I’m a bit of a business geek. Ever since I threw in my Engineering job to try my hand starting my own web design business in the sexy dot.com age, and later a string of startups in the dot.bust and 2.0 era, I think one of my favourite things to do is to sit back and listen to audiobooks and podcasts on the glorious stories behind successful ventures.
One thing that’s been bubbling in my mind this month is an interesting mystery in the world of business…
Businesses go through a life cycle, and incredibly, almost without exception, no matter how big and influential, they seem to become dead-a-fied by the time 100 years is up. In fact it turns out a pimply teenager gets to live longer than the average company (12-15 years).
My van is older than that. Actually, it’s almost double that.
Why is it by contrast other people-made things, like cities, easily last thousands of years, surviving floods, plagues, earthquakes, climate change, and nuclear bombs along the way.
The scientists will tell you it’s from the strength of human networks.
But I’m thinking it’s more. I wonder if it’s got to do with something we call bio-diversity in nature.
It’s the concept that the diversity between the members within a system is an asset in times of change. If your population is ravaged by sickle-cell anemia, for example, there’s gonna be a good chance a few of you will have a solution or even immunity if the gene pool is diverse enough.
Now take a look at our companies. Man… we build them efficient, and homogeneous. We stick to our core competencies, outsource the rest, we recruit new staff making sure they fit tightly to our company culture… all this makes so much sense to be efficient and competitive, but it’s what we call mono-culture in farming (that’s why we need pesticides). These are the opposite factors needed for longevity.
So I’m looking at Enspiral. It’s one of a new wave of companies worldwide that’s built on a different framework, one that embraces the network, zero hierarchy, diversity and actively encourages self direction and expression for every member.
In some ways, I saw it as inefficient at getting things done, and so one might say we spun off other ventures within the eco-system, these were more purpose-built to get things done a bit better. But I wonder… will Enspiral or perhaps a model like it, inspire our first wave of 100 year old companies?