“One of the signs of a great society is the diligence with which it passes culture from one generation to the next." Winston Churchill

The Living Company

During a routine research project in 1983, a team of scenario planners at Royal Dutch Shell found that one-third of the 1970 Fortune 500 companies had been acquired, broken into pieces, or had merged with other companies. The team calculated the average life expectancy of these companies and found that it was well below 20 years.

Shell was 76 years old at the time, and the team could identify 27 companies that were in existence since 1875. Those companies ranged between 100 to 700 years in age and included Kodak, DuPont, W.R. Grace, Mitsui, Sumitomo, Siemens, and Stora.

The team took the position that the natural life span of a corporation could be three centuries or more. For them, the high corporate mortality rate seemed unnatural. They considered the death of those companies to be premature.

Do you think American pharmaceutical companies are dying too young?

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