no one in charge.
As our world gets more connected, the projects that change us are more and more likely to have a form that would be hard to recognize just a generation ago. But inventing and choosing and supporting these projects is now on us, and it begins by recognizing that they even exist.