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The Living Company: Growth Learning and Longevity in Business. (1999)

“The most enduring companies treat their enterprises as ‘living work communities’ rather than purely economic machines.


Arie de Geus, former head of planning for the Royal Dutch/ Shell Group of companies.

“In The Living Company, the man who introduced the revolutionary concept of the learning organization has turned his attention to identifying the critical characteristics of organizational longevity.

“Arie de Geus reveals the keys to managing for a long and prosperous organizational life. He draws a sharp distinction between “living companies, ” the purpose of which is to fulfill their potential and perpetuate themselves as ongoing communities, and “economic companies, ” which are in business solely to produc wealth for a small group of individuals. He shows clearly that living companies manage for survival; economic companies manage for profit.

“With nearly 40 years of experience at Royal Dutch/Shell, where he was involved firsthand with implementing the renowned scenario planning technique, de Geus describes how he came to explore and understand the special qualities of living companies.

“Among a wide array of important factors, long-lived companies have four essential traits in common. At a minimum, these firms are sensitive to their environment in order to learn and adapt; cohesive, with a strong sense of identity; tolerant of unconventional thinking and experimentation; and conservative in financial policy to retain the resources that allow for flexibility.”

After a lifetime in business and scenario planning and advising organizations of all kinds, de Geus writes in his book The Living Company that the most enduring companies treat their enterprises as ‘living work communities’ rather than purely economic machines. The book won the 1997 Financial Times/Booz-Allen & Hamilton Global Business Book Award for “The most insightful, innovative management book of the year”.

Amazon link: The Living Company




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