Arie de Geus (1999) The Living Company

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Arie de Geus (1999) The Living Company

Postby Andrea on Fri Jan 27, 2012 1:46 pm

What a great book! I've been reading it to get up to scratch with regards to management thinking and it's been a real eye-opener.

I picked it up because it had a foreword by Peter Senge, one of the best-known of the "paperback systems thinkers". So I wasn't disappointed when I came across lots of systemic insights, but what I loved about this book is that it was almost totally practice based. It's crammed with real-life experiences and wisdom from decades of management experience within Shell. With people like de Geus in charge, no wonder Shell is such a successful company (I just wish it didn't sell petrol!)

Although it was published in 1999, it's more relevant than ever. If you've got a company to run, this is THE book to read.

here's the first chapter as a taster:
http://iic.wiki.fgv.br/file/view/The+Living+Company.pdf
esse sequitur operari
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Re: Arie de Geus (1999) The Living Company

Postby Teiana on Fri Jan 27, 2012 2:46 pm

i'll put it on my 'wishlist'...
H.R.H. 8-)
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Re: Arie de Geus (1999) The Living Company

Postby Dave H on Sun Jan 29, 2012 4:42 pm

I have read the first chapter and found it fascinating and I want to read more. However I was also questioinig the validity of some of the work. The context in which companies operae has changed over time and I feel that this is an important factor which could influence some of the outcomes. It would be nice to have some sort of company eco-system showing how these factors havechanged over time.

i have also googled Peter Senge and I have found that his work is interesting and I would like to go into it in greater depth.
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Re: Arie de Geus (1999) The Living Company

Postby Neill on Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:02 pm

Also read the first chapter and want to read the rest.
But I keep coming back to a question Claudia Eckert asked me.
Is sustainable good?
If something is sustainable, then it can exist beyond the point where it is a "good" thing.

Obviously I want to build sustainable systems but what if I build them so well that they stand in the way of progress?

Neill
Neill Hogarth
Life is not a practice [www.hogarth.de]
T307-10
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Re: Arie de Geus (1999) The Living Company

Postby rutty on Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:08 am

Neill wrote:Also read the first chapter and want to read the rest.
But I keep coming back to a question Claudia Eckert asked me.
Is sustainable good?
If something is sustainable, then it can exist beyond the point where it is a "good" thing.

Obviously I want to build sustainable systems but what if I build them so well that they stand in the way of progress?

Neill


I guess that would depend what you mean by sustainable? Something can remain profitable for a long time, and that is generally considered a good thing. Wouldn't it depend on your goals? Most/all companies aim for profit and progress is one way of doing that, but I also guess that there are different ways of measuring progress.

What do we mean by progress?

I should probably read this book too...

A systemic approach does raise a lot of questions, doesn't it?
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Re: Arie de Geus (1999) The Living Company

Postby Neill on Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:48 pm

Hi Rutty,
What about if I create a fantastic company providing Internet via wireless.
I design it so well that it is extremely viable despite the changing environment.
And then some one has a much better idea that will reduce the price and increase the quality of service
but my company is so sustainable that it squashes the new idea.

Good for my company but bad for the world.
Neill Hogarth
Life is not a practice [www.hogarth.de]
T307-10
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Re: Arie de Geus (1999) The Living Company

Postby rutty on Tue Jan 31, 2012 9:27 am

Neill wrote:Hi Rutty,
What about if I create a fantastic company providing Internet via wireless.
I design it so well that it is extremely viable despite the changing environment.
And then some one has a much better idea that will reduce the price and increase the quality of service
but my company is so sustainable that it squashes the new idea.

Good for my company but bad for the world.


You could probably argue that situations like this have already happened. Microsoft's de facto monopoly of PC operating systems, for instance, or VHS killing off the (allegedly superior) Betamax.

This is reminding me of the some of the concepts from T214: first mover advantage etc. Those massive nodes in a network that subvert all resistance and prevent network divergence.

Could it be argued that the current patent and copyright system is encouraging extensive litigation as opposed to innovation? A bit of both, perhaps.

Lots of food for thought :)
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Re: Arie de Geus (1999) The Living Company

Postby Andrea on Wed Feb 01, 2012 5:13 pm

One thing that Arie makes very clear is that any living system, including a company, has ultimately only one goal, its own self-interest, even if sometimes this is to the detriment of the systems within which it is embedded (e.g. society) or the systems operating within it (e.g. individuals). Like ecosystems, we have a wide range of company "species": parasites; predators; symbionts; detritivors etc. But ultimately, ecosystems have a greater proportion of beneficial participants - otherwise we wouldn't have the evolutionary trajectory of greater cooperation, diversity and biomass accumulation.

So, I would argue that a company's long-term viability is paramount, but the way in which it sustains itself is also significant. I do wonder sometimes whether we are "ecologically" programmed to be disgusted when we see parasitic/predatory/destructive behaviour? In the long term, we may be drawn to more cooperative/symbiotic/constructive relationships.

There's a brilliant article in the January/February issue of Resurgence: http://www.resurgence.org/magazine/arti ... ngful.html

Incidentally, the article refers to Eric Beinhocker (another author reviewed here):

it is actually economists themselves who are starting to tear up the rule books of neo-liberal market competition. Eric Beinhocker is one of the best young economists in the UK today. His recent book, The Origin of Wealth, has five times as many references to cooperation as to competition. Cooperation, he says, “is as vital an ingredient in economic development as ‘survival of the fittest’ individualism”.


so, I would argue that there is nothing wrong with sustaining the long-term viability of a company, as long as it operates in symbiosis with the systems it contains and the systems within which it is nested.
esse sequitur operari
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