Future Corporations and the Community

This week I’ve noticed a number of writers who identified deep personal schisms for executives of our modern global companies.  As always, it’s interesting to think about how the world will be better one day.

One of my favorite bloggers, Umair Haque, who has been foretelling the end of business as we know it for years, wrote about a crisis of nihilism.  As with almost every post, he points out that the real problem with companies is that they have lost their way by constantly focusing only on the near term bottom line, shareholder value.  Successful corporations of the future will be the ones that value something of deeper meaning, and in this week’s post he posits that this is culture.  He writes, “That means, of course, that tomorrow’s organizations must do more than just sell stuff. They must not be economically full but culturally empty. They must culturally reboot the communities and societies which they’re part of, helping them thrive and prosper in human terms.”

Haque identifies a new breed of CEO who does “not listen to the beancounting consultants who advise him to offshore — and upskill his workers instead…”  They probably all talk to one another over at HBR, and so, there is another interesting post from Roger Martin about the inauthentic community of modern executives.  This post points to the erosion authenticity in executives’ communities.  Martin suggests that in the past, a company operated within a geographic context, and ownership often came from within that community; the shareholders’ values and the corporation’s values were thus naturally aligned by a common interest in their community.  Today’s corporations, on the other hand, are owned – usually indirectly – by shareholders all over the world, and consequently, the only value they share is shareholder value – the bottom line.   While Martin doesn’t go this far, there must surely be a toxic internal conflict for these executives as they rationalize these often conflicting values.

So you’d expect that some executives have pulled out and re-focused on their own values.  Architects and builders, who mostly operate locally anyway, are at the leading edge of this shift, as this short interview with JC Scotts illustrates.  Being small companies, perhaps partnerships or sole proprietors, these companies, should have a natural alignment of values with operations, provided their owners are self-aware.

There is reason, then, for optimism as manufacturing becomes increasingly local, distributed and democratic.  Small batchers, with their lower capital needs,should have better cohesion between personal values and corporate value s.  Because people in my community share some of my values, maybe that means one day I will be able to choose products that have a positive impact on the things I love.

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One Response to “Future Corporations and the Community”

  1. ahem_mayispeak Says:

    I like your optimism Rene. I think, though, that our measures of “success” are so deeply entrenched in the bottom-line, that the predictions by Haque and and Martin are rose-coloured. But, I’m something of a pessimist.

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